365 poems, 279 poets, 34 languages in Gulzar’s ‘A Poem a Day’ magnum opus

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New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) This truly is a litterateur’s delight, as Gulzar, one of India’s leading poets, as also a highly respected script writer and film director, serves up a treasure trove of 365 poems, one for every day of the year, written by 279 poets in 34 languages written over the seven decades of Independence and appearing
in English and Hindustani. He describes it as his “tribute” in the “difficult times we are going through”, to the “many languages of India that happen to be local yet form a part of our national identity”.
The selection in the humongous 976-page “A Poem a Day”, to be published by Harper Collins in July, has been personally chosen by Gulzar himself, and features the works of poets from the north, south, west and east of India, as well as the northeast, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, presenting kaleidoscopic view of history, human experience and poetic expression since 1947.
The book began “as a thought – why not have a poem to read for every day of the year, selected from the wonderful Indian poetry that has been written since 1947? I started with some of my favourite poets, but almost before I knew it, we had poetry by 279 different poets writing in as many as 34 languages,” Gulzar said in an audio message.
“I firmly believe that poetry doesn’t know any borders, so, along with poets from Gujarat, Punjab, Kerala, Goa, Odisha, I included poets writing in Tamil in Sri Lanka, in Bangla in Bangladesh and in Urdu and Punjabi in Pakistan,” he added.
“The poems appear in English translation, which is a language that, thanks to our history, a majority of Indians are familiar with. But I wished to make the poems my own, and to write them again in my own way in a language and idiom that is truly our own; therefore I transcreated the poems (except the ones that were originally written
in Hindi or Urdu) in Hindustani, the language in which I write.
“This was a massive project but a very rewarding one too. The poetry of India can be truly known only if one takes into account the poetry of all its languages. ‘A Poem a Day’ is my tribute to the many languages of India that happen to be local yet form a part of our national identity. It is also a personal selection of the Indian poetry that contributed to my journey of becoming a poet, and the poetry that I have found the most memorable,” he said.
Expressing his gratitude to HarperCollins India for undertaking this ambitious work and bringing it to readers everywhere, Gulzar added: “I feel we need poetry and the power of words more than ever in the difficult times we are going through; I hope that ‘A Poem a Day’ will be a companion many of you will want to have by your side as we walk
into the future.”
Gulzar has been one of the most popular lyricists in mainstream Hindi cinema, gaining international fame when he won an Oscar and a Grammy for the song ‘Jai ho’. He received the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2002, the Padma Bhushan in 2004, and the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2014.