Lakdhas Wikkramasinha is one of the major Sri Lankan poets of the twentieth century. Fearlessly political, “powerful and angry” (as Michael Ondaatje calls him in his memoir Running in the Family
), Wikkramasinha has influenced generations of writers in Sri Lanka. Yet his work, originally self-published in limited editions, has long been inaccessible. This new volume, edited by Aparna Halpé and Ondaatje, is the first to offer a comprehensive selection of Wikkramasinha’s English poetry drawn from the original sources, most of which have never been reprinted. It is also the first to contain a representative selection of the poetry that Wikkramasinha composed in Sinhala, now translated into English by Udaya Meddegama. An accomplished bilingual writer, deeply engaged with Sanskrit and Sinhalese traditions, Wikkramasinha also reveals himself to be a modernist shaped by his reading of Federico García Lorca and Osip Mandelstam, bringing a lyric style of great rhythmic force and imagistic compression to bear on his postcolonial present, as well as on the colonial and precolonial past.
Even though, in fact, hardly a photograph of him exists today, he has written some of the most permanent and iconic poems of [Sri Lanka].
—Michael Ondaatje, from the foreword