What stops you is the blue door, the bolt unbolted but the lock firmly in place. Why a door, you wonder, on the cover of a book that boldly announces its ‘English poetry’ status and by doing so goes beyond barriers? Because the poets in this book, except that we know they belong to the Indian diaspora, could have come from anywhere in the world, and actually do. Brooklyn, London, Jamaica, Toronto, even the Pont Alexandre Trois, anywhere and everywhere Indians have settled. So much so that a poet like John Siddique has been described as “a stellar British poet” in The Spectator.
The world they describe encompasses fast food, heroin and flop houses, a world becoming more familiar to most poets of Indian origin. One could cite Vikas Menon’s sense of place, which is very far from his native Kerala but translated. Ravi Shankar does what echoes a take on Wallace Stevens with his uses of mint, more Jamaican than the familiar pudina. Parvati is to be found now in Darlinghurst, which is where the Indian world has sprawled in Michelle Cahill’s poem.
This does not of course leave out trees in Dhenkanal, goats in Mumbai and Sitas in exile, but that known Indian world is on the whole smaller, because poets writing in English are now as free to choose their subject as their metre. These are the poems of a post-9/11, 26/11 world, a world which has lost its innocence and where the champak odours have faded into a sickly sweet nightmare.
Contemporary poetry in English, barring its Indian grace notes, is becoming part of a global voice and an edgy way of looking at a world where the age-old and new age jostle and a hard-eyed loss of innocence manifests itself. Not that lost innocence is to be regretted, since these are the poets of the fall, with access to a wider range of experiences than past generations did, though the intensity of the experience remains the same. Poets have always felt deeply, but about different things.
Quibbling aside, this new anthology is a good heft in the hand, well laid-out and does contain a definitive selection of modern poetry by Indians written in English—much published poets, it must be said, many published by Sen in his role as consulting editor for various distinguished publications worldwide. Between these covers are 80 contemporary poets, including Sen himself, many of whom have written new poems for this book. It is this wealth of new material which sets it apart from other anthologies—a staggering 400 poems collected from poets born after Independence, from the 1950s. Sen calls his anthology a “mapping of poetic terrain”, which it is, in many senses of the word. Here reggae, ekphrastic verse, canzone, bussokusekika, sestina, Bhartrhari-style shataka and pantoum jostle. However, having admired and read, one regrets the older missing voices and verses—Keki Daruwala, Mamang Dai’s tribal mythology, to pick out a few.
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT