Vivek Narayanan, Poetry Reading and Q and A
Vivek Narayanan, one of the most distinguished contemporary Indian poets, joins us for a lunchtime reading and discussion. Vivek will perform sections from After (NYRB, 2022), his collection of poems inspired by Vālmīki's Rāmāyaṇa, which he describes as a “reinvention or rewiring” of Vālmīki's epic text. Following the performance, we will have a Q&A on issues ranging from translation, epic time to contemporary poetics.
This event if free and open to all.
Vivek Narayanan teaches poetry in the MFA program at George Mason University. His books of poems include After (New York Review Books, July 2022), Universal Beach, Life and Times of Mr S. He has been a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University (2013–14) and a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library (2015–16). His poems, stories, translations and critical essays have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, Chimurenga Chronic, Granta.com, Poetry Review (UK), Modern Poetry in Translation,
Harvard Review, Agni, The Caribbean Review of Books, Aroop and elsewhere, as well as in The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem and The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poetry. He is on the editorial board of Poetry Daily.
Praise for After
I was drawn in by rhythms and images that allowed this work to take flight (Layla Benitez-James, Harriet (Poetry Foundation blog))
After is as multitudinous as the Sanskrit Ramayana, the text it is after (in both senses of the word), the text it follows (in both senses of the word). It is a conception in English of Valmiki’s great poem, a reflection of it, a concretion of it, a refraction of it, both an acceptance and a passionate refusal of it, a sometimes tender, sometimes violent embrace, a resurrection, an imprisonment, a liberation of it, and, always, an act of profoundly learned, current, and imaginative reverence. The only thing more amazing than Narayanan’s ambition is his realization of that ambition (Vijay Seshadri)
Vivek Narayanan, one of the most distinguished Indian poets of today, has with this remarkable book drawn upon an Indian heroic song of the late Bronze Age, Rāmāyana, and transferred the ancient virtues and poetic being of that epic to the twenty-first century. . . . this poem of Narayanan has great political force for a modern and activist readership, both Asian and Western. . . . [a] tour de force, radicalizing our apprehension of beauty. (Kevin McGrath, Harvard Review)
A fantastic adventure story and a threnody on the sadness of power, the Ramayana has been multiplying across languages and formal boundaries for more than two millennia. And now it has taken a new shape in Vivek Narayanan’s formidable English: Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Ravana flash across these floodlit pages. Ancient and contemporary India fracture and recompose in this timeless epic of sorrow, violence, betrayal, and longing, as if the poet Valmiki foresaw, centuries ago, that he would chant again in Narayanan’s voice. (Rosanna Warren)
The poems in Vivek Narayanan’s After are masterfully aware in terms of tone and the ‘time-spirit’ (‘Some Omens’) – leaning into the wonderful slipperiness of epic time, while being fully cognisant of these current fractious times. In a preface, Narayanan writes that his goal was to ‘reanimate’ Valmiki, not by carrying over or translating in a traditional sense, but to engage in a more open way. The result is a collection of leaping, fierce poems that move in several directions, leaving the reader besieged and dazzled in equal measure. (Tishani Doshi)