In this book an attempt has been made to present a systematic and synoptic study of the major voices of Indian English Poetry from ever shifting paradigms of Indian Culture. The poets have been viewed in relation to currents and cross-currents of thought of their times. They have not been treated merely as the products of the intellectual milieu but as the dynamic moulders of the traditions in transition which get reflected in their poetical expressions. Polemic issues such as legitimacy of writing in English, identity crisis, quest for roots, self-definition, the problems of exile and diaspora, hybridization, alienation and assimilation et al have been perceived in the long journey of its growth from nostalgia to contemporaneity.
Mita Biswas has been teaching in Himachal Pradesh University, Shirn1a for the last three decades. She has authored 'books on William Carlos Williams, Robert Browning, W.B. Yeats and Indian Poetry in English. She has guided 25 Ph.Ds and has published more than 30 scholarly articles in national and international journals of repute.
Representations of a Culture in Indian English Poetry is the first critical contribution on the entire corpus of Indian English Poetry from Derozio and Toru Dutt to Sudeep Sen and Agha Shahid AIi. For purposes of a clear cut presentation the author Mita Biswas has schematized the entire sweep of poetry of the last one hundred and eighty years in to Pioneers: Toru Dutt, the Dutt family, Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo et al; MODERNS such as Nissim Ezekiel, Ramanujan Kamala Das, P. Lal, Arun Kolatkar etc. and new voices like Vikram Seth, Hoshang Merchant, Ranjit Hoskote, Sudeep Sen, Vibhu Padhi, Sujata Bhatt etal.
In the past, there have been fragmented studies of select poets by critics, some eminent, some PR credential and some riff-raff. The criticism therein has been too pedestrian, monotonous and unadventurous with flashes-genuine and counterfeit. The present study is honest and ambitious, painstaking and perceptive and from the perspective of culture which in India is such a mix of local, indigenous, mainstream and now globalized. Mita Biswas shows its expression meticulously in poetry from the beginning to the present. In addition to carrying out her project on 'Representations of a Culture' she gives vividly graphic, lucid profiles and brilliant analyses of the poets who stand out in the comparative vein. All in all I congratulate the author for taking initiative in this direction and presenting an in-depth comprehensive study on Representations of a Culture in India English Poetry. It is, indeed, a monumental and path- breaking work worth emulation by future readers and critics.
Literature in India is as old as its sculpture or painting or music but it did not receive, perhaps, as much historical and critical attention as other arts have. Ancient treatises on music are extant; schools of painting have been identified; eras of sculpture have been demarcated, but a complete, critical, updated history of Indian English literature and to be more precise, Indian English Poetry continues to be denied entry into sustained scholarly pursuit. In fact, the very term 'Indian English Poetry' was sparingly used in literary circles till recently. It, rather, remained a vague and abstruse term and unfortunately no comprehensive, critical, forward-looking work surveying the ever- changing concept of culture from its very inception to the present times was formulated. There have been partial, fragmented and mostly edited works like Three Indo-Anglian Poets, Ten Twentieth Century Poets, Nine Indian Women Poets, Contemporary Indian English Verse, et al but a complete critical work covering all the poets in its history of one hundred and seventy five years has been unavailable.
Therefore, the present volume was motivated with an unbiased selection of poets. The only criterion has been to locate the changing images of Indian culture in their works. Due attention is paid to the various socio-cultural factors which have played a vital role in shaping the sensibilities of the concerned writers.
This work aims to serve students and the research scholars alike in understanding the poets before critical evaluations are formed.
Though in the true Indian tradition, emphasis on the role of the poet as a seer and as a bridge between the mundane and the spiritual, between the temporal and the eternal and the human and the divine surfaces in many works, yet contemporary Indian poetry seems to militate against the monolithic idea of a past and asserts the plurality of the perceptions of the Indian and the projected cultural Indianness. It is vital to elucidate and understand the concept of culture.
From time immemorial Indians have called their culture by the name of human culture (manava dharma or manava Sanskriti). It has tried to be so comprehensive as to suit the needs of every human being, irrespective of age, sex, colour or race. As such it has a universal appeal. In spite of many political upheavals it has flourished and endured. History has not been able to trace its beginning, hence it is taken as beginning less (anadi). It has always existed in time and it shows no signs of decay or death; hence it is spoken of as eternal, Sanatana. It is called Vedic because the earliest literature in which it found expression is the Veda, the oldest books known to the world. What is the secret of its longevity and imperishability? In his Why Religions Die, a short work but of great worth, Professor J.B. Pratt of America makes a few observations about the Indian Culture and Religion, which according to him "is the only culture which still tends to survive the present crisis because it is strong, deeply rooted, flexible and capable of absorbing new currents. It leads to life-like vitality which is self-perpetuating, self-renewing and eternal. That which in it, was vital and true, cast off the old shell and clothed itself in more suitable expression, with no break in the continuity of life and no loss in the sanctity and weight of its authority." Generalizing on the secret of longevity of this Vedic religion and its culture, Professor Pratt further adds, If a religion and its culture is to live, it must adapt itself to new and changing conditions; if it is to adapt itself to new and changing conditions; it is to feed the spiritual life of its people, it must have the sensitivity and inventiveness that shall enable it to modify as the needs demand. Not only Hindu religion, but the whole culture of the Hindus has been growing, changing and developing in accordance with the needs of time and circumstances without losing its essential and imperishable spirit. The culture of the Vedic age, of the ages of the Upanishads, the philosophical systems, the Mahabharata, the Smritis, the Puranas, the commentators, the medieval saints and of the age of modern reformers is the same in spirit yet very different in form. Another secret of the vitality of Indian culture is its catholicity. Here mutually contradictory creeds can and do keep house together without quarrel within the wide and hospitable Hindu family. Hindu thought and culture ... because of its ingrained conclusiveness, its tolerance and its indifference to doctrinal divergences, stressed the essential unity of all Indian Dharamas, whether Hindu or Buddhist or Parsi and minimized differences. This tolerance of differences of opinion and creed within its own fold and even outside itself is an essential characteristic of Indian Culture." It is true that 'culture' defies a unanimous definition, but it has basic tenets of strong family base, guru-shishya parampara, secular outlook, spirituality, acceptance of diversity of faith and belief in the fundamental unity of whole universe. A glorious feature of Indian culture has been sublimation of higher values. It was seldom that old things lost their hold on the minds of the folk; for forms linger long after the meaning is forgotten. Indian sentiment has been in favour of transmuting the older decaying form into one more useful, than of casting it away as dead and useless. It believed in conformity, compromise and conciliation of tradition. It is on the same principle that many Indian poets, decade after decade flourished and those who did not care for it were rebels as they traversed on the long journey of creativity.
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