Jayanta Mahapatra, a luminary in the realm of Indian English poetry, bid farewell at the age of 95, leaving behind an enduring legacy that has enriched the literary tapestry. With a literary career spanning more than half a century, he has etched an indelible mark in the hearts of readers. Born on October 22, 1928, in Cuttack, Odisha, his journey from humble beginnings to becoming a celebrated poet is a testament to the power of literary expression.
Mahapatra’s intellectual journey began at Ravenshaw College in Cuttack, where he commenced his formal education. He further honed his intellect at the University of Delhi. Following his graduation, he embarked on a career as an educator and a journalist.
Remarkably, it was during his late 30s that Mr. Mahapatra, a physics teacher, discovered a profound passion for English poetry. The publication of his debut collection, ‘Swayamvara and Other Poems,’ in 1971 marked the inception of a remarkable literary journey that knew no bounds. His poetic masterpiece ‘Close the Sky Ten by Ten’ catapulted him to the echelons of literary luminaries.
The year 1981 witnessed Jayanta Mahapatra’s elevation to literary eminence as he secured the Sahitya Akademi Award for his poetry anthology titled ‘Relationships.’ This accolade made him the first English-language writer to receive the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award. His literary prowess was also celebrated with the Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award by Poetry magazine, Chicago. The Allen Tate Poetry Prize for 2009, conferred by The Sewanee Review, further underscored his literary brilliance.
Jayanta Mahapatra’s accolades extended beyond borders. He was honored with the SAARC Literary Award in 2009 and received the coveted Tata Literature Lifetime Achievement Award. The acknowledgment of his contributions included the conferment of a Padma Shri in 2009, an honorary doctorate by Ravenshaw University in 2009, and a D. Lit. degree by Utkal University, Odisha in 2006. In a momentous achievement, he became the first Indian English poet to be inducted as a Fellow of the Sahitya Akademi in May 2019.
The passing of Jayanta Mahapatra signifies the end of a literary era, but his words will continue to resonate, inspiring generations to come.