Mamang Dai is one of India’s most evocative contemporary writers in English. Hailing from Arunachal Pradesh, the rhythm of her verse reflects the rhythms of the oral tradition of her Adi tribe, and of the natural landscape to which she is so attached. Her poetic voice, as expressed in the collections River Poems, The Balm of Time, Midsummer Survival Lyrics, and the folk tale Hambreelmai’s Loom, is gentle, melodious and poignant. While her poetry can be nostalgic for passing traditions and denuded landscapes, and does not avoid the political realities and unease of the times, it is always imbued with hope and love.
Mamang Dai’s poetry ranges across all the aspects of life in the Northeast – positive and negative, political and ideological, nature and community – but is never harsh or opaque. This has been her gift to students and readers – limpid and accessible verse that lights up the beauty of the natural and cultural milieu of the Northeast, shifting the image of conflict and militancy often associated with the region.
A meticulous documenter and proponent of the social, environmental, aesthetic and culinary aspects of Arunachal Pradesh, Mamang Dai has also written a range of works of non-fiction (The Hidden Land, Mountain Harvest) and fiction (she received the Sahitya Akademi Award for her novel The Black Hill), but has described poetry as her “life-line”. She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2011. She has also been a journalist across print, TV and radio, and has worked with the World Wildlife Fund in the Eastern Himalayas Biodiversity Hotspots programme.
Accepting the Poet Laureateship for Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest 2023, Mamang Dai said: “I am quite overwhelmed to be invited to be the Poet Laureate of the Tata Literature Live! 2023. I think it is wonderful that Tata Literature Live! Mumbai literature festival celebrates poetry. I feel honoured, and inspired”.
Co–Director of the Festival, Quasar Thakore Padamsee said,“We are excited and honoured that Mamang Dai will be this year’s Poet Laureate at the Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest. Apart from being a distinguished poet and author, Mamang Dai has lived a life of service and commitment, having also been a journalist, a dedicated conservationist and an eminent socio-cultural chronicler. The breadth and depth of her experience will add an uplifting dimension to the Poet Laureateship of the Festival”.
Mr Harish Bhat, Brand Custodian, Tata Sons said, “We are privileged to bestow the title of Poet Laureate upon Ms Mamang Dai for the 2023 edition of Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest. This recognition is perhaps one of the many accolades, including the prestigious Padma Shri and Sahitya Akademi Award that adorn her illustrious life as one of the finest writers in English from Northeast India. The universality of her poems, while taking inspiration from nature, is deeply intertwined with her multifaceted experiences as a novelist, journalist, IAS officer, a woman, as well her indigenous heritage as the member of the Adi tribe. Her poems, today, are an evocative voice for the art, for women, as well as for indigenous tribes. We look forward to hosting an important voice like Ms Mamang Dai’s at the festival.”
Previous Tata Literature Live! Poet Laureates include Gieve Patel, Adil Jussawalla, Javed Akhtar, K. Satchidanandan, Jayanta Mahapatra, Gulzar, Keki Daruwalla, Vikram Seth, and Joy Goswami.
Notes to Editors:
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The Tata Group is the title sponsor of Tata Literature Live! The Festival was conceived by Anil Dharker (1947-2021) Founder and Festival Director of Literature Live!, which organises the festival with the support of the Tata Group.
About the Tata Group
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About Literature Live!
Literature Live! is dedicated to celebrating the written word in all its glorious and varied forms. It offers a chance to participate in the many joys of literature such as book launches, thought provoking talks and author interactions. Literature Live! also organises Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai Litfest, Mumbai’s premier international Literary Festival which is now presented in a dual format, having acquired a huge online following during the pandemic. The on ground Festival is one of the most popular events in Mumbai’s winter calendar, not least because it looks at literature and writing in a way that complements the spirit of the city: energetic, inclusive and cosmopolitan.