Special edition: Indian Poetry in English
By Sunil Sharma
The special edition is here. On Indian Poetry in English (IPE). Some might prefer Poetry in Indian English (PIE) as a nomenclature. By IPE we mean the poetry written by the Indians in their chosen language of English. The first emphasizes the geography; the latter, maybe, the language, a Raj legacy, now fully incorporated in the power, educational and administrative circles and corporate India, being mobilized by users of caliber for communicating their visions and points-of-views in a language officially listed as the lingua franca of an ancient civilization with huge diversity, pluralism and tolerance.
Over the decades, English has emerged as the most popular choice for communication for the empowered middle class urban India. Whether as a first language or second, metropolitan India loves to switch over to this former state instrument of dominance and cultural hegemony, now domesticated in its Indian avatar, a mix of the American and British and local languages, in everyday use. Of late, successful and critically acclaimed writers in the country of more than one billion have expressed their weltanschauung in English and modified it greatly to keep sounds, colours and scents of the locales being recalled by the narrators. Rushdies and Roys have further democratized and Indianised a highly flexible language that worldwide grows phenomenally by absorbing and accommodating flavours and words, native to its users.
There is another category of writers that have found liberation in English and social media—solo; suburban; small town; professional—largely ignored by the mainstream media and the elites of the culture industry. They start solo, post their writings on the FB, gradually get noticed and enjoy high-name recognition through consistency and perseverance of their literary efforts and overall production.
Social-media presence further consolidates such voices, non-canonized and unheard in both academia and media but getting serious attention by the community of readers and fellow writers.
The arrival and impact of e-zines is another important determiner in the intense consolidation of these voices, voices that are hardly called in Lit Fests or invited to contribute to certain anthologies edited by the so-called high-profile writers as editors promoting a certain school of writing that has got powerful connections and Western affiliations.
Small e-zines are challenging this kind of cultural control and hegemony. Or some at least.
Can only 60 or 80 writers of Indian English represent such a gigantic country?
Are there not writers beyond these sacred numbers chosen by the high priests of poetry or prose?
Are the others left out by the magistrates of culture not writers? The ones getting published regularly in so many places?
Is it not arbitrary?
Then what constitutes writing?
Is it about Western audience only, pandering a particular view of the country?
What about the people, the subjects, not mentioned in the self-reflexive, self-referent, language-obsessed writings that look more like linguistic games and are exercises in dry intellectuality, word-play and high-decibel syntax?
Poetry—like prose—is more than that. It is about time, place and people. Mood. Interiority. Emotional states. Imagery. Thought process. Nature. Masterful articulation of all these sets as the required inputs into the production of a world view.
Bhasha Sahitya is an ample proof of this. Rich. Variegated. Rooted in the soil. Idiom of the public. Not some fractured interiority or language dexterity.
In this overall political context, Setu gave an open call for Voices within the largest democracy called India.
Voices that are important, innovative, radical and seen and heard in public places and social and digital communities and e-zines and print.
We wanted to showcase these voices that will gravitate to the centre of gravity in coming years by inaugurating a wave of New Writing through sheer talent and industry.
Happy to say that within a short duration, we got an overwhelming response.
Prompted by the sheer numbers, we decided to convert the general edition into a special one; an edition that celebrates these fresh voices in a most welcoming home—Setu.
Guest editor and senior poet Gopal Lahiri was kind enough to accept the responsibility of curating this edition.
He did a fine job.
We thank him for that.
And the select poets for extending support to a journal that believes in quality and innovation, and, thus, serves the cause of serious writing in these divided times.
There are 48 happening poets, already making their presence felt.
Different styles. Sensibilities. With flair for language and a strong imagination. Strong imagery. Powerful expressions. New ways of looking at old truths.
Individual, yet transcendental—the signatures spotlighted.
They render their existential experiences, angst and joy in well-crafted pieces of poetry.
A whole new world waits to unravel.
Go and discover these poetic realms, please.
Editor, Setu, English