National Conference On Jayanta Mahapatra: Odisha Poet Hailed As Living Legend

Baripada: A two-day national conference on the writings of eminent poet Prof. Jayanta Mahapatra was held at Maharaja Sri Ramachandra Bhanjdeo University earlier this week.

The conference, titled ‘Autobiography as Affective Archaeology: Exploring the Creative Oeuvre of Poet Jayanta Mahapatra’ was held on February 12 and 13 under the auspices of the University and the Forum on Contemporary Theory, Vadodara.

Hailing the Padma Shri poet – he returned the award in 2015 as a mark of protest against ‘growing intolerance’ in the country – as a living legend, Forum on Contemporary Theory Director Prof. Prafulla Chandra Kar spoke about the human appeal in the poetry of Jayanta.

Prof. Pramod Kumar Satpathy, chairman of the University Undergraduate Council, delivered the welcome speech.

In the introductory speech, Prof. Kalidas Mishra, Lecturer in English department of Sambalpur University and the seminar host, showed how vividly trees, rivers, ponds, village life are vividly represented in the poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra.

The 94-year-old poet, who was felicitated by the University, spoke about how poetry shaped his life and reflected his lifelong struggles.

Poetry is a life-long practice and a good poem takes the poet from one level of life to a higher level, said the nonagerian, adding that he became a poet by destiny.

Calicut University Prof. P P Rajendran said in his keynote speech that he considered Jayanta Mahapatra as the greatest poet of his time and a moving monument, describing his work as a combination of honesty and sincerity.

P Rabindran, Kailash Baral, Rajashree Biswal, Kamdev Sahu, Chittaranjan Mishra, Namita Jagdev, Raja Rao, Bhagwan Tripathi, Balabhadra Tripathi, Rachita Swain and other researchers addressed different aspects such as place, history, memory, Identity, human suffering due to class and gender differences, existential crisis and human suffering and cosmic experience in the poems of Jayanta Mahapatra.

There was a poetry reading session by the eminent poet, Kalidas Mishra, Pritidhara Samal, Rabindra Swain, Namita Jagdev, Ajit Kumar Kullu among others as well as students of the university.

An interesting part of the seminar was the art exhibition titled ‘Re-Vision Relationship’, presented by New Bridge India in association with Forum on Contemporary Theory, Vadodara, Maharaja Sri Ramachandra Bhanjdeo University, Baripada and Sarat Chandra Library, Baripada.

It was a ‘visual-literary engagement’ in which noted art historian, curator and cultural thinker Dr Rajashree Biswal conceptualised and curated the exhibition conjoining the images of acclaimed artist Birendra Pani’s traveling art exhibition Re-Vision (New York, Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata 2009-2011) and the seminal poem ‘Relationship’ of Jayanta Mahapatra (New York, 1980 and India in 1982).

‘Relationship’ is one of the earliest, longest and well-known poems of Jayanta Mahapatra, imbued with his experience and memory of the landscape and the grand yet ruinous regional cultural tradition of Odisha, shared Dr Biswal.

Birendra Pani’s Re-Vision series of art works is the ‘refraction’ of his fantasy of a nostalgic past and a landscape of memory highlighting the significance of Odia culture and negligence of the same in a transformed time and space.

She added that this exhibition Re-Vision Relationship is a new cultural text produced at the interface of these visual and literary texts, marking striking similarities in their concerns related to Odisha land, memory and identity across generations.

She interweaved these two texts through ‘inter-textuality’ for a new phenomenological experience at the interface urging the viewers to relook, re-engage and reconsider with Odisha’s land, landscape, history, memory, culture and heritage, and identity in today’s globalisation era.

Dr Biswal presented her paper based on her experience of Re-Vision Relationship, thereby adding a new dimension to the seminar.

Jayant Mahapatra, Prof. Pramod Kumar Satapathy and Prof. Kalidas Mishra presented certificates to the participants of the seminar in valedictory session.

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