Renowned Indian poetry translator comes to Smith
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 17:10
"For the most part, the imagery is conveyed with such compact, forceful language that the poems all but stand up and hit you," said critic Anne Stevenson of Arvind Mehrotra's Middle Earth in the Times Literary Supplement. This Tuesday, Smith was "hit" by the poet, critic and translator's work.
Mehrotra was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and educated at the Universities of Allahabad and Bombay. Mehrotra currently holds an English professorship at the University of Allahabad and has been a visiting writer at the University of Iowa's International Writing Program and a Homi Bhabha Fellow. He has spent periods of time in residence at Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Italy. He was a front-runner for the competitive Oxford professorship of poetry in 2009.
Mehrotra is also no stranger to Smith College. His visit in 2008 was lauded by Professor Jay Garfield of the philosophy department as both "wildly successful" and "exciting."
"He's [currently] doing a tour – starting with Smith then going to Yale and Rutgers," said Professor Thalia Pandiri of the comparative literature and classics departments. "He's got friends at Mount Holyoke and at UMass and he offered to come. He wrote me and said, ‘How 'bout Smith?'"
The Poetry Center, the Office of the Provost, the Global Studies Center, the Five-College Faculty Seminar on Literary Translation and the Louise W. and Edmund J. Kahn Liberal Arts Institute are all co-sponsoring Mehrotra's visit.
"I would advise students to [come to the reading and lunch] because Arvind is one of the greatest living Indian poets who writes in English and one of the most important translators of Indian poetry to English," said Garfield. "As a poet and an expert translator, he is full of interesting insights and a very exciting guy. I think students will learn to appreciate the richness of the Indian poetic tradition and the role of a poet in translating poetry."
Mehrotra is the author of four books of poems, and his work, including essays and translations, has appeared in dozens of anthologies, the most recent of which include Partial Recall: Essays on Literature and Literary History and Songs of Kabir.
"He's a really good poet, a really good translator from a number of Indian languages, he's a very good critic and he has a very playful approach to translation," said Pandiri.
"He's a lovely man; he's very modest despite his international reputation," continued Pandiri. "There are a lot of folks who know and love him at Amherst. What's so impressive is that he's so nice, which is not always true of international celebrities and so I think it will be nice for students to meet him."
On Monday, Oct. 24, Mehrotra will contribute to the "Translating the Past" lecture series with his talk on "The Indian Experience." The event will be hosted at noon in the Global Studies Center, Wright Hall 127.