Recipient of numerous fellowships and awards including, Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award Poetry, Chicago, 1975, Sahitya Academy Award National Academy of Letters, New Delhi, 1981, India’s Padma Shree Award, 2009 Alen Tate Prize from The Sewanee Review, Jayanta Mahapatra (b.1928) is recognized as a father figure in the arena of Indian English poetry. He also writes in Oriya.
Mahapatra was born in Cuttack, the city where he spent most of his lifetime. He had his early education at Stewart school, Cuttack. After a first class Master’s Degree in Physics, he joined as a teacher in 1949 and served in different Government colleges of Orissa.
All his working life, he taught physics at different colleges in Orissa. He retired in 1986. Mahapatra has authored 18 books of poems. He started writing poetry at the age of thirty-eight, quite late by normal standards. Mahapatra’s tryst with the muse came rather late in life. He published his first poems in his early 40s. The publication of his first book of poems, Svayamvara and Other Poems, in 1971 was followed by the publication of Close the Sky, Ten By Ten.
His collections of poems include A Rain of Rites, Life Signs, Dispossessed Nests and A Whiteness of Bone. One of Mahapatra’s better remembered works is the long poem Relationship, for which he won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1981. He is the first Indian English Poet to receive the honor.
Besides being one of the most popular Indian poets of his generation, Mahapatra was also part of the trio of poets who laid the foundations of modern Indian English Poetry. He shared a special bond with A. K. Ramanujan, one the finest poets in the IEP tradition. Mahapatra is also different in not being a product of the Bombay school of poets.
Over time, he has managed to carve a quiet, tranquil poetic voice of his own–distinctly different from those of his contemporaries. His wordy lyricism combined with authentic Indian themes puts him in a league of his own.
His recent poetry volumes include Shadow Space, Bare Face and Random Descent. Besides poetry, he has experimented widely with myriad forms of prose. His lone published book of prose remains The Green Gardener, a collection of short stories.
A distinguished editor, Jayanta Mahapatra has been bringing out, for many years, a literary magazine, Chandrabhaga , from Cuttack . The magazine is named after Chandrabhaga, a prominent but dried-up river in Orissa.