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Some Unquenchable Desire: Sanskrit Poems of the Buddhist Hermit Bhartrihari (Paperback)
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An award-winning translator finds surprisingly modern themes in a selection of erotic and religious stanzas from one of classical India's most celebrated poets.
Although few facts are known about his life, the Indian poet Bhartrihari leaps from the page as a remarkably recognizable individual. Amidst a career as a linguist, courtier, and hermit, he used poetry to explore themes of love, desire, impermanence, despair, anger, and fear. “A thousand emotions, ideas, words, and rhythmic syllables stormed through him,” writes translator Andrew Schelling in an evocative introduction. “In particular he shows himself torn between sexual desire and a hunger to be free of failed love affairs and turbulent karma.” Schelling’s translation represents a rare opportunity for English-language readers to become acquainted with this fascinating poet. Attuned to Bhartrihari’s unique poetic sensibility, Schelling has produced a compelling, personally curated set of translations.
About the Author
Andrew Schelling has published more than twenty titles, including Tracks Along the Left Coast: Jaime de Angulo and Pacific Coast Culture, a folkloric account of linguistics, wilderness encounters, bohemian poets, and traditional lore of the California Indians. His translations from Sanskrit and related poetry of ancient India have been published in North America, with several volumes reissued in India. In 2018, Shambhala Publications brought out Some Unquenchable Desire: Sanskrit Poems of the Buddhist Hermit Bhartrihari. A mountaineer and student of ecology and linguistics, he lives in Colorado, where he teaches at Naropa University. When traveling to India, he guest teaches at Deer Park Institute in the bird-thronged Himalayan Foothills.
“Imagine you are Percy Shelley sleeping in your favorite snoozing place among the ancient ruins in Pisa, and you awaken to the Sanskrit poems of Bhartrihari instead of to the Greek poets and Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Will your new poems be splashed with eroticism and awakened with rich theology? Unknown thoughts and imagined odors tremble at your ears like mosquitoes at Behemoth’s nose. Bhartrihari’s poems are wealthy in the loved sciences—Natural History—and the mammal solidity of exciting emotions changing shape. Breasts and honeyed Lips, not chockablock metamorphoses. Andrew Schelling's genius has given us Bhartrihari's great gifts of overwhelming beauty. Never have Entertainment and Loveliness so melted together!”—Michael McClure
“In Some Unquenchable Desire, Andrew Schelling offers a brilliant new rendering of Bhartrihari’s Sanskrit lyric poetry. As its title suggests, this collection evokes in blistering rawness a spectrum of emotion: the heat of sexual desire, the longing for a lover’s caress, the misery of bodily frailty, the heartbreak of ephemeral experience, and the mystical yearning for release from the ordinary world. These selections illuminate the struggle between embracing and renouncing sensuous experience, ultimately reflecting what it means to be human. Although Bhartrihari composed his poems more than a thousand years ago in a world far from our own, Schelling’s stunning translations breathe new life into the poet’s words for the modern ear with clarity and vitality.”—Andrew Quintman, Associate Professor, Department of Religion, Wesleyan University