Rajendra Kishore Panda
(India, 1944)   
Rajendra Kishore Panda

 Rajendra Kishore Panda (born 1944) is a major poet in Oriya literature. He is the author of sixteen books of poetry, as well as editor of two web anthologies of poetry (Kavitayan and Varnamala) and a web journal (The Cogitocrat). His contribution to Oriya letters has won him various honours, including the Sahitya Akademi Award (1985), the Senior Fellowship for Literature awarded by the Department of Culture, Government of India (1994 – 1996) and a D. Litt degree, honoris causa (Sambalpur University, 2004). He worked in the Indian Administrative Service from 1967 to 2004. 

Rajendra Kishore Panda was born in the village of Batalaga in the Sambalpur district, Orissa. (His family was one of the 22,000 that faced the trauma of displacement when 285 villages – including Batalaga — were submerged under the waters of the Hirakud Dam Project in 1956-57.) He holds a Masters degree in Arts from Allahabad University. He published his first book of poetry in 1975.

Contextualising Panda’s work in Oriya letters, poet-translator Rabindra K Swain writes: “In Oriya poetry, Satchidananda Rautroy (1916-2004) is the harbinger of ‘neo-modernity’ and its principal idiom-maker. Rajendra Kishore Panda emerged in his lineage, along with other post-Rautroy major poets: Guru Prasad Mohanty, Ramakanta Rath, Sitakant Mahapatra and Soubhagya Kumar Misra.”

While he disavows allegiance to any single style or artistic credo (“Style is often the other name of self-repetition”), Rajendra Kishore Panda has clearly been inspirational for succeeding generations of Oriya poets. Distinctive for its creative vigour, breadth of vision, unceasing experimentation and inexhaustible linguistic vitality, his work claims for itself the right to “coo or caw or neigh or roar”, depending on the genetic predisposition of the poem in question.

The six selected poems in this edition reveal a surrealist vein, an incantatory cadence shot through with irony and a distinct anti-Establishment sensibility. In 'In Love with Skull', the poet seems fascinated by the ways in which history can be erased and rewritten: “I apply talc/ on its forehead,/ kohl in its eyes;/ I draw a pattern/ on its cheekbone/ and then wipe/ them all clean.” In ‘Amen’, a nightmare vision becomes a caustic critique of a world order as people stand “in queue/ for centuries/ waiting for the visa”. And then comes the apocalyptic clincher: “This is the only road/ to the other world./ Amen.”

In an interview with his translator that accompanies this edition, Panda talks with passion and wit on a range of issues: the poetry of dissent (“the opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude”); his agnosticism (“God in my poetry is an invented one, mostly to quarrel with or to chastise!”); his humanism (“I’ve declared love against all of mankind, unilaterally”); the essentially subversive nature of the poetic enterprise (“count me on the ‘opposite side’/ not in the plural but first person singular”); and his motto for life after his Collected Poems (“Blankness is all”).

He has been translated and interviewed for this edition by Rabindra K Swain (poet, critic and Managing Editor of the literary journal, Chandrabhaga).

© Arundhathi Subramaniam

Also On This Site:

'To arrive is to die'

Interview with Rajendra Kishore Panda by Rabindra K Swain


Oriya Poetry

Collected Poems - Sada Prusthha, Metanym, Bhubaneswar, 2003
Drohavakya, Metanym, Bhubaneswar, 2003
Dujanari, Metanym, Bhubaneswar, 2003
Vairagi Bhramar, Metanym, Bhubaneswar, 2003
Satyottara, Metanym, Bhubaneswar, 2003
Bahwarambhe, Metanym, Bhubaneswar, 2003
Ishakhela, Cuttack Students' Store, Cuttack, 1999
Bahubreehi, SoubhagyaManjari, Jharsuguda, 1991
Anya, Friends Publishers, Cuttack, 1988
Shailakalpa (Mountainesque), Grantha Mandir, Cuttack, 1982
Choukathhare Chirakala, Friends Publishers, Cuttack, 1981
Nija Pain Nanabaya,Samabesha Prakashani, Bhubaneswar, 1980
Satadru Anek, Agradoot, Cuttack , 1977
Ghunakshara, Cuttack Students' Store, Cuttack, 1977
Anavatar O Anya Anya, Grantha Mandir, Cuttack, 1976
Gouna Devata, Varnamala, Patanagarh (Orissa), 1975

Oriya-and-English Poetry

Bodhinabha (The Bodhi-Sky), Bharat Bharati, Cuttack, 1994

Oriya Novel

Chidabhas, Varna Prakashan, Badambadi, Cuttack, 1999


In English

Cogitocrat: Poetcraft - Rajendra  Kishore Panda's Perceptions on the Art of Poetry

Varnamala:  Anthology of Indian-English Poetry edited by Rajendra Kishore Panda

Kavitayan: Anthology of Indian Poetry in English Translation edited by Rajendra Kishore Panda

Kavitayan: Selected poems (in English translation) by Rajendra Kishore Panda
Bodhinabha : A Web-Book of Poetry in Oriya and English by Rajendra Kishore Panda


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