The Indian Marathi poet, editor, publisher, translator and poetry activist Hemant Divate has published two of my poems he translated into Marathi in the first issue of the relaunched literary magazine Abhidha Nantar published in Mumbai. The poems were translated from the English versions by Albert Gatt but we discussed them in person during a poetry translation workshop in Mumbai in November 2016 organized by Literature Across Frontiers. We also performed our poems and the translations we made of each other’s poems on stage of the NCPA – Little Theatre at the Tata Literature Live – The Mumbai LitFest.
In an interview he gave to Suhit Kelkar of Hindustan Times in July 2021, Divate spoke about poetry publishing in India, which he described as “a non-profit activity” and “a movement.” He also talked about the publishing imprint Poetrywala, which he and Smruti Divate founded and which has brought out over 130 collections of poetry in many languages and from different countries since 2003, including my book, of poetry translated into English by Albert Gatt, Last-ditch Ecstasy (2017).
The Divates and other Indian writers recently formed the Poetrywala Foundation, “a public charitable trust, to enrich poetry and encourage its translation, archiving and research. That is the perspective with which I and Smruti became publishers. In Marathi, we used to bring out the magazines Abhidha (1992) and then Abhidha Nantar (1998-2008). Abhidha Nantar especially curated poetry in Marathi about the impact of globalization on life and literature, and how globalization was changing culture and society here, because the subject needed to be aired. When we felt we had done that, we shut down the magazine. Poetry needs to change with the times, or else we will write the same things over and over again.”
“Along the way,” says Hemant Divate in the interview he gave to Suhit Kelkar, “we found that older publishers were not willing to bring out new kinds of poems. Their view was ancient. So, in 2001, we started publishing poetry in Marathi. We expanded to publishing poetry in translation – for which we started Poetrywala (2003). Through it, we also began to publish poetry in English. The books we publish are important. And we embrace various kinds of poetry, not just the kind that we are used to writing.”
Marathi is a Southern Indo-Aryan language spoken mainly in the Indian state of Maharashtra. There are speakers of Marathi also in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh states.
In 2011 there were about 95.2 million speakers of Marathi in India, about 83 million of whom speak it as a native language. Marathi speakers are also found in the USA (73,600), Australia (13,100), Israel (11,000) and a number of other countries.