Mamta Sagar is a Kannada poet, playwright and academic. She has published three collections of poetry and four plays. She teaches at the Centre for Kannada Studies, Bangalore University. Translated into various languages (including Marathi, Hindi, Malayalam, Bengali, Telugu, English, Spanish and French), Sagar has been widely anthologised and has done readings of her work in various parts of the country, as well as in Colombia, South Africa and Cuba. She has worked for several years on the translation of contemporary African and Francophone poets into Kannada. Her thesis “Gender, Patriarchy and Resistance: Contemporary Women’s Poetry in Kannada and Hindi (1980–2000)” won her a doctoral degree from the University of Hyderabad.
Deeply engaged with issues of human rights violations, gender and social justice, Sagar’s poetry reflects her social concerns. But accompanying her politics is an equally genuine engagement with the Kannada language, and the attention to assonance and alliteration in her poems is difficult to replicate in English translation.
The two poems in this edition combine an imagistic density with powerful critique. ‘Talking about Dharma/ Adharma’ is a response to the communal carnage that ravaged the state of Gujarat in 2002, while ‘Song-Slaughter’ bears witness to the brutal and whimsical nature of police atrocity, as it memorialises the death of Saket Rajan (the Naxalite leader in Karnataka).
Dharma (“sacred duty” or “fundamental universal law or principle”), the bedrock of the Hindu way of life, is sharply questioned as the poet creates a terrifying image of the monster that emerges when politics, religion and patriarchy collude in a “blue poisonous” alliance. Through a newly sanctioned vocabulary of rape, conquest and religious imperialism, the man in her poem performs his righteous duty — and “even before the scream is out”, his “manhood is proved and achieved”.
Hiige HaaLeya Maile HaaDu, Abhinava Prakashana, Bangalore, 2007
Nadiya Neerina Teva, Ila Prakashana, Bangalore, 1999
Kaada Navilina Hejje, Akshara Prakashana, Heggodu, 1992
Chukki Chukki Chandakki, C.V.G. Publications, Bangalore, 1999
Kaada Navilina Hejje, Akshara Prakashana, Heggodu, Karnataka, 1992
Mayye Bhara Manave Bhara, a play, directed by B. Jayashree, The National Theatre Festival, Bombay, 1990
Aa Ondu Raatri, 1989
Mahila Vishaya, (a collection of essays in Kannada and English on Gender, Language, Literature and Culture), Ila Prakashana, Bangalore, 2007
Sexism and Language, in ‘Battleground: Women, Gender and Sexuality’ edited by Amy Lind. Greenwood Publishers, USA, 2007
A Karnad Festival in Karnataka in ‘Girish Karnad’s Plays, Performance and Critical Perspectives’, edt. Tutun Mukherjee. Pencraft International, New Delhi, 2005
Article, discussions and dialogues published in AKKA A Dialogue on Women Through Theatre in India, edt. Narayan Kikkeri, Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore, 2004
Muse India, PoemsAbout, PoemHunter.com: Some more of Mamta Sagar’s poems in translation.
Muse India: Mamta Sagar talks about her experience reading her poetry at Poetry Africa – International Festival of Poetry held in Durban.