Indian English Poetry and its never-ending dilemma – an opinion

Indian English literature, especially poetry, is older than we often think it might have been. For many, it started with Derozio. For a few, it might have been started with Tagore getting the Nobel Prize and for many others, it is still not started and the process is continuous forever. However, when we look back, we have many names who were continuously producing wonderful literature in English, a very alien language at that time. And Indian English poetry has travelled a long distance. However, the contemporary battle of old vs the new, the traditional vs the modernists and the classicists vs the contemporaries is as old as the evolution of Indian English poetry is.

With the rise of the modernist movement in Indin English poetry, emerging poets like Ezekiel, Kamala Das, R Parthasarthy and many others did never value their predecessors with full acceptance for their output. Even the poets like Sri Aurobindo and Tagore could not make themselves on the lists of appreciable literary figures by these modern poets. When we try to look for valid or convincing reasons for this apartheid-like act, we get almost nothing. It is all but a superiority complex that has held back the modernists from appreciating or accepting the traditionalists. IN fact, to the surprise of many, modernists could never make it to the fame that classical Indian English poets still enjoy – the popularity of Sri Aurobindo and Tagore, even Sarojini Naidu for that matter, is still intact and even increasing with passing years. On the contrary, who knows Keki N Daruwala or A K Mehrotra beyond the literary fraternity? Seldom. Perhaps. May be. We don’t know.

My point is very simple and I will put forth my statements now. In Indian English poetry, we could never learn how to appreciate those who were active before us. We never tend to recognise the geniuses who were writing 2-3 decades ago. Breaking free is the concept on which modernists often worked. Yes, there are trends and there are styles that an age appreciates. This is a well-accepted fact. However, culture, civilisation habits and ethos never change. Modernists could not recognise this very well. They were keen to follow their heart but could not use their better judgement and realise that tradition is something that has to be respected. Breaking away from ‘no substance’ writing, as they say, of Tagore and Aurobindo, they have made a house of haystacks for themselves which is no longer existing as it always loved the flames of constant fire. Sad.

Jayanta Mahapatra, to an extent, realised it. He accepted India and Indians. He accepted Indian ethos. He almost appreciated his predecessors and that is the reason his works also reflect what readers wanted to read. On the other hand, a constant dilemma lingered above the entire output of modern poets and they could never get out of it – whom to accept and what to reject and it has marred the poetic outputs of many poets limiting them to be known by an inferior minority of literary intellectual who is more than eager to limit them within their research ideas. Sad.


Written by Vyom for Intellectual Reader

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