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Whatever the issue, if you must shoot me, please shoot me with a gun made in India. I don’t want to die by a foreign bullet. You see, I love India very much.’

Considered a radical, the leading Manipuri poet, essayist, and memoirist Thangjam Ibopishak not only writes about the city which dehumanises its dwellers but also reveals a romantic bent as seen in his poems about the countryside, nature, and love. His forte is perhaps witty, biting satire, where he uses colloquial language and absurdist irony in his verse. A self-professed atheist who often speaks about God, non-partisan but politically conscious, Thangjam Ibopishak’s contradictions lend complexity to his poetry and make him a significant presence in contemporary Indian poetry.

This translation by poet Robin S Ngangom, for the first time, introduces the English-speaking world to the thematically wide-ranging poetry of Thangjam Ibopishak, picked from his earliest collection through his latest published in 2017.

The political is omnipresent in these poems, which are attuned to the everyday emergencies of heavily militarised North-eastern India. From the cannibalism of power, the crossfire of automatic weapons erasing birdsong, the poet turns for sustenance to the natural world. But nature, too, has been tainted by ‘There’s no territory in the world of birds no politics/ no government no newspapers no police no lock-ups.’
— Ranjit Hoskote

This is poetry written with a gun pressed to the head. Ibopishak’s hunger for the elemental and unmediated truths of nature is darkened by his experience of monstrous realities.
— Anjum Hasan

Thangjam Ibopishak’s poetry turns dark in its attempt to capture life’s ironies in our times. ...These are poems that capture the innermost core of our gruesome present.
— K Satchidanandan

Thangjam Ibopishak (b 15 February 1948) is one of the leading Manipuri poets. Based in Imphal, he taught Manipuri literature at GP Women’s College and has published 10 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 Kavi Ratna Dr Kamal Memorial Award in 2012. He has also published two books of essays and a memoir. Ibopishak also won the Sahitya Akademi Award for poetry in 1997 for The Ghost and the Mask , and the Manipur State Award for Literature in 2009.

Robin S Ngangom is a bilingual poet and translator who writes in English and Manipuri. Born in Imphal, he studied literature at St Edmund’s College and the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong, where he currently teaches. His poems have appeared in The New Statesman (London), Verse (Georgia), Kunapipi (Denmark), the Welsh Internationalist (Ceredigion), The Literary Review (New Jersey), The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry (HarperCollins India), These My Words (Penguin India), Chandrabhaga (Cuttack), Kavya Bharati (Madurai). Ngangom describes his poetry as ‘mostly autobiographical, written with the hope of enthusing readers with my communal or carnal life — the life of a politically-discriminated against, historically-overlooked individual from the nook of a third world country’. His third book of poetry, The Desire of Roots , was also published by Red River.

The Smell Of Man

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