Review: Indian English Poetry
I H Rizvi and N F Rizvi
Origin, Development and History of Indian English Poetry
Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2008. Pages 244, Price: Rs. 220/-.
A Comprehensive Study
If one wants to know about the post-Independence Indian English poetry, suggest Iftikhar Husain Rizvi and Nasreen Fatima Rizvi, one needs to read poetry of such poets as “P.Lal, Krishna Srinivas, Nissim Ezekiel, Kamala Das, Keshav Malik, Pritish Nandy, Shiv K. Kumar, Jayanta Mahapatra, O.P. Bhatnagar, Maha Nand Sharma, Baldev Mirza, I.H.Rizvi, R.K.Singh, K.N. Daruwalla, Dwarkanath H. Kabadi, and Syed Ameeruddin.” For a clearer picture, I would like to add the names of a few more poets to their list: I.K. Sharma, P. Raja, Gopal Honnalgere, Bibhu Padhi, Mani Rao, Anuradha Nalapet, Maria Netto, Mamang Dai, Angelee Deodhar, Kala Ramesh, K. Ramesh, PCK Prem, and R. Rabindranath Menon.
Not that Rizvi and Rizvi have not included these poets in their review of the Indian English poetic scene. In fact, in a brief span of about 240 pages, they have carefully, neatly, and imaginatively written about the origin and poetical scenario in the first half of the 19th century, the second half of the 19th century, before Independence, i.e. from 1901 to 1947, after independence, i.e. upto 1970 (male poets), and female poets (upto the present day).
The authors’ review of the poetry scene, though devoid of serious criticism or evaluation, offers a larger coverage to prove that Indian English poetry has a history of its own and distinct identity and maturity to spread its fragrance far and wide. They mention hundreds of new names in their survey of the rapid growth of Indian English poetry during 1971-1985: Jayanta Mahapatra, Syed Ameeruddin, S.C. Saha, Proaba Bandopadhyay, K.V.S. Murty, O.P. Bhatnagar, I.K.Sharma, Niranjan Mohanty, Dwarakanath H. Kabadi, Vikram Seth, I.H.Rizvi, R.K.Singh, D.C. Chambial, Dilip Chitre, Baldev Mirza, Arun Kolatkar, Laxmi Narayan Mahapatra, Hemant Kulkarni, A.C. Sahay, PCK Prem, EV Ramakrishnan, Hazara Singh, Saleem Peeradina, TV Reddy, HS Bhatia, and scores of others.
The review of the poetical scenario from 1986 to date mentions works of Narendarpal Singh, A. Padmanabhan, Mohammed Fakhruddin, C.R. Mahapatra, Darshan Singh Maini, M.A. Nare, V.S. Skanda Prasad, P.K.Joy, P. Raja, Gopal Honnalgere, Maha Nand Sharma, Tabish Khair, Krishan Gopal, Hoshang Merchant, Shailendra Natayan Tripathy, Charu Sheel Singh, Y.N. Vaish, C.K. Shreedharan, Moin Qazi, M.K. Gopinathan, S.Samal, P.K.Majumder, Vihang Naik, R.V. Smith, S.L. Peeran, Prabhat K. Singh, R.S. Tiwary, A.N. Dwivedi, Kanwar Dinesh Singh, C.L.Khatri, and hundreds others.
As obvious, the authors have tried to be comprehensive “in the sense that more than nine hundred Indian English poets with about 1480 collections find room in it.” (Preface). They have mentioned all the established poets alongside new and ignored poets. Rizvi and Rizvi are fair, balanced and thorough in their presentation. They are clear in their mind that the current Indian English poetry scene is “crowded” with poetasters, versifiers, struggling poets, true poets, and great poets and that there is “a great need of putting things in the proper order….One has to sift gold from sands, but most of them, as far as possible, should be made a mention of.” (p.5).
The genre has survived over 175 years almost “without a tradition and without uniform source of creative energy. Its accomplishment lies in surviving without dogmas, without adequate critical support…. Its accomplishment lies, above all, in trying to stand alone and by itself,” to quote A.K.Srivastava.
Rizvi and Rizvi pay their tribute to the strengths of Indian poetry is English which is now internationally visible for encompassing “Indian situations, irony, mockery, satire against customs, rituals, politics, riches, contemporary problems, love and sex, and human relationship” (p.5).
In fact, their book complements a couple of earlier publications by this reviewer, namely, Indian English Writing: 1981-1985: Experiments with Expression (1987), Recent Indian English Poets: Expressions and Beliefs (1992), Anger in Action: Explorations of Anger in Indian Writing in English (1997), and the more recent, Voices of the Present: Critical Essays on Some Indian English Poets (2006).
There is substance in the authors’ claim that Origin, Development, and History of Indian English Poetry “is a ‘must’ for all the universities, degree and postgraduate colleges as also for professors and teachers of English in universities, research scholars, poets, and lovers of poetry.” It makes a refreshing reading and indeed offers a fuller picture of Indian English poetic creativity “after the end of colonialism”, and especially after 1970.
Published in: MUSE INDIA, November-December 2008; http://www.museindia.com/showcurrent8.asp?id=949#top