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Articles /Interviews Share This Page
An Indian English Poet
by Prof. Dr. Suresh Chandra Dwivedi
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Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar in Conversation

"Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar's is one of the significant post-independence voices in Hindi and Indian English Poetry, expressing the lyricism and pathos, aspirations and yearnings of the modern Indian intellect. Rooted deep into the Indian soil, his poems reflect not only the moods of a poet but of a complex age."

The poetic process of Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar is a far reaching  poetic force among the second phase of Modern Hindi Poetry, begins in the later part of 1941.He has not written much from quantitative point of view. Only about one thousand poems composed by him are available today. But his poetry is very significant from qualitative point of view. This is the reason he is known not only in his own country but also in the whole world. He is recognised in the global world through internet. His poems have been translated and published in many foreign languages besides Indian languages. His poems have vitalised Indian poetry. Due to his socio-economic, political and humanistic concerns he occupies a special status in history of Hindi and Indian English Poetry. His poetry is full of vital expressions of life, love and nature. Here, is an extract from an interview with him.

[1] Throw light on your relation to English language and literature.

I have been related to English language since my childhood, as it was the medium of my education. English has been the medium of examinations; such as Matriculation, Intermediate, Graduate (B.A.), Teaching (L.T.) etc. English was a medium of education of all the subjects like Economics, Geography, Education etc. 

English was not only the medium but a subject also. English literature was optional in B. A. but General English was compulsory. In the curriculum of General English works of English literature were also prescribed. Thus, I had to study the works on English Literature too. For example, Bernard Shaw's drama —  'Arms and the Man', novel of Charles Dickens — 'A Tale Of Two Cities', Text-book of collection of political essays etc. In 'Visharad' curriculum of 'Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Prayag' English Literature was my one of the optional subjects. This gave me an opportunity to read English poems. The famous collection of poems, 'Golden Treasury' was prescribed in my syllabus. I read Shakespeare's world-famous play 'Julius Caesar' during this period. I was very much influenced by the dialogues of 'Julius Caesar'. I came to know about Shakespeare's mental heights and depths through it. I got a glimpse of contemporary European life through 'A Tale of Two Cities'. I read Tagore's English poems also in that period.

I was taught by English Principals, viz. Mr. B. A. English and Mr. F. G. Pears in Victoria College at Gwalior. During that period I used to read English news papers, 'Hindustan Times' etc. I used to write letters to my father in English, whenever I was away from home. My father used to return the letters after correcting language errors. He was often angry due to my little knowledge of English language.
I had to take up a job after B.A. (1945) due to poor economic condition of the family. I worked as a teacher of Geography and Hindi in High School and after that got a post of Hindi lecturer (1950) in Intermediate College (Dhar-Madhya Pradesh). My relationship with English teachers was very cordial  in all the schools and colleges where I taught. I used to read English Literary Magazines as well. I was a regular reader of a monthly magazine 'Modern Review' published from Calcutta. Thus, I was continuously connected with English language and literature.

[2] Basically you are a Hindi poet. How and when were you attracted towards  writing in English?

The thought of translating my poems into other languages never struck in my mind. All of a sudden (possibly in 1953), I got a letter from a Hindi professor and Hindi poet of 'Praha University' (Czechoslovakia), Dr. Odolen Smekal (who became Ambassador of Czech Republic in India after the partition of Czechoslovakia.) that he wants to translate my poems into Czech language. First of all my poems were translated in Czech language and were published in a journal named 'Novy Orient' (1954). Later they were broadcast from Czechoslovak Radio also.

After this my poems were translated into English and the process still continues. 'The Hindi Review' a literary magazine, began to be published by English Organ of the 'Nagari Pracharini Sabha, Varanasi'. It's editor was Dr. Ramawadh Dwivedi, a renowned Professor of English from 'Banaras Hindu University'. He inspired me to get my translated poems published in it. 'The Hindi Review' published many of my translated poems. Dr. Ramawadh Dwivedi Ji wrote to me," I am happy that your poems are being appreciated. Had 'The Hindi Review' not ceased to be published, some more translations would have been published." (19 April 1963 / 'Mahendra Bhatnagar-Samagra', Vol.-6, p. 517)

[3] How many collections of your poems have been published in English till date?

The publishers of my English works :

(1) S. Chand & Co., New Delhi — 55. Forty poems Of Mahendra Bhatnagar / 1968 / 40 Poems.  After The Forty Poems / 1979 / 25  Poems.
(2) Indian Publishers Distributors, Delhi —7. Exuberance and other poems/ 2001 / 75 Poems.  Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry / 2002 / 50 Poems.  Death-Perception : Life-Perception / 2002 / 50 Poems.  Passion And Compassion /2005/ 50 Poems.  New Enlightened World /2010/ 50 Poems.  Dawn To Dust / 2011/ 71 Poems.
(3) Lokvani Prakashan, New Delhi — 49. Poems : For A Better World / 2006 / 50 Poems.
(4) Vista International Publishing House,Delhi — 53.  Lyric-Lute / 2007/ 106 Lyrics.
(5) National Publishing House, NewDelhi — 2.  A Handful of Light/ 2012 / 80 Poems

Eleven volumes of my poetry are published till date.

[4] Did  your poetic feelings first find reflection in English or were they written first in Hindi and later translated into English?

At first my poems were written in Hindi. I remained free from the sanskars of English language. Firstly, it was due to my inaptness in English language. Secondly,  being a writer / poet / teacher of my mother-tongue Hindi, the effects of Hindi were ingrained in me. The third reason was that, English was  thrust upon Indians by  imperialist British rulers. But being a writer / poet / I didn't have hatred towards English language. I used to read English literature with interest. It was a matter of pride to give preference  to my mother-tongue Hindi at home, in day to day activities and in correspondence. Such should be followed by all — I firmly believe so, even today.

[5] Have you yourself translated your poems into English?

Some of my poems have been translated into English by me, but many of them have been translated by professors / poets skilled in the use of English language. I am proud of these translators. I will always remain grateful to them.

[6] Who are the translators of your poems? The readers would like to know about them.

The first translator of my poetry was Amir Mohammad Khan (Journalist / Columnist). The translated poems by him were published in 'The Hindi Review'.  'Forty Poems of  Mahendra Bhatnagar' (1968), a collection of translated poems has been done by him.

After that, Dr. Ramsevak Yadav, professor of English, 'Kurukshetra University' (Haryana) translated my poems, which were collected in the vol. 'After the Forty Poems' (1979).

After a long period, 'Exuberance and other poems' (2001) translated by Dr. Ravinandan Sinha (An Indian English poet, professor of English, St. Xavier's college, Ranchi - Jharkhand & Editor — 'The Quest'.) got published in book form..
 
In 2002 ‘Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry’ was  published. It is translated by Dr. H. C. Gupta (Prof. of English, Gwalior – M.P. and an Indian English poet.

In the same year,  i.e. in 2002  ‘Death-Perception : Life-Perception’ was published. It was translated by a poet of international repute, critic and the editor of ‘Poetcrit’ (Maranda-H.P.) Dr. D. C. Chambial.
‘A Handful of Light’ (2012) was also translated by Dr, D. C. Chambial.

Dr. P. Adeswar Rao (Prof. of Hindi & well-known English-translator / Vishakhapatnam-A.P.) translated ‘Passion and Compassion’ (2005).

‘Lyric-Lute’ was published in 2007.It has been translated by Dr. Kalpana Rajput & Dr. Shaleen Kumar Singh. These two talented youths are renowned in the domain of English literature. 

Poet and critic Kedar Nath Sharma (Delhi) was much interested in my poems. ‘Poems : For A Better World’ (2006) was translated by him.

‘New Enlightened World’ (2010) was translated by Dr. Anshu Bharadwaj (Jaipur-Raj / Aligarh-U.P.) and Dr. Mukesh Sharma (Gwalior-M.P.)

Thirty-four poems of ‘Dawn to Dusk’ (2011) have been translated by me and the rest by Prof. Dr. Mukesh Sharma, Kedar Nath Sharma and  Prof. Dr. Narendra Sharma ‘Kusum’ (Jaipur-Raj.)

Some poems have been translated by Lakshmi Shankar Sharma (Prof. of English, Vikram University, Ujjain-M.P.) and  Vareendra Kumar Varma (Prof. of Philosophy & a Hindi poet, Mandsaur-M.P.)

The translation-work of these friends is self-inspired. They liked the poems and showed their willingness to translate.

[7] How much are you satisfied with the translations? Did you play any role in giving final touch to these translations?

Undoubtedly, the English translators of my poems have done a great job and to a large extent they have been successful. How perfect they are from the view of poetic language and diction; this can only be justified by the English scholars. In this connection, following statements are worthy to be mentioned :

(1) Renowned literary Dr. Vidya Niwas Mishra observed — 'I have feeling that the vigorous rhythm of the original has not been carried fully to the English translations, may be the barriers of language do not permit its export. The poet has a very sensitive ear for cadences and knows how to use them. .." (Preface : 'FortyPoems of Mahendra Bhatnagar')

(2) Prof. R. S. Sharma (Banaras Hindu University) wrote — 'Ravi Nandan Sinha has achieved a fair measure of success in transferring the theme, tone and poetic quality of the Hindi poems into English. ... Dr. Ravi Nandan Sinha has been able to translate the poetic discourse without departing from the literality of the original text." (‘Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar : His Mind And Art', Pages 85 & 86)

A lot have been said by other critics also in the edited critical books, viz. ‘Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar : His Mind And Art' & ‘ Concerns and Creation’ (A Study of Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry’). Actually, its elaborate analysis is a matter of  independent research work. Yes, I was actually involved in finalizing these translations. In spite of being Hindi speakers they could not make out literal and emotive sense of some words. From this point of view, I did corrections and changes which were acceptable to my translators. Though in doing so, many poems were re-translated by me.

[8] In which English magazines were your poems published?

In many renowned English monthly, quarterly and half-yearly literary magazines my poems were published and still are being published.
 
Initially, the magazines which published my poems are — ‘The Hindi Review’ (Varanasi), ‘The Literary Half-Yearly’ (Mysore), ‘Macron’ (Hubly), ‘The Contemporary Indian Literature’ (New Delhi), ‘dhara’ (New Delhi), etc.
 
After a gap of long time, in the year 2000 my poems began to appear again in English magazines. Mention can be made of — 'The Quest' (Ranchi-Jh.K.), 'Poetcrit' (Maranda-H.P.)', 'Shine' (Pattukottai-T.N.), 'Indo-Asian Literature' (Delhi), 'Protocol' (Tura-Meghalaya), 'Cyber Literature' (Patna-Bihar), 'Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures' (Thodupuzha-Kerala), 'Contemporary Vibes' (Chandigarh), 'Indian Book Chronicle' (Jaipur-Raj.), 'Kohinoor' (Begusarai-Bihar), 'A Hudson View' (New York-U.S.A. / Editor - Dr. Amitabh Mitra, East London, South Africa) and many more.

 

[9] Who are the chief critics of your poems?

The prominent critics of my poems are —Dr. Suresh Chandra Dwivedi (Allahabad), Dr. D. C. Chambial (Maranda), Dr. R. K. Bhushan (Jagraon-Panjab), Dr. Anita Myles (Gorakhpur), Mrs. Purnima Ray (Burdwan), Dr. Kalpana Rajput (Badaun), Syt. Kedar Nath Sharma (Delhi), Dr. Shaleen Kumar Singh (Badaun), Dr. O. P. Mathur (Varanasi), Dr. Shubha Dwivedi (Delhi), Prof. R. S. Sharma (Varanasi), Dr. B. C. Dwivedy (Orissa), Dr. A. K. Chaturvedi (Gwalior), Syt. K. K. Shrivastava (Gwalior), Prof. Bijay Kant Dubey (Midnapore), Dr. Kiran Chaudhry (JNU, New Delhi), Dr. P. Hallikeri (Dharwad-Karnatak University), Dr. Patricia Prime (Newzeland) and many more.

[10] What is your opinion about the  reviews of your English works, published in various journals?

I don’t fully believe in reviews. Either they are vocational having the imprint of the relation among editor-critic with the publisher. Thus the authenticity of published reviews is often doubtful. Usually, the review-writers are unaware of significant literary contribution of the reviewed authors. There are so many biased reviews also. Instead of reviews, the critical articles and research papers on my works have been published in various esteemed journals. Afterwards, these articles and research papers were included in published edited critical books.

[11] Tell me the names of countries where your Poetry books in English have reached?

I don’t know how many foreigners are familiar with my English and French poems.  I came into contact with Dr. Patricia Prime, a scholar critic from Newzeland through English journals, who wrote detailed critical articles on my poems; which are included in an edited critical book by Dr. R.K. Bhushan, named ‘Concerns and Creation’ (A Study of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry). I am not so well-connected with foreign literary personalities. I never gave much attention to that.  Mostly, I lived in small towns. Foreign scholars and creative writers usually visit metropolitan cities in India, where one can easily get acquainted with them. I did not venture foreign trips also. I was appointed Professor of Hindi Language & Literature, in The Tashkant State University (U.S.S.R. / 1977 ) , but due to some reasons I could not go there. (See detailed description — ‘Tashkant Context’, ‘Mahendra Bhatnagar-Samagra, Vol. 1, p. 305-309).

[12] How much your English poetry is appreciated through the medium of Internet?

My English poems reached far and wide in India and abroad through internet also. In establishing connection with writers in India the internet played a very significant role. In the absence of internet I wouldn’t have been connected with so many English writers, poets and editors. Internet is a great facilitator as well as a great friend to a writer. I am connected with so many websites which often publish my poems, reviews and interviews. I also find readers making interesting comments. I have my own independent blog (www.pustakaalay.blogspot.com) I am also on ‘facebook’. My writings are available on Mauritius websites also.

[13] What are the results of the expansion of your English translation of poems?

My access in non-Hindi provinces became very easy through English translation. Many poets, writers and editors who were unfamiliar with the Hindi language, read my English translations and understood my poetry works. Hindi speakers were also benefitted. Where ever they found doubts, they too got help by English translations.

[14] Are there any evaluative books on your English poetry?

Two critical books have been published on my English poems :

(1) ‘Living Through Challenges : A Study of Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry’ by dr. Bairagi Charan Dwivedi. This book consists of nine chapters, in which English and Orriya writer Dr. B. C. Dwivedi has given his interpretations of my poems. It was published in 2006. The publisher is, ‘Sanjay Prakashan’, New Delhi — 2

(2) ‘Poet Mahendra Bhatnagar : His Mind and Art’ Edited by a renowned poet and critic Dr. Suresh Chandra Dwivedi (Prof. & Head : Allahabad University) and Dr. Shubha Dwivedi (An English Professor of Delhi University) This book consists of thirty-six articles by renowned English authors and poets. This critical book was published in 2007. The publisher is, ‘Vista International Publishing House’, Delhi — 53. [This book consists of an independent critical part also of those of my poems which are translated into French. My one-hundred-eight poems are translated into French by former Prof. of French of ‘Burdwan University’ (West Bengal) Mrs. Purnima Ray. This French part includes five critical articles written in French by well-known French professors of India.]

This book was published in 2004, titled as —  'A Modern Indian Poet Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar :  Un Poe`te Indien Et Moderne' The publisher is ‘Indian Publishers Distributors’, Delhi — 7

(3) Third evaluative book on my poetry ‘Concerns and Creation’ (A study of Mahendra Bhatnagar’s Poetry) is under press. This book has been edited by a renowned English poet and critic Dr. R. K. Bhushan. It includes my interviews also.

[15] Has any research work been done in English on your poetic achievements? If yes, where?

(1) One Doctoral  level research work on my English poetry has been done at ‘Madurai Kamraj University’, Madurai — 625 021 (Tamil Nadu) / 2012. Topic : 'Post-Independence Voice  For Social Harmony And Humanism : A Study Of Selected Poems of Mahendra Bhatnagar'. The name of the research scholar is Rama Krishnan Karthikeyan, Lecturer, PAC Ramasamy  Raja Poly Technic College, Rajapalayam — 626 117 [T.N.] Supervisor : Dr. G. (Gavarappan) Baskaran, Reader in English, VHNSN College, VirudhuNagar  — 626 001 [T.N.] Besides this, two special research papers have been published. One on my latest collection of poetry ‘Passion and Compassion’ and other a comparative study.

(2) 'A Critical Explication Of Mahendra Bhatnagar's  'Passion And Compassion' by Dr. Anita Myles.
This paper was published in 'Indian Literature' A journal published by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.
No. 233,May-June 2006, Vol. L. No. 3)

(3)  'Death beyond the Borders of Despondency in the poetry of D. C.Chambial and Mahendra Bhatnagar' by Dr. Kalpana Rajput. This research paper was published in  'Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures' (An International Refereed Biannual) (Vol. 11, No. 1, June 2011) of the Newman College, Thodupuzha-Kerala — Centre For English Studies and Research.                              

[16] Who has taken your interviews in English and where have they got published? Two, special my interviews in English have been published.

(1) First interview was published prominently in 'Contemporary Vibes' (Chandigarh). This interview was taken by Mr. Anil Kumar Sharma, the editor of  'Contemporary Vibes' , poet and story writer.

(2) The second interview was taken by Dr.Nilanshu Kumar Agarwal, Associate Professor of
English, Feroze Gandhi College, Rae Bareli (U.P.), which was published in two renowned magazines: * ‘Bilingual Poetic Voice: An Interview with Mahendra Bhatnagar’. (Indian Journal of Postcolonial Literatures (Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala). (July-Dec. 2008).
* 'An Interview with Mahendra Bhatnagar' (Wild Violet. (Philadelphia). 8.1 / Summer 2009). This interview is available on many websites also.

[17] How many English Journals have put you on their Advisory Boards?

I am on the Advisory Board of two English Journals of international repute :

(1) Poetcrit (Estd. 1988) - An International Bi-annual Refereed Journal of Literary Criticism & Contemporary Poetry. Edited by Dr. D. C. Chambial and published from  Maranda-H.P. 

(2) Indian Journal of POSTCOLONIAL LITERATURES (Estd. 2000). An International Refereed Bi-annual Journal. Edited by Sr. Alphonsa P. O. and published from Thdupuzha-Kerala.

(3) I am also one of the patron of an English website ‘www. creative saplings.com’, edited by Dr. Shaleen Kumar Singh.

[18] How logical do you consider your discussion in the history of Indian English Poetry?

I don’t know whether I am mentioned in the history of Indian English Poetry. I remained  rather indifferent in this direction. Many Indian English writers don’t know anything about me. My connection with Indian English writers is limited.

[19] Your poems have been translated into other foreign languages also viz. Czech, French, Japanese, Nepali etc. It is natural, in their comparison, English translations of your poems are more famous and read more. What do you feel about all your achievements?

Undoubtedly, the translations of my poems in Czech, English, French, Japanese, Nepali etc. and their publications in various journals is special and significant. It reflects the qualitative value of my poetry. But, I feel that I could not still able to write remarkable poems, in a true sense. I feel a strange restlessness towards my creativity, after completing 85. I want to express so many things, but the time is fleeting. Mental and physical problems don’t allow me to relax and feel comfortable.

[20] How many of your English works are expected to get published in near future?

Poetry is the chief mode of my creativity. Unfortunately, poetry is highly neglected. The publishers are not at all interested in publishing poetry books, because the publication of poetry books is not profitable from business point of view. I don’t think so — that the people have been less interested in poetry or their enthusiasm is decreasing these days. Everybody wants to enjoy simple poems. Provided that such poems may reach to them. Everybody hums in happiness and sorrow, sings with emotions. However intellectual a person may be. His relation to poetry can never fade away. The need is to create easy- simple poems and to publish their low-cost editions.
 
So, when I see that the publishers are not willing to publish poetry collections, I become depressed. It is wonderful that the first editions of my poetry collections published without any delay, but publications of their new editions, is really not so easy. Thus, I have decided to prepare subject-wise anthologies of my poems. I have divided my whole poetry writing into five parts :

(1) Engraved on the Canvas of Time (Poems of Social Harmony & Humanism, Realistic & Visionary Aspects.)
(2) Life : As It Is (Poems of Faith & Optimism, Delight & Pain, Philosophy of Life.)
(3) Love Poems
(4) Nature Poems
(5) Death-Perception : Life-Perception

I am trying to get published these anthologies. At present, these anthologies are available on internet.

[21] What is the motive of your poetry?

The utility of poetry to individual and society is beyond suspicion. Among the chief elements of poetry (feeling, thought, imagination, art / technique) the element of emotion (feeling) stimulates the mind most. The poetry is desirable in the sense that being an emotional statement it holds the capacity of shaking our consciousness. Poetry affects us more than any other literary form. It influences man, makes him active and awakens his aesthetic sense. So long as the man exists, the poetry will also exist. The help of poetry has been taken from times immemorial to expand the humanity, to maintain harmony and love between men, to raise patriotic love, to enforce conscience during the moment of pain, to express true joy etc. A poem proves a good medium of entertainment also by giving joy and pleasure (Though, the main aim of poetry is not entertainment but to give artistic shape to emotional and sublime thoughts and experiences; yet, entertainment has its own significance.)     

February 13, 2012

More by : Prof. Dr. Suresh Chandra Dwivedi

Views: 1
Poem Article Comment Nice interview.
Arbind Kumar Choudhary
02/15/2012
Poem Article Comment Nice interview that envisaged the versatile accomplishments of Dr. Bhatnagar. Mr. Suresh Chandra Dwivedi's efforts are praise worthy.
Dr. C. Jaya Sankar Babu
02/14/2012
Poem Article Comment NICE INFORMATIVE INTERVIEW.
*Kumar Aditya Vikram
KUMAR ADITYA VIKRAM
02/14/2012
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