Mayank Austen Soofi on how Indian poetry in English is becoming part of the mainstream.
Fancy giving somebody Rs.2 lakh because you like their poetry? That’s exactly what happened this year at the Jaipur Literature Festival. Arundhathi Subramaniam received the inaugural Khushwant Singh Memorial Prize for Poetry for her collection, When God Is A Traveller.
Indian poetry in English, which began in the 1820s, has produced its own share of canonical poets. Even so, Indian writing in English has mainly meant prose. That seems to be changing. “You’d be surprised at the number of people reading poetry nowadays,” says Seth. “Once we announced the award, we were flooded with applications, which show that more and more of us are dabbling in verse.”
The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a publishing venture founded by a troika of Bengaluru poets in 2013, has recently announced an Emerging Poets Prize. The three winners will be awarded Rs.15,000 each; their manuscripts will be published with a minimum print run of 250 copies; and there will also be a book launch.
Two decades have passed. Indian English poetry is regaining its vigour. While Narayanan is waiting a little longer to celebrate, Shikha Malaviya, co-founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, is ready to bring out the champagne. “Indian poetry has never been more lively or diverse,” she says. “Even traditional publishers like HarperCollins are publishing more poets.” She notes that Slam poetry (competitive performances) has also drawn many younger people.
Much is discovered on the Internet these days, and poetry is no different, says Jaideep Warya, a landscape architect and poet who recently moved from New Delhi to London. “It is impossible to hear of a new poet through newspapers or TV. But when reading someone’s brief bio at the end of an opinion piece, you see it mentioned that the person also writes poetry, and then you google his poems. If you like these accidentally discovered poets, then you follow them online or order their books on the websites.”