The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets
Jeet Thayil's definitive selection covers 55 years of Indian poetry in English. It is the first anthology to represent not just the major poets of the past half-century - the canonical writers who have dominated Indian poetry and publishing since the 1950s - but also the different kinds of poetry written by an extraordinary range of younger poets who live in many countries as well as in India. It is a groundbreaking global anthology of 70 poets writing in a common language responding to shared traditions, different cultures and contrasting lives in the changing modern world.Thayil's starting-point is Nissim Ezekiel, the first important modern Indian poet after Tagore, who published his first collection in London in 1952. Aiming for "verticality" rather than chronology, Thayil's anthology charts a poetry of astonishing volume and quality. It pays homage to major influences, including Ezekiel, Dom Moraes and Arun Kolatkar, who died within months of each other in 2004. It rediscovers forgotten figures such as Lawrence Bantleman and Gopal Honnalgere, and it serves as an introduction to the poets of the future.The book also shows that many Indian poets were mining the rich vein of 'chutnified' (Salman Rushdie's word) Indian English long before novelists like Rushdie and Upamanyu Chatterjee started using it in their fiction.
This is a crucial addition to world poetry and an eye-opening reading adventure. -- The Bloomsbury "Review"
RECENT RADIO FEATURE ON INDIAN POETRY IN ENGLISH
The Poet’s Indian, The Words are English, Radio 4, Sunday 7 November 2010, 4.30pm, repeated Saturday 13 November, 11.30pm
Poet Daljit Nagra presented Radio 4 feature on the place of English in Indian poetry.
This half-hour programme covered the history of Indian poetry written in English, and included a section on the work of Rabindranath Tagore, whose selected poems has just been published by Bloodaxe in a revised and expanded translation by Ketaki Kushari Dyson in advance of the 150th anniversary of his birth next year. The piece referred to Tagore’s own English versions of Gitanjali, which brought him fame in the UK and America and led to him being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, even though, according to Daljit Nagra, these versions did not quite manage to capture the nuances of his poetry in Bengali. A clip of an archive recording of Tagore reading his poem ‘The Trumpet’ in English in the 1930s. The listen again page for this programme on the BBC website is illustrated with a photo of Tagore.
Editor of The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, Jeet Thayil, was interviewed while he was in London. He spoke about the connections found between Indian poets living all over the world. Later he talked about the ghazal form, and read an extract from his poem ‘Malayalam’s Ghazal’. The anthology was credited in the programme.
Imtiaz Dharker was also interviewed. She spoke first about the influence of Nissim Ezikiel on several generations of poets in India, and later in the programme she read an extract from her own poem ‘Dabba’s dialogue or Tiffin-box talks’ from her latest collection. The feature concluded with Imtiaz speaking about how Indian poets have now moved on from the debate about whether it is acceptable to write in English: “We’ve taken over English as just one more Indian language I think – we own it now.”
Jeet Thayil was born in Kerala in 1959 and educated in Jesuit schools in Hongkong, New York and Bombay. He is a graduate of Wilson College, Bombay, and he received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, New York. He has published four collections of poetry, including English (Penguin/Rattapallax, 2004) and These Errors Are Correct (Westland Books, 2008), and edited Divided Time: India and the End of Diaspora (Routledge, 2006). He has received awards from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2004, he moved from New York to New Delhi and currently lives in Bangalore.