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India's revolutionary poet Varavara Rao to publish collection in English from behind bars

INDIAN political prisoner Varavara Rao will release an English-language collection of his poems next year, his publisher Penguin Random House has announced.

Varavara Rao: India’s Revolutionary Poet will be released under Penguin’s Vintage imprint in 2021 and will be edited by his nephew N. Venugopal and poet Meena Kandasamy, it was confirmed.

Mr Venugopal said publication of the book was “the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream,” describing the collection as “an expression of his complete personality that blended social history, alternative politics, the right to self- determination and an unceasing urge for freedom.”

Mr Rao is one of the foremost experts on Telugu literature and has taught graduates and undergraduates for more than 40 years.

His political activism has led to numerous periods of incarceration, during which he authored a book of prison writings, published in English as Captive Imagination.

In 2018 he was arrested and charged with inciting violence that erupted at a gathering to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the battle of Koregaon-Bhima between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy, in which hundreds were killed.

“The image of Varavara Rao, smiling with fist raised as he was taken into custody is imprinted on our minds. He exuded an aura of optimism, fortitude and strength. Who is Varavara Rao? What does he stand for? Where better to turn for answers than to his own words; the poems that convey with such extraordinary power his emotions, his thoughts and purpose,” Penguin Random House India editor Elizabeth Kuruvilla said.

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