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Poetic Traditions from the Subcontinent: Starting with Tagore

  • Centre for Stories 100 Aberdeen Street Northbridge, WA, 6003 Australia (map)

This series explores the rich tradition of poetry from Pakistan and India examining how poets became historians, journalists, entertainers, and even revolutionaries, forming the fabric of society. It is aimed at a greater understanding of cultures rich in thought and expression, and often unfamiliar to western audiences.

Bengal’s greatest cultural contribution to the world was a poet: Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian recipient of a Nobel prize, he won the Literature award in 1913. Tagore’s poems and lyrics enthralled the Bengalis since the beginning of the 20th century and nearly 80 years after his death, it continues to permeate Bengali culture and indeed broader Indian cultural practices. 

While Tagore wrote several dozen works of prose, including novels and plays, he wrote several thousand poems and lyrics, the total volume of which is difficult to quantify and the majority of which have not been translated into English.

Starting with Tagore (as any discussion of Bengali poetry must), focuses on the elusive, untranslatable nature of all great poetry, which as T.S Elliot says, ‘can communicate before it is understood’.

Professor Krishna Sen is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. She has held teaching, research and leadership positions at several WA universities and until last year served as Dean of Arts at UWA. She is an internationally recognised scholar of contemporary Indonesia with books and articles on media, culture and gender. Krishna has no specialist knowledge of poetry, but like most Calcutta Bengalis of her generation (growing up in the 1970s) she was enmeshed in poetry and literature in a way that is hard to imagine in contemporary Australia.

Poetic Traditions from the Subcontinent: Starting with Tagore
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