Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Not about Derek Walcott!

Lost in the Derek Walcott controversy are some interesting remarks by Arvind Mehrotra, one of the two remaining contenders for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry.

According to The Guardian, Mehotra "promised that if he were elected, 'not once during the lectures will the phrase "post-colonial" be uttered.'"

Mehrotra also said: "Contrary to general belief, the Indian poetic tradition is not all metaphysical waffle... In an anthology of secular poems dating from the 2nd century CE, a mother alerts her young daughter to the grief that is marriage. On nights she cannot find another man to sleep with, the mother says, the daughter will have to make do with her husband. It's a two-line poem; not much room for waffle there. And, like a good Poundian, she tells it slant, using metaphor."

He says that his lectures would be on "the multilingual imagination and on the poetic worlds of, among others, A.K. Ramanujan and Arun Kolatkar, neither of whom, outside a limited circle, are known in Britain."

(I thought Ramanujan was actually very well-known - he's certainly one of the few Indian poets Anglo-Americans can name.)

According to the same report, Ruth Padel - the poet favored to win and Darwin's great-great-grandaughter - says that she would focus on the links between poetry and science: "I have close links with people in zoology and astrophysics there, and would love to get poetry combining with them."

If she wins, perhaps she can start by helping to revive the poems of Erasmus Darwin! Which Elizabeth Willis does - thanks, Lemon Hound, for reminding me - in her book, Meteoric Flowers...

Pictured: A waffle

1 comment:

Steve said...

Ramanujan is well-known compared to Mehrotra, since he lived in America and anthropologists and people who work on South Asian literature know him, but when I mention Ramanujan to American poets without South Asian interests the poets say "Who?"

Mehrotra himself, on the other hand, I'm going to have to investigate. Peter McDonald doesn't get that excited about a relatively unknown (in Britain and Ireland) poet every day. Nor every year.