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The selected poems of contemporary Indian writer Vinod Kumar Shukla, translated from Hindi by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra.
”In the confusion of leaving home,
I leave it so far behind that everywhere I go
I’m seen as an infiltrator.
Infiltrator or inhabitant?”
Infiltrator or inhabitant? In TREASURER OF PIGGY BANKS, Shukla sees the world through both lenses at once. All details are local yet canonical. We are uprooted and yet everywhere roots are spreading far and wide. Shukla illuminates what is hardest to comprehend with aphoristic and surreal clarity, from environmental collapse, to the way our own deaths are snug inside our lives.
The poems are translated from Hindi with deft humor and acrobatic muscle by poet and essayist Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, who writes in his introduction that Shukla’s lines are so unique to him, “you could put them on a check, and it will be honored at any literary bank.” You can’t hoard or even spend the wealth of the lines in this collection, but the shiny, slippery, and threatened value of the world accrues through them.
Poetry. Asian & Asian American Studies.
”As a poet, Vinod Kumar Shukla wishes to retain a meticulous record and also to create a body of knowledge…Throughout the work glimmers a liberating fact that lies outside the remit of mathematics: the universe and our place in it are unknowable. The poet arrives at no illumination; we do. One can hardly think of a record in literature that possesses a comparable uniqueness, or of a body of knowledge that’s as indispensable.” – Amit Chaudhuri
”Vinod Kumar Shukla’s poems descale our eyes to the quotidian, bringing each bus, tree, and banknote into the light of wild novelty. Across decades of writing, his voice refreshes the archetype of the wise fool: doggedly facing down the absurdities of civilization, yet sparked with a surrealist passion. Shukla’s poems are often like taking a promenade with Basho and John Ashbery, making a journey that arrives, sudden and laughing, at the self. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra’s translations brilliantly deliver the humor and wonder that catalyze Shukla’s verse.” – Jay Deshpande
”Entirely and utterly delightful! These short, crystalline poems, while seeming to be unambiguously direct, all contain a little twist crafted by an exceptionally inventive and keen intelligence. Shukla achieves the truly uncanny by infusing the details of daily life, which he so clearly loves, with a marvelous strangeness. Whether they have you laughing or cocking your head, these poems are all unexpected—and enchanting. Shukla’s is a world of complete equivalence, in which everything equals everything else with mathematical precision and shape-shifting fluidity—the whole is an absolute treasure brought seamlessly into English in Mehrotra’s striking translation.” – Cole Swensen
”When I examine the poetry of old India I think surrealism is nothing new. When I read the poetry of Vinod Kumar Shukla I am certain nonsense has a grander and wiser history than logic. Shukla writes high-quality nonsense. It might be high-quality surrealism or it might be the way the human mind thinks. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, who has already translated the upside-down language of Kabir, is the ideal mediator, between Shukla’s unsettling nonsense and North America’s poetry.” – Andrew Schelling
Vinod Kumar Shukla was born in Rajnandgaon, in central India, in 1937. For most of his writing life, he taught at Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, Raipur, from where he retired in 1996. His first publication, in 1971, was a poetry chapbook Lagbhag Jai Hind [Hail India, Almost]. He has since published more than a dozen books that include both poetry, fiction, and books for children. His first novel Naukar ki kameez (1979), translated as The Servant's Shirt by Satti Khanna in 1999, was made into a film by Mani Kaul and won the 1999 NETPAC Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Among Shukla's many awards is the Sahitya Akademi Award and the 2023 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra lives in Dehra Dun, in the foothills of the Himalayas. He is the author of seven previous books of poetry and two collections of essays. His edited books include the Oxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets (1992). He is also the translator of The Absent Traveller: Prakrit Love Poetry (Penguin Classics, 2008), Songs of Kabir (NYRB Classics, 2011), and, with Sara Rai, of Vinod Kumar Shukla's stories Blue Is Like Blue (HarperCollins India, 2019). His new collection of poems is Book of Rahim (Shearsman Books, UK and Literary Activism/Westland India, 2022).