Jayanta Mahapatra (1928-2023)

We are saddened by the demise of the acclaimed Jayanta Mahapatra on August 27. He was the first poet to win the Sahitya Akademi award in English (1981). His contributions to Indian literature were also recognized with the Padma Shri (2009), though he felt compelled to return it in 2015 to protest “rising intolerance in India”.

Born to Christian parents in Cuttack, Odisha, Mahapatra authored many books, including 27 collections of poetry–seven in Odia and the rest in English, now considered classics of modern Indian English literature. Writers Workshop remembers him as the then-unknown poet in 1971 who published his second volume with us, Swayamvara and Other Poems.
We reproduce its title poem below.
Mahapatra introduced himself to WW readers in 1971 as follows: “Took my Masters degree in Physics from the Patna University. At present I teach Physics in the Ravenshaw College, Cuttack. Began writing poems seriously in 1968. … In 1970 won second prize in the Poetry Award Contest held by International Who’s Who in Poetry, London.”

He remained a friend of WW all his life, often enquiring after our new activities.