Jayanta Mahapatra is a famous Indian English poet. He is the first Indian poet who received the Sahitya Akademi award for English poetry. His famous poems such as “Indian Summer” and “Hunger” are regarded as classics in modern Indian English literature. He also won the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian honor in India in 2009. He returned the award in 2015 to protest against rising intolerance in India.
Jayanta Mahapatra Early life and education
Jayanta Mahapatra was born on 22 October 1928 into a prominent Odia Christian family. His parents were Lemuel Mohapatra and Sudhansubala Dash. He received his early education from Stewart School in Cuttak of Odisha and an M. Sc. degree in Physics from Patna, Bihar. His career began as a lecturer in physics in 1949 and served at various government colleges in Odisha including Gangadhar Meher College, Sambalpur, Bhubaneswar, B.J.B College, Fakir Mohan College, Balasore, and Ravenshaw College, Cuttack. He retired from the government service as a Reader in Physics in 1986. He started his writing career in the late sixties. In the beginning, his poems and short stories were rejected by several publishers until his poems were published in international literary journals. He was invited to participate in the International Writing Program at Iowa, which made him internationally famous.
Jayanta Mahapatra Literary works
Mahapatra wrote 27 books of poems in all, seven are in Odia, and the rest in English. His poetry volumes include Relationship, shadow Space, and Bare Face. He has authored many books of prose including Green Gardener, an anthology of short stories, and Door of Paper: Essay and Memoirs. Mahapatra is also a popular editor and has been bringing out the literary magazine, Chandrabhaga. His poems have appeared in prestigious poetry anthologies like The Dance of the Peacock: An Anthology of English Poetry from India, published by Hidden Brook Press, Canada. Mahapatra also translated from Odia into English, and some of his translations and some anthologies of his translations are published in the bimonthly literary magazine Indian Literature.
Jayanta Mahapatra’s poems are mostly descriptive or pictorial. We can see the picture of Jagarnath Puri, the temple of lord Jagarnath, the sea, and the sea beach of Puri in his poetry. Soothly, Mahapatra describes nature, the beauty of dawn, the glory of the morning, the sad majesty of the evening, and the massive and impressive expansion of the sea in his poem. Besides these, he is a poet of human situations, human dilemmas, and predicaments.
Jayanta Mahapatra draws images from nature but most of his images are related to decay, disease, death, and destruction. It can be noted that images in his poetry are painful token suggestions. He is deeply interested in Puri. It is a living presence in his poem. Some religious elements are found in his poetry. He writes simple poems in a colloquial or conversational style.
Jayanta Mahapatra’s Awards
Jayanta Mahapatra Mahapatra won Sahitya Akademi award for his poetry book ‘Relationships‘ In 1981. He became the first ever writer in the English language to win the Sahitya Akademi award. He is also a recipient of the Jacob Glatstein memorial award conferred by Poetry magazine, Chicago. He was also awarded the Allen Tate Poetry Prize for 2009 from The Sewanee Review. He has also received Tata Literature Lifetime Achievement Award. He was conferred with a Padma Shri in 2009 and awarded an honorary doctorate by Ravenshaw University on 2 May 2009. He has won many other rewards that can be mentioned in short descriptions. Finally, we can say that he is a great contributor to Indo-English literature.