Tuesday, 19 February 2013

An Evening with Arvind Mehrotra

Arvind Mehrotra addressing the gathering at MIDS

Arvind Mehrotra, eminent poet, translator and literary critic, based in Mumbai, was in the city to give a series of lectures on Indian Writing in English. This evening at MIDS, he spoke extensively on eminent poet Arun Kolatkar within the framework of bilingual writers in India.

Tracing Arun Kolatkar’s tryst with poetry in the early 50s, Arvind Mehrotra said, “In the year 2004, he (Arun) gave me the list of poems he tried to write in both languages – Marathi and English, a line of Marathi followed by its English translation alternating in each line, which made Arvind Mehrotra himself marvel at this strange creature called “Arvind Mehrotra.” Hadn’t he written his English poetry, he’d have been a great artist
in visual advertising in India, he quipped, adding that Arun Kolatkar had three lives: as a Visualiser, [graphic artist], as a Marathi poet and as an English poet. He had these two languages running in him all the time. Since, Arun Kolatkar did not rework on his poems, sometimes one could find the same thing repeated more than once. Like Sant Eknath, the famous Marathi religious poet of the 16th century, or the 19th century Marathi religious poet Ram Joshi who wrote in Sanskrit and in Marathi, he said about his writings thus:

I have a pen in my possession
Which writes in two languages
And draws in one
My pencil is sharpened at both ends
I used one end to write in Marathi
The other in English.
What I write with one end
Comes out as English
What I write with the other
Comes out as Marathi.

He recited from Arun Kolatkar’s now famous “Making Love to a Poem”:
“Whether half my work will always remain invisible/ like the other side of the moon/ whether a reader in one language will have to be content/with the side facing him”!
To be contd… 

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