Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Poets
Publication Date: July 19, 2022
After is a collection of poems inspired by Valmiki’s Ramayana, one of Asia’s foundational epic poems and a story cycle of incalculable historical importance. But After does not just come after the Ramayana. On each successive page, Vivek Narayanan brings the resources of contemporary English poetry to bear on the Sanskrit epic. In a work that warrants comparison with Christopher Logue’s and Alice Oswald’s reshapings of Homer, and Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Narayanan allows the ancient voice of the poem to engage with modern experience, initiating a transformative conversation across time.
After is as multitudinous as the Sanskrit Ramayana, the text it is after (in both senses of the word), the text it follows (in both senses of the word). It is a conception in English of Valmiki’s great poem, a reflection of it, a concretion of it, a refraction of it, both an acceptance and a passionate refusal of it, a sometimes tender, sometimes violent embrace, a resurrection, an imprisonment, a liberation of it, and, always, an act of profoundly learned, current, and imaginative reverence. The only thing more amazing than Narayanan’s ambition is his realization of that ambition.
Vivek Narayanan, one of the most distinguished Indian poets of today, has with this remarkable book drawn upon an Indian heroic song of the late Bronze Age, Rāmāyana, and transferred the ancient virtues and poetic being of that epic to the twenty-first century. . . . this poem of Narayanan has great political force for a modern and activist readership, both Asian and Western. . . . [a] tour de force, radicalizing our apprehension of beauty.
—Kevin McGrath, Harvard Review
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.