29 July, 2021

Uneven Brilliance

This narrative is like a vast desert with few oases

Uneven Brilliance
INDIAN poetry in English has not yet ceased to be haunted by the anxiety of authenticity. Until a few decades ago it used to be identified with the Britishliterary tradition, at least in terms of idiom and sensibility. A poet like Sarojini Naidu, who considered her poetry an aesthetic extension of her nationalist ideology and strove to lend it an Indian flavour by choosing themes related to our social life, was, ironically, found to have been so Anglo-Saxon in her sensibility, language and prosody that enthusiasts like Edmund Gosse had to implore her to have some consideration for 'native passion' and to cultivate an idiom that would reveal 'the heart of India'. Orientalist as this counsel might sound, it also compelled the Indian writers and readers to take a second look at her and recognise that she was only reproducing colonial poetic discourse like some of her contemporaries.

A.K. Ramanujan, with his profound awareness of the great poetic traditions of Tamil and Kannada, was perhaps the first poet of the growing tribe to reconsider the question of Indianness in...

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