Thangjam Ibopishak Singh is among the leading and most popular poets of the Northeast of India. Based in Imphal, he writes in Manipuri, the language of the indigenous Meitei community. He has published six volumes of poetry, three of which earned him some of the most prestigious awards in the state including the Manipur State Kala Akademi Award in 1986, the Jamini Sunder Guha Gold Medal in 1989, the First Jananeta Irabot Award in 1997 and the Ashangbam Minaketan Memorial Award in 2005. Ibopishak also won the Sahitya Akademi Award for poetry in 1997. He teaches Manipuri at the GP Women’s College in Imphal.
The poems that appear in this edition have been translated into English by the noted poet, Robin Ngangom. They reveal a taste for satire which is savage and Swiftian. The vision is dark; the indictment of a region gripped by insurgency, terrorism, ethnic conflict and state brutality is corrosive and unrelenting.
Consider ‘The Land of the Half-Humans’, a bleak portrait of an irredeemably damaged society that spawns a race tragically unable to reconcile mind and body. This is the land of perpetual internal strife, where the head and body are constantly at odds with each other: “The earnings of the body’s sweat of six months, the six month-old head eats up with a vengeance.” The irony is laser sharp and unsparing.
In a brief conversation with poet Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih which accompanies this edition, the poet speaks of the recurrent preoccupations of his work. There is nature and death certainly, he acknowledges, but over and above all, there is Manipur – with the violence, fear, moral desiccation and political turmoil that besiege the state. As the poet wryly admits, “I’m always caught up in this issue.”
And yet, Ibopishak’s poetry is a dense and textured construct; images yield new resonances at successive readings. And so in his poem, ‘Dali, Hussain, or Odour of Dream, Colour of Wind’, the poet whips up a playful and memorable mix of the lyrical, the fantastic and the deliriously associative, with the familiar undertow of black humour.
Apaiba Thawai (The Hovering Soul), Naharol Sahitya Premee Samiti, Imphal, 1969
Shingnaba (Challenge) (Co-authored), Authors, Imphal, 1974
Norok Patal Prithivi (This Earth is Hell), V.I. Publication, Imphal, 1985
Bhoot Amasung Maikhum (The Ghost and Mask), Writer’s Forum, Imphal, 1994
Mayadesh (The Land of Maya), Writer’s Forum, Imphal, 1999
Manam (The Human Scent), Writer’s Forum, Imphal, 2003
Sahitya Academy Awards: Manipuri Books and Authors
List of Sahitya Academy Awardees from Manipur, including Thangjam Ibopishak Singh for the year 1997