„Indian poetry in English“

The first newspaper in India, Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, reserved a section of the pages of its first issue in 1780 for a Poet’s Corner, a demarcated space which would carry one or more poem in each issue for the short period of the paper’s existence, a practice followed by every nineteenth-century newspaper published subsequently. The poem published in the first issue was called The Seasons, and described, expectedly, the English seasons; it took a few months for a long poem with the title A Description of India to make an appearance here.

Since then to the present day, poetry written in India in the English language has, of course, changed hands and, indeed, changed nationality – what was once written by Englishmen in India, English poetry, is now Indian poetry (and has been since the nineteenth century), and is currently generally called Indian poetry in English to distinguish it from poetry written by Indians in the classical languages in the past and in the many powerful modern Indian regional languages since the mid-nineteenth century. (…)

(…) Yet Indian poetry in English arguably has a more distinguished lineage than its counterpart, the novel; intrinsically, it has accomplished and achieved as much, if not more, than the celebrated fiction by well-known names that occupies so much shelf space, media space, and literary chatter nowadays, and it has done its work quietly, passionately, and to extraordinarily high standards through all these years.

Excerpted at Scroll.in with the author’s permission from the Introduction, by Rosinka Chaudhuri, to A History of Indian Poetry in English, edited by Rosinka Chaudhuri, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

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