Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Poets
ISBN: 9781681376462
Pages: 624
Publication Date: June 28, 2022


by Vivek Narayanan

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After is a collection of poems inspired by Valmiki’s Ramayana, one of Asia’s foundational epic poems and a story cycle of formative historical importance all across South and Southeast Asia.

On the Indian subcontinent, the Ramayana is central not only to religion and folklore but to the conduct of life. People take its characters as models of vice and virtue, courage and devotion, and politicians have been known to take advantage of the veneration in which the book is held. In the West, too, the Ramayana has long been recognized as one of the essential classics of world literature, on par with the tale of Gilgamesh, the Homeric epics, Virgil, and Dante, even as its stories remain comparatively unfamiliar.

In After, Vivek Narayanan brings the resources of contemporary English poetry to bear on the Ramayana. In a work that bears comparison with Christopher Logue’s and Alice Oswald’s distinctive reshapings of Homer, and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Narayanan allows the ancient voice of the poem to confront and engage with modern experience, initiating a transformative conversation across time.


A fantastic adventure story and a threnody on the sadness of power, the Ramayana has been multiplying across languages and formal boundaries for more than two millennia. And now it has taken a new shape in Vivek Narayanan’s formidable English: Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Ravana flash across these floodlit pages. Ancient and contemporary India fracture and recompose in this timeless epic of sorrow, violence, betrayal, and longing, as if the poet Valmiki foresaw, centuries ago, that he would chant again in Narayanan’s voice.
—Rosanna Warren