A.K. Ramanujan was born in Mysore in 1929. After a brief teaching career in India he moved to U.S. in 1962 and settled down there. He was Professor of Linguistics and Dravidian Studies in the University of Chicago till his death on July 13, 1993.
His first book of poems The Striders was published in 1966 by Oxford University Press and his second volume of poems Relations was published again by OUP in 1969. His poems have found a place in many anthologies of Indian English poetry and Commonwealth poetry and he himself has been discussed in a number of critical works on the two areas.
He is much more well-known as a translator and his The Interior Landscape is a translation of the great Tamil classic Kurunthokai. While this book won a gold medal from the Tamil Writers’ Association, his Speaking of Siva won the National Book Award in 1974. Another well-known translation of his is Hymns for the Drowning: Poems for Visnu by Nammalvar (1981). His latest work is Second Sight (1986) which is a set of poems very different from the earlier poems both in content and form.
As pointed out in the General Introduction, Ramanujan is essentially a poet of memory who shows an intense preoccupation with the past which makes his poetry not only a poetry of the self but also of family history and cultural history. In fact, poetry in the hands of Ramanujan becomes a vehicle of the criticism of the self and of the world around him and as in the poetry of Ezekiel that criticism is articulated with remarkable precision and flair for detail and in an ironic mode which brings him close to many modern poets. We find the later Ramanujan a very different poet especially with his Buddhist acceptance of change as the only continuity and with his confession of violent emotions, sexual desire in particular.