We at Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest are profoundly grieved at the loss of the Festival’s 2018 Poet Laureate, Jayanta Mahapatra.
A physicist, poet, essayist and above all, humanist, Jayanta Mahapatra was one of the finest bilingual Indian poets, writing both in Odia and English. He was among the first poets to lay the foundations for Indian poetry in English and the first Indian poet writing in English to receive the Sahitya Akademi Award. His poems like ‘Indian Summer’ and ‘Relationship’ are considered modern literary classics.
A professor of Physics for all his working life, Mr Mahapatra came to poetry relatively late but soon won recognition for his tranquil and lyrical verse not only in India but also abroad, where he was published in several international publications such as The New Yorker.
The Poet Laureates of the Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest are recognised for their outstanding and sustained contribution to the world of letters. Mr Mahapatra with his characteristic grace and humility expressed himself as being “proud and honoured” to accept the Poet Laureateship, but it was our pride and honour to have such an eminent personality in our midst. He delivered a thought-provoking address to a packed audience, spent an enthralling time reading from his works, and interacted with charm and delight especially with the young people who had come to see and hear him. His work and memory will live on, not only in our hearts and memories, but in the pantheon of literature from India of which he was such an integral and inspirational part.