Mustansir Dalvi

1.Your journey as a poet...

My journey as a poet is long and pitted. I became a ‘published’ poet relatively recently, when ‘brouhahas of cocks', my first book of poems was published by Poetrywala in 2013. I did have more than a decade of poetry workshopping online, on some of the best international fora, and I am deeply grateful for the collegiality and critiques (no holds barred) of poets from all over the world that helped my poetry writing and rewriting tremendously. I was also an editor for an online poetry journal (The Crescent Moon Journal) for a few years. I say pitted because I do have several stints of writing punctuated by long moments of nothingness. Not a very nice place to be, but there it is.

Looking back, it is places and people that have been muses. I am not a writer dwelling on the personal; my inner space is my outer space. I am like a photographer, perhaps, recording and contemplating all I see, but my presence is behind the camera and my hand is on the button. I did write a poem describing this called ‘Kingfisher at Nileshwaram’.


2. What is the role of translation in literature? How important is translation?

If you are Anglophone, translations are everything. We tend to wallow in our own tropes, sometimes. New translations transfuse new blood into English language writing, make it richer and give new directions for exploration. We love the works of Marquez, Eco, delight in the adventures of Asterix the Gaul, but where would we be without Gregory Rabassa, William Weaver or Anthea Bell? The Anglophone reader’s debt to translators is considerable. In a sense, when we translate, we acknowledge this debt and are privileged to join the fraternity of translators.


3. Tell us about your recent book: ‘struggles with imagined gods’.

‘Struggles with imagined gods’ is a book of translations from the Marathi of poems by Hemant Divate, a contemporary poet and publisher living in Mumbai. Divate is the publisher of Poetrywala, an independent enterprise that has published nearly one hundred books of poems in English, Marathi and several Indian and international languages.

I have enjoyed translating Hemant Divate’s poems from the Marathi. His writing is raw and unrelenting, locating himself in the present day, embedded in the hyperrealitiy of a post-globalised world (he calls himself a PoGo poet). His poetic voice his honest and authentic resonating with multilingualism, the quotidian parole and peppered with scatology which he uses to convey a contemporary mind’s entrapment in creations of his own making.  

In 2010, I was happy to be part of an exchange of poets between India and France, organized by the International Centre of Poetry, Marseille (cipM), and the PEN All-India Centre in which, with Hemant and Sampurna Chatarji we spent some excellent days in Mumbai and Marseilles translating poetry from French, Marathi. It was here that I got to appreciate Hemant’s poetry and its relevance to our present narratives.

‘Struggles’ is a compilation of selected poems from two of Hemant’s books of poems, which spans a wide range of subjects from Prague, Kafka, Warsaw, advertising, commodification, consumerism, branding, cyberspace, commuting, alienation in Mumbai and a nostalgia for childhood and his native place. But in the end what attracts me most to Hemant Divate’s poetry is language that he, in a poem, likens to a scrap of chicken meat stuck between his teeth.


4. Would you like to convey something to budding translators?

I am budding myself. The translated poem/text should read well in the translated language. That is crucial. The best translations are those that immerse you so completely that you forget that you are reading one. While there is a need to grasp the spirit and the fidelity of the original, one must control the urge to be pedantic.


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