Jayant Mahapatra: A Poet of Unchallenged Fidelity to Art By Raghukul Bhushan Sabharwal, New Delhi: Authorspress, 2017, ISBN 978-93-5207-523-2.

Raghukul Bhushan Sabharwal’s latest book Jayant Mahapatra’s A Poet of Unchallenged Fidelity to Art, as the title suggests is a book on the prolonged contribution of JM to literary world.  Although, reputed critics like A. K. Mahrotra, B. K. Das, J.O. Perry, M. K. Naik and recently the critics like Nandini Sahu, Vivekanand Jha, Jinia Mitra, Shibu Shankar Nath (all the books are also published by Authorspress, New Delhi) have scribbled their pen on the poetry of JM, the present book is ‘different’ and ‘a deep and serious reflection on the poetic art to reveal fresh perspectives’ of the poetry of Jayant Mahapatra.

This slender yet significant volume consisting 97 pages is divided into six chapters each focusing on a particular offshoot of JM’s poetry. The author has with his ‘unfailing active interest’ in the poetry of Mahapatra can be summed up in his present comment:

            The poetry of Jayant Mahapatra, the living legend of Indian English poetry… a poetry of pure art …. and using the material from the eternal flowering flow of life with all its    beauty, charm, grandeur, vagueness, obscenity, obstructions, pains and despicable    appearances, yet ennobling and transcendental in its all- embrasiveness, Jayant  is         unexcelled in this respect and holds an enchanting appeal to readers and scholars of all shades and hues.  (15)

The first chapter titled ‘A Poet of Unchallenged Fidelity to Art- A study in the Poetry of JM’ deals with Mahapatra’s fidelity of art. Mahapatra’s poetry as the author holds is ‘faithful and truthful representation of life in its most natural way without any make up.’ In a general yet very concise manner, he estimates the poetry of Jayant Mahapatra that ‘Jayant Mahapatra’s poetry at the bottom is a criticism of life under which the conditions fixed for such a criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty’ and that his poetry is not ‘as escape from personality.’

The second chapter of the book ‘History of Reminiscenes and Reminisces of History’, the author deliberates upon the historical background of the poetry and the poetry of jayant Mahapatra that leaves ‘yet still stuck up the consciously and conscientiously the poetic self of JM.  Refreshing famous poems like ‘The Day After My Friends Became Godly and Great’, ‘Grandfather’, ‘The Years’, ‘Shadows’ and ‘Deaths in Orissa’, the author attempts to trace the root of history i.e. background of Mahapatra’s poetry and also redefines the values contained. He successfully traces ‘the simple lived reality in all truthfulness- innocence and simple lyrical beauty to describe the enchanting rhythm of the past in the present’, and proves the poetry of Jayant Mahapatra not something aches in ‘drowsy numbers’ or ‘pines for what is not’. It is something which is not ‘disgusting’ or ‘Frustrating but motivating, elevating and glaring’.

In the third chapter, ‘Sex: As Existential Issue in the Poetry of Jayant Mahapatra’, the author in analytical excerpt from his earlier research paper when he highlights the importance of sex in human life with the help of several quotations of D. H. Lawrence, he searches how the poetry of JM has observed sex being offered to society and how it accepts it. He points out that the poet has been ‘honest and frank’, and nowhere mean and vulgar or debased’ rather it is the painful concern of JM. The author establishes the straight forward narration of sex as an awakener of conscience. Here, the author refers the landmark poems like ‘Hunger’, ‘Scream’, ‘A Monsoon Day Fable’, ‘The lost Children of America’, ‘The Mars of Love’ and ‘The Whorehouse in Caluctta Street’ to prove his statements.

In the fourth chapter, ‘Modernism in the Poetry of Jayant Mahapatra’ the poet establishes JM as modern as Houseman, Yeats, Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, Auden and so on. To, the author, he is ‘indisputably modern to the core’. As the author points out the contribution of JM to literature:

            As a fine craftsman, he adds fresh vigour and resonance to his poetic idiom enriching it   with his innovative imagistic patterns, similes, metaphors weaving melodies, rhythms to   deal with the themes of urbanization and cosmopolitanism… 

The author exerts that Mahapatra’s poetry, like other modern classical poetry rejects tradition and authority and provides freshness of sights and scents and hence the poet, as the author suggests/observes that ‘the poets of the stature of JM remains classics in their modernity. 

In the fifth chapter ‘Poetry of Silences and Shadows: Breadth of Vision’, he discusses the element of silences and shadows that remains a life companion of a human being. Even the poetry of JM bears ample references of silences and shadows. Whenever a reader passes through the poetic power of JM, he comes vis-à-vis with a highly meaningful and reflective note in the portrayal of silences. Better to quote poetic alliterative sentence, – “… shadows and silences converse with us in tones and tunes that charm and irritate, sooth and sway, hurt and hit, belie and beautify, refresh and reminisce in cozy and callous lap of life.” (74) The author, then attempts justifiably the delineation of shadows and silences in the poetic works of JM. He alludes from major poetic verses like- ‘Shadows’, ‘A Gray Haze Over the Rice Fields’, ‘The Predicament’, ‘Postcard from Home’, ‘The Lost Children of America’, ‘A Monsoon Day Fable,’ ‘The Mountains’, ‘The Moon Moments’ and ‘Dust’ to illustrate that the ‘natural’ and ‘realistic’ poetry of JM needs serious academic reading and it is a very rewarding venture in moulding and shaping the poetic vision and in filling the emotional and intellectual emptiness.

In the last chapter ‘Essential Poetic Genius of JM: His Fine Craftsmanship in His Innovative Poetic Idiom on Expression’ he summarizes the poetic craftsmanship of JM. Referring various poems the critic in Bhushan looks widely the poetry of JM, sideling the charges of ‘vagueness’ and seeming obscurity on Mahapatra. The author succinctly pin points the craftsmanship of snobberies, his style and diction and finally ‘reflective and refreshing tone, all are woven in the critical canvas of RKB.

In the end, Prof. Bhushan quotes KRS Iyengar and M. K. Naik the most powerful pillars of IEP. Each and every new or old reviewer/ reader/ critic should go through the books of these writers as these authors not just evaluated the poets and poetry written in India but they also proved the way to us also, taught us the discipline of reading and writing. When a critic of Bhushan’s stature quotes these stalwarts, one may continue to hope and vibrate in optimism.  The book is a good companion to the lovers of JM’s poetry.

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