Two Questions with Poet Jayanta Mahapatra

Courtesy: The Statesman

Did you feel a sense of release each time you successfully completed a poem?

The joy is over once you complete a poem. You know you have to sit down and start the whole thing all over again. So the struggle begins anew, for a new flash perhaps. What does a poem do? It suddenly bursts out with an explosive energy at the end. If the poem is a successful one, it shows you some aspects of life which you have not seen before. As soon as I finish a poem I fall back into the same sad state I was in before I wrote the poem. So these are momentary feelings.

How could you read so exhaustively when your main preoccupation was with Physics and not with Literature?

That is, of course, a lifelong romance with the English language. You see, my entire schooling was in English medium. And so I was fascinated by the language itself. I could not help myself dabbling in it. Now I could turn the words around, twist them, play with them. It’s like clay I can use to meet my own needs. I feel my British headmaster was responsible in part. And then, the books I managed to read: Ivanhoe, She and the Return of She, The Nigger of the Narcissus & An Outcast of the Island, The Call of the Wild. These books may have shaped my love for English. But there were so many others—an enviable garden of letters!

(Excerpted from Jayanta Mahapatra: A Reader, Edited by Durga Prasad Panda, Sahitya Akademi)

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