Arvind Krishna Mehrotra was born in 1947 in Lahore, Pakistan, and studied English literature, ancient history and economics at the University of Allahabad. Fascinated with the library of his uncle, an English professor with whom he lived, he fulfilled his dream of publishing his first poems and seeing his own name on the volume’s dust jacket. He was particularly influenced by Ezra Pound’s poetics that focus on a reduction of language to its essentials, which also informed Mehrotra’s work as a translator. As a poet, Mehrotra later gained acclaim, along with names such as A. K. Ramanujan, Nissim Ezekiel and Arun Kolatkar, for reviving the tradition of Indian poetry in English as well as transporting it into modern times through literary experimentation. Unaffected by changes in form and content during his decades of work, his understanding of poetry as an art of intimation has held fast; his poetry, which can seem rather light at first glance, acquires gravitas upon further reading due to the precision and openness of its verbal imagery. The poet Ranjit Hoskote has praised Mehrotra for his invocation of intense emotions and an epic, historic atmosphere through minimal gestures. By his own admission, Mehrotra has realized that, despite having lived in Mumbai and Iowa City, USA, he can only write in and about places he has known since childhood: Allahabad and Dehra Dun, where he lives again today.
An initial collection titled »Nine Enclosures« (1976) was followed over longer intervals by four additional volumes of poetry. Most recently, in 2014, he published a collection of poems he began working on in 1969. This work includes critically acclaimed translations of poems written in older Indian languages and dialects like Prakrit – for instance, love poetry from perhaps the earliest anthology of secular verse in South Asia, »Gathasaptasati«, which he published in 1991 under the title »The Absent Traveller«. The translations of »Songs of Kabir«, published twenty years later, were praised by the »New York Times« for their successful interweaving of traditional themes with contemporary slang.
As part of his work as a professor of English literature, which he taught at his alma mater until 2012, Mehrotra wrote several books addressing, for instance, the history of Indian literature in the English language. In 2006 he published an anthology in German of English-language Indian poetry titled »Indische Dichter der Gegenwart« (tr: Contemporary Indian poets). Arvind Krishna Mehrotra and his wife Vandana, whose father was a Hindu writer and mother a painter, have one son, the author Palash Krishna Mehrotra.