Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rebirth of a Poet

The New York Times Book Review of May 27 carries a review of a new translation of the Songs of Kabir by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra. The reviewer, August Kleinzahler, compares it with previous translations:

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s new translation of Kabir brings the poetry of the great 15th-century Indian poet and holy man to life in English for the first time. Not that others haven’t tried: Pound, Robert Bly and, most notably, Rabindranath Tagore in 1915, with a version consisting of thees, thous and thines, delivered in a sandalwood-scented prayer-book-ese that would not have been out of place atop a teak sidetable at one of Mme. Blavatsky’s legendary seances. But it is Mehrotra who has succeeded in capturing the ferocity and improvisational energy of Kabir’s poetry.

We’re not quite sure what “legendary séances” the reviewer is referring to, but Tagore was a favourite with early twentieth century theosophists. The review, which gives a number of examples of the new translation, can be read here.

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