Joe Winter

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Joe Winter is a British educationist and poet who has translated poets Rabindranath Tagore and Jibanananda Das.


Winter was born in London in 1943 and educated at, amongst others, Exeter College, Oxford. He taught English in secondary schools in London from 1967 to 1994. Taking early retirement, he moved to India and lived in Calcutta until the end of 2006. Then he went back home and resettled in London.[1] He learned Bengali during this period and started to translate Bengali literary works into English. While in Calcutta, Winter regularly contributed to The Statesman newspaper. He taught in Ardingly College, Sussex from 2007-2011.

Literary works[edit]

Winter began to write poetry in 1962. His A Miracle was published in 1972. He has also written literary articles and essays. His works have been compiled in eleven volumes of poetry, an autobiography and a book on the poetry of schoolchildren. Just after arriving in India in 1994 he published Indian Song. The following year he published Night out, Meditation and Birth of spring. The same year another anthology of poems titled Page torn from a diary was brought out. The Green Box was published in 1996. Another collection of poems 1984 was published in 1997. A literary essay titled "In defence of poetry" was published in 1996. "To do with freedom" was published in 2000.

Calcutta poems[edit]

Winter composed a number of poems during his Calcutta life which have been published under the title Guest and Host. According to the book cover, this group of poems "records the experience of being welcomed into the household of a foreign country". Many of the poems deal with the commonplace. The majority of the volume comprises two long poems. The first, a sonnet-sequence, "Guest and Host", from which the collection takes its title; and the other a poem on the 2001 earthquake in Kutch, "Earthquake at Kutch". "Guest and Host" is predominantly lyrical in style and diction; in "Highway 34" he writes as follows:

Sometimes when I walk where trees were tall
I am in a prisoner-of-war camp debating poetry
with Colonel-General Loblein. Hostilities were over
and I was in charge of the German Officers' 'hostel'
outside Jessore. As part of my duties
I re-interpreted the Geneva Convention on canteen rights.

"Earthquake at Kutch" is less lyrical:[2]

Shadows of trees, branch-shadows, shadows of leaves
stray in the dust. Only the trees are standing.
Slight shapes chequer a quiet space of ground.


Cover of Naked Lonely Hand

In addition to poetry of his own, Winter has published translations of Rabindranath Tagore's Song Offerings (Gitanjali) and other works. In collaboration with Devadatta Joardar, he also translated Tagore's autobiographical Atmaparichay under the title Of Myself.[3]

Winter translated Rupasi Bangla of poet Jibanananda Das. Other poems of Das translated by him have been collected in a book titled Naked Lonely Hand. He also translated songs of Lalan Fakir into English which were published in The Statesman. Winter's The Golden Boat, a collection of Tagore poems (Sonaar Tori) in English translation, has been published by Anvil Press.

Below is a translation of a poem by Jibanananda Das, who is said[by whom?] to be the most difficult of all modern Bengali poets to translate:


She called me to her and said
"The river-water
is your eyes' faded cane-berry colour;
from weariness, from blood,
it soothes the ground around, makes new;
the river here is you."

"Might it be Dhanshiri?"
I asked the kingfisher.
The river had been given its name by her.
I seek the deep girl now: but she
adrift on water's endless stair
is out somewhere.

An aeon ago within an endless interleaf of white and black—from Time's interior,
in love with fish and soul and kingfisher,
a woman appearing . . . if she had not been
a 24-carat-city-girl, in love with the bright lights, she—
she would have been the Dhanshiri.


External links[edit]