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Books > Language and Literature > Poetry > The Tree of Tongues (An Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry)
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The Tree of Tongues (An Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry)
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About The Book

A redefinition of the paradigms of modernism has been underway in Indian literature during the three decades in which the poems anthologized here were written. Modernism in the poetry of the Indian language included here began as an aesthetic project that emphasized an insular, hermetic realm of art. However, the poets of the 70s and 80s recovered the primacy of the everyday world of lived reality. Problems of caste, gender, language, ethnicity, communalism, consumerism and environment came to be debated with urgency and concern in poetry. This anthology hopes to highlight the radical phase of modernist Indian poetry. The turning away from the constricted, narcissistic idiom of aesthetic modernism towards more open and socially responsive and responsible forms is illustrated by the writings of the Dalit poets and women poets included here. This volume will also show that the radicalization of poetry has not been achieved at the cost of the poet’s ability to preserve a certain inwardness and meditativeness in his idiom. The three generations of poets assembled here—the elder ones were young reels in the sixties and the younger ones are fighting their battles in the channel-surfing nineties—share a common belief in the potential of poetry to renovate the apparatus of our thinking and revise our ways of seeing the world.

 

About The Editor

E.V. Ramakrishnan has published criticism and poetry. Among his recent books are: A Python in a Snake Park (Delhi 1994), Making It New: Modernism in Malayalam, Marathi and Hindi Poetry (Shimla, 1995) and Vakkile Samooham (Kottayam, 19970). He was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for criticism for his book Aksharavum Adhunikatayum in 1995. He teaches English at South Gujarat University, Surat.

 

Introduction

Every anthology tells a story of its own-a story of omissions and exclusions, likes and dislikes, receptions and rejections. The present one is going to be no exception. A collection of 136 poems by 52 poets cannot exhaustively project the diversity of voices and themes available in the poetry of four major Indian languages namely Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi in a period spanning a quarter of a century. Since this is meant to be a companion volume to my comparative study of modernism presented in Making It New: Modernism in the Poetry of Malayalam} Marathi and Hindi (MS, 1995), my choice of poems has been further dictated by the trajectory of modernism outlined there. However, poetry is not written to illustrate critical arguments. I hope this volume speaks to the general reader as well. Poetry can make things happen.

In his controversial introduction to a recent anthology of Indian writing, while castigating the prose of Indian languages in the last fifty years for its inferior quality, Salman Rushdie had to grudgingly admit that 'the rich poetic traditions of India continued to flourish in many of the sub-continent's languages' during the last 50 years though he had no space for them (Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West 1997: xi). Several anthologies of translations from Indian poetry are needed if its range and reach are to be clearly understood. Poetry, unlike fiction, has greater 'genre-memory' and is deeply implicated in its past. This makes poetry translation difficult if not impossible. However, modernist poetry written in Indian languages has greater translatability since it seldom uses traditional metres or syntax. This is not to forget exceptions such as Kolatkar in Marathi, Ravji Patel in Gujarati or Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan in Malayalam. Their richly intertextual poems refer back to earlier poetic traditions creating resonances that are lost in translation. But it can be safely said that modernist Indian poetry has produced a considerable body of eminently translatable poems.

A redefinition of the paradigms of modernism has been underway in Indian literatures during the three decades in which the poems anthologised here were written. There has always been a radical centrifugal impulse 'in Indian literary culture which looks towards the resources of the regional and the folk experience and forms. In the post -1960 period, this subaltern realm of subversive voices has acquired a new legitimacy. There has been a shift towards the peripheral and marginal voices in the sphere of Indian poetry. The first generation modernists had failed to comprehend the relationship between poetry and the public sphere in Indian society. The lofty aloofness cultivated by the dense, resonant, imagistic writings of several of these poets subscribed to the same ideology of the aesthetic sublime one encountered in the sloppy sentimentality of the romantic lyric earlier. I have described such poets as 'High Modernists' in my book mentioned above. What high modernists gained by way of perfection in form they lost in their ability to reach out to a larger public. Increasing technical formalism, as Edward Said observes in the context of literary studies, leads to the loss of "a historical sense of what real experiences actually go into the making of a work of literature" (Said 1994: 57). When the aesthetic project of modernism had to confront the ethical problems resulting from the creation of an insular, hermetic realm of art shut off from the everyday world of a turbulent society, it necessarily had to revise its agenda. It is this turning away from the constricted, narcissistic idiom of aesthetic modernism towards more open and socially responsive and responsible forms that is mapped in this anthology. This has resulted in the re-discovery of discourses and voices previously suppressed or marginalised.

The metaphor of the tongue in the title of this anthology is a reminder of the proliferating discourses that erupt into the public sphere from the realm of the suppressed subaltern life. "The Tree of Tongues" written by Satchidanandan during the Emergency invokes the memory of Thiruvarangan, the folk -bard who roams the countryside singing to awaken households. When poets withdraw into 'bunkers of individualism' (D .R. Nagaraj 1992: 108) poetry comes to be privatised and the larger public function of poetry becomes suspect. The ideological location of celebratory individualism becomes visible and available for criticism only when the interrogatory idiom of a radical voice puts it in relief. This is an attempt to dialogise poetry. A poet like Dhoomil in Hindi could do it effectively in a tone that alternates between concern and confrontation:

 

Twenty years later

 

I ask myself-

 

how much endurance does it take

 

to turn into an animal?

 

And move on in silence

 

without an answer,

 

for these days the weather's moods are such

 

that it's almost dishonest

 

to go chasing the little leaves

 

blowing about in the blood.

[20 years after Independence]

Dhoomil's self-questionings are directed against the manufactured consents that inhibit our voices and the colonial legacy that we retain in our attitudes and institutions. The cultural space opened up by this self-critical enquiry has made it possible for the Dalit poets of the 1970s and the woman poets of the 1980s to represent their worlds more convincingly. This radicalization of poetic idiom is evident in several poems of this anthology. This is not to say that the poetic tone here is militant or strident. Public poetry can become tedious and tiring when it cannot preserve a certain inwardness as a characteristic mode of resistance. The three generations of poets assembled here- the elder ones were young rebels in the sixties and the younger ones are fighting their battles in the channel-surfing nineties-seem to constantly search for the tight-rope walking tone of tense, taut lines that can balance the private and the public without the safety net of ideology below them.

When poets incorporate their self-awareness about their very medium into the language of their poetry, they problematise their speech. The central motif that runs through this volume is that of loss of language and the need to recover or invent a language. Satchidanandan's ''Languages'', Kolatkar's "Old Newspapers", Sitanshu Yashaschandra's ''Language'' and Raghuvir Sahay's "Hindi" restate in personal and political terms the acute agony of Mardhekar's famous line, "Grant me, 0 Lord, just this one boon: May my tongue be never paralysed". The Dalit writer and the woman writer have understood that mainstream literary language excludes them. They have to purge the existing language of its associations and sub-texts before it can be deployed in their defence. The politics of speech has never been so central to the reading of poetry in Indian languages. What is 'regional' about language becomes a sedimentary layer of cultural memory to be invoked and rediscovered in the struggle against spurious versions of identity fostered from above. The search for a new language and the theme of resistance become inseparable in poets as diverse in themes and styles as Dilip Chitre, K.G. Sankara Pillai, Vasant A. Dahake, Sitanshu Yashaschandra and Kedarnath Singh. It is no accident that several of the poets collected here retain their access to their dialects and through them to the hidden resources of social imagination.

In a perceptive moment Dhoomil described his village as a Bhojpuri version of 'narak' (hell). He did not, of course, mean Dante's text but the great Indian dream that had gone sour. The Dalit poets in Marathi and Gujarati refuse to translate their particular hells back into the middle- class dialect of poetry. Their historical sense has an undercurrent of anguish and irony. Pralhad Chendvankar calls for a social audit of history in ‘Audit’.

 

Mahatma Phule and Ambedkar

 

Have audited your accounts

 

Have detected the frauds

 

On each page of each book,

 

Have submitted audit reports

 

Of how many journal entries to be made

 

You weep your self-same griefs

 

Pretending innocence, wearing your sacred threads.

(Audit)

The italicised words happen to be in English in the original Marathi poem. This destroys the illusion of poems as well-crafted artifacts. In several poems concerning history such as K.G. Sankara Pillai's "The Trees of Cochin", Dilip Chitre's "Emergency", Ghulammohammed Sheikh's "Delhi", Shrikant Verma's Magadh sequence; Pravin Gadvi's "When Nadir Shah Arrived", Attoor Ravivarma's "Re-Call" and D. Vinayachandran's "History", poetry becomes urgent, immediate speech like despatches from zones of civil war where intermittent fighting goes on. Attoor Ravivarma's poem is in fact about civil war and ends with the agonising lines:

 

I am neither the trigger

 

nor the bullet, I am

 

neither the monkey

 

nor Valmiki.

 

I am only

 

a completely bald

 

half-dhoti -clad

 

bullet ridden

 

question mark

 

with no front teeth

Mark that tone that captures the cramps in the conscience. It neither panics nor pleads in the face of a moral crisis that has no easy resolution.

The women poets also demonstrate the same ability to turn inward while probing the public world. The troubled conscience becomes their only manifesto. Vijayalakshmi in her (Malayalam) poem "The Animal Trainer" speaks of the caged animal retreating into the silence of the cage out of habit. She is perfectly at home in the metrical idiom of traditional poetry even when she communicates an anger that cannot be easily contained by traditional metrics. Women poets such as Malika Amar Sheikh, Savithri Rajeevan and Teji Grover seem to be looking for more open-ended forms. There is a hint of the free play of surrealist imagination in their irreverent images. They would not like their speech being slotted into pre-fabricated idioms. Savithri Rajeevan in her "Slant" warns us of the dangers inherent in our globalised notions of self- hood. These are poems that remind us that the moral crisis gripping the nation can only be understood by addressing the subject that speaks through us in our daily discourses. Decolonisation, like charity, has to begin at home. History figures as a major theme here since memory, both social and personal, is the site where the struggle against colonised notions of the body and social structures has to be fought.

I have steered clear of the term 'postmodernism' in describing the new poetic trends of the eighties and nineties. It is true that the radical sensibility represented in this volume comes very close to post-modernist sensibility because these trends share 'a set of characteristics that place them in an adversarial relation to high modernism' (Krishna Rayan 1996: 41). But there are significant distinctions to be made. A Euro- centric post-modernist package would effectively neutralise the emancipatory thrust of the poems produced in Indian languages. There is nothing to be gained by blurring the difference between passive acceptance (of Western technology) and active resistance (implicit in domestic production). An Indian postmodernism which distances itself from Western modernism and Western postmodernism on the one hand and Indian high modernism on the other will naturally have a place for the liberating potential of the radical sensibility represented here.

The persuasive power of poetry comes from its ability to infiltrate the collective voice of the community. The poets gathered here do not labour after the false elegance of transcendental visions. They also question the relevance of such supreme fictions and apocalyptic visions.

No attempt has been made here to make these translations particularly presentable. They grapple with the otherness of the source language in their separate ways. They make us aware that it is in the everyday world of living- that problems of caste, gender and power are encountered. In a poem titled 'Call Me Caliban', Dilip Chitre presented Caliban more as a precursor than a victim. Those who have to invent a language can turn the disadvantage into an opportunity. The radical sensibility in Indian poetry has the advantage of having no ready-made language to write in. Each blank page affords a challenge and a chance to redeem oneself through speech. When the wounded tongue tree sprouts branches, buried truths gleam on each leaf.

 

Contents

 

     
  Foreword V
  Acknowledgements XV
  Introduction XIX
 
MALAYALAM
 
  N.N. Kakkad  
1 BEHOLD THESE SHEEP ON THE ROAD 3
2 DEATH OF A ROGUE ELEPHANT 4
3 THE ]ESTER 5
  K.Ayyappa Paniker  
4 I MET WALT WHITMAN YESTERDAY: AN INTERVIEW 7
5 THE PRISON 10
6 INSIGHT 11
  Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan  
7 BOILED EGGS 13
8 DRINK NOT YOUR MOTHER'S MILK, 0 CHILD! 15
9 THE PUMPKIN 18
  Attoor Ravivarma  
10 METAMORPHOSIS 22
11 CANCER 24
12 RE-CALL 26
  K.Satchidanandan  
13 THE SURVIVORS 28
14 LANGUAGES 29
15 HOW TO GO TO THE TAO TEMPLE 31
16 NOAH LOOKS BACK 33
  K.G. Sankara Pillai  
17 PHOTOS IN VARIOUS POSES 35
18 THE TREES OF COCHIN 38
19 BETWEEN THE NECTAR AND THE POISON 42
  Balachandran Chullikkad  
20 FREEDOM 46
21 A LABOUREKS LAUGHTER 48
  A.Ayyappan  
22 THE FLEETING SUN 52
23 BAPTISM 54
  D. Vinayachandran  
24 MEDITATION 55
25 SHIP 56
26 HISTORY 57
  Vijayalakshmi  
27 MARTHA 58
28 BHAGAVATHA 59
29 THE ANIMAL TRAINER 60
  Savithri Rajeevan  
30 THE SLANT 62
31 THEBODY 63
32 KRISHNA 65
  Anwar Ali  
33 THIRD WORLD TIIOUGHTS 67
34 WHE ORGANS ARE SEVERED 69
 
MARATHI
 
  Dilip Chitre  
1 DEATH OF GRANDMOTIIER 75
2 SHAKESPEARE, 1964 76
3 EMERGENCY 77
4 THE MOON AND THE MULE 78
5 UNTITLED 79
6 TIIE BEING ALIVE OF BROKEN TIIREADS 80
7 RESTLESS SOULS OF TREES 81
  Arun Kolatkar  
8 OLD NEWSPAPERS 82
9 TIIEFUSE 83
10 CELIBACY 84
  Narayan Surve  
11 VIGIL 85
12 IN THIS SEASON 86
  N.D. Mahanor  
13 POEMS-ONE TO FIVE 87
  Bhalchandra Nemade  
14 GRANNY 89
15 FAREWELL 92
  Namdeo Dhasal  
16 A NOTE BOOK OF POEMS 94
17 AUTOBIOGRAPHY 95
  Manohar Oak  
18 ... FROM WITHIN THE PAPER-WEIGHT OF ONLINESS 96
  Malika Amar Sheikh  
19 METROPOLI5-24 97
  METROPOLIS-41 98
  Vasant Abaji Dahake  
20 NAlLS 99
21 MACHINE 100
22 THE SLEEPLESS ONE 101
  Chandrakant Patil  
23 WOMEN 102
  Anuradha Patil  
24 POEMS-ONE, TWO 105
  Anuradha Poddar  
25 ONLY THEN THE CURSED DRAUPADI IN ME 106
  Keshav Meshram  
26 THE INDEBTED 107
27 THE PLEASURE-BAZAAR 108
  Bhujang Meshram  
28 ABOUT SCHOOL 109
29 GRANDFATHER 110
30 ABOUT THEIR SPEECH 112
  Pralhad Chendvankar  
31 AUDIT  
 
GUJARATI
 
  Labhshankar Thaker  
1 THE CLOCK HAS STOPPED 117
2 SUNLIGHT 119
  Sitanshu Yashaschandra  
3 THE SEA 120
4 ORPHEUS 121
5 THE WOMAN 122
6 LANGUAGE 124
  Ravji Patel  
7 THE SAFFRON SUNS 129
8 WHILE LEAVING FOR THE HOSPITAL 130
9 POETRY 131
10 ONE AFTERNOON 132
  Gulammohammed Sheikh  
11 DELHI 133
12 FATHER IN DREAM 134
13 UNTIILED-l 135
14 UNTIILED-2 136
  Chinu Mody  
15 BAHUK SECTION 3 137
  Dileep Jhaveri  
16 INCARNATION 140
17 OH,NAME 141
18 STRAIGHT AND SIMPLE TALES 142
  Kanji Patel  
19 SPEAKERS OF THE COMMON SPEECH 144
20 GOD AND THE WORLD 146
21 APHASIA 148
  Kamal Vora  
22 CROW-2 149
23 MUTATION 151
  Udayan Thakker  
24 THE COBBLER 153
25 VOICE VS. VOICE 154
  Mangal Rathod  
26 IT IS SILENT, MY FRIENDS 155
27 HERE 156
  Yoseph Macwan  
28 A MAN OF NO CONSEQUENCE 157
29 AFTERNOON TEA 158
  Jayant Parmar  
30 THE PANTI-IER AND THE POSTER 159
31 TEMPLE 160
32 MY POETRY IS A SHARP STABBING KNIFE 161
  Praveen Gadvi  
33 WHEN NADIR SHAH ARRIVED 162
  Yashvant Vaghela  
34 IDENTITY 164
 
HINDI
 
  Raghuvir Sahay  
1 HINDI 167
2 PRIVACY 169
3 CYCLE-RICKSHAW 170
  Kedarnath Singh  
4 THE BRIDGE OF MAJHI 171
5 THE TIGER 174
6 REMEMBERING THE YEAR 1947 175
7 THE PLAIN PAPER 176
8 SHEPHERD'S FACE 177
9 A FEW DO'S AND DON'TS FROM A PEASANT TO HIS SON 179
10 CRANES IN THE DROUGHT 181
  Kunwar Narayan  
11 DESCRIPTION OF THE MISSING ONE 183
12 HOROSCOPE 184
13 THE KEY TO SUCCESS 185
14 REMAINING HUMAN 186
  Shrikant Verma  
15 MAGADH 187
16 THE LICHHAVIS 188
17 A BLESSED END 189
18 VASANTSENA 190
19 KOSALA LACKS IN IDEAS 192
  Dhoomil  
20 TWENTY YEARS AFTER INDEPENDENCE 194
21 THE CITY, EVENING AND AN OLD MAN: ME 196
  Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena  
22 SHOES I-IV 198
23 A HANDCART FULL OF WORDS 200
24 I WON'T ALLOW THE SUN TO SET ANYMORE 202
  Vinodkumar Shukla  
25 WHILE WE WERE DISCUSSING ... 204
26 ONE SHOULD SEE ONE'S OWN HOME ... 205
  Girdhar Rathi  
27 DIARY 206
28 MASTER! 207
  Mangalesh Dabral  
29 GOOD FOR A LIFETIME 208
30 POEM OF PAPER 209
  Gagan Gill  
31 YOU WILL SAY, NIGHT 210
32 GOING AWAY 212
33 TAKING LEAVE 213
  Teji Grover  
34 AS MANY BIRDS AS IN THAT BIRDSTREAM 215
35 SILENCE 217
36 THINKING OF SAKHIS 218
37 DON'T TELL ME A POEM WAS HERE 220
  Notes on Poets 223
  Notes on Translators 230
  Suggestions for Further Reading 234

 

Sample Page


The Tree of Tongues (An Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry)

Item Code:
NAH568
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
1999
ISBN:
8185952701
Language:
English
Size:
8.8 inch x 5.8 inch
Pages:
260
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 480 gms
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$25.00   Shipping Free
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About The Book

A redefinition of the paradigms of modernism has been underway in Indian literature during the three decades in which the poems anthologized here were written. Modernism in the poetry of the Indian language included here began as an aesthetic project that emphasized an insular, hermetic realm of art. However, the poets of the 70s and 80s recovered the primacy of the everyday world of lived reality. Problems of caste, gender, language, ethnicity, communalism, consumerism and environment came to be debated with urgency and concern in poetry. This anthology hopes to highlight the radical phase of modernist Indian poetry. The turning away from the constricted, narcissistic idiom of aesthetic modernism towards more open and socially responsive and responsible forms is illustrated by the writings of the Dalit poets and women poets included here. This volume will also show that the radicalization of poetry has not been achieved at the cost of the poet’s ability to preserve a certain inwardness and meditativeness in his idiom. The three generations of poets assembled here—the elder ones were young reels in the sixties and the younger ones are fighting their battles in the channel-surfing nineties—share a common belief in the potential of poetry to renovate the apparatus of our thinking and revise our ways of seeing the world.

 

About The Editor

E.V. Ramakrishnan has published criticism and poetry. Among his recent books are: A Python in a Snake Park (Delhi 1994), Making It New: Modernism in Malayalam, Marathi and Hindi Poetry (Shimla, 1995) and Vakkile Samooham (Kottayam, 19970). He was awarded the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for criticism for his book Aksharavum Adhunikatayum in 1995. He teaches English at South Gujarat University, Surat.

 

Introduction

Every anthology tells a story of its own-a story of omissions and exclusions, likes and dislikes, receptions and rejections. The present one is going to be no exception. A collection of 136 poems by 52 poets cannot exhaustively project the diversity of voices and themes available in the poetry of four major Indian languages namely Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati and Hindi in a period spanning a quarter of a century. Since this is meant to be a companion volume to my comparative study of modernism presented in Making It New: Modernism in the Poetry of Malayalam} Marathi and Hindi (MS, 1995), my choice of poems has been further dictated by the trajectory of modernism outlined there. However, poetry is not written to illustrate critical arguments. I hope this volume speaks to the general reader as well. Poetry can make things happen.

In his controversial introduction to a recent anthology of Indian writing, while castigating the prose of Indian languages in the last fifty years for its inferior quality, Salman Rushdie had to grudgingly admit that 'the rich poetic traditions of India continued to flourish in many of the sub-continent's languages' during the last 50 years though he had no space for them (Salman Rushdie and Elizabeth West 1997: xi). Several anthologies of translations from Indian poetry are needed if its range and reach are to be clearly understood. Poetry, unlike fiction, has greater 'genre-memory' and is deeply implicated in its past. This makes poetry translation difficult if not impossible. However, modernist poetry written in Indian languages has greater translatability since it seldom uses traditional metres or syntax. This is not to forget exceptions such as Kolatkar in Marathi, Ravji Patel in Gujarati or Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan in Malayalam. Their richly intertextual poems refer back to earlier poetic traditions creating resonances that are lost in translation. But it can be safely said that modernist Indian poetry has produced a considerable body of eminently translatable poems.

A redefinition of the paradigms of modernism has been underway in Indian literatures during the three decades in which the poems anthologised here were written. There has always been a radical centrifugal impulse 'in Indian literary culture which looks towards the resources of the regional and the folk experience and forms. In the post -1960 period, this subaltern realm of subversive voices has acquired a new legitimacy. There has been a shift towards the peripheral and marginal voices in the sphere of Indian poetry. The first generation modernists had failed to comprehend the relationship between poetry and the public sphere in Indian society. The lofty aloofness cultivated by the dense, resonant, imagistic writings of several of these poets subscribed to the same ideology of the aesthetic sublime one encountered in the sloppy sentimentality of the romantic lyric earlier. I have described such poets as 'High Modernists' in my book mentioned above. What high modernists gained by way of perfection in form they lost in their ability to reach out to a larger public. Increasing technical formalism, as Edward Said observes in the context of literary studies, leads to the loss of "a historical sense of what real experiences actually go into the making of a work of literature" (Said 1994: 57). When the aesthetic project of modernism had to confront the ethical problems resulting from the creation of an insular, hermetic realm of art shut off from the everyday world of a turbulent society, it necessarily had to revise its agenda. It is this turning away from the constricted, narcissistic idiom of aesthetic modernism towards more open and socially responsive and responsible forms that is mapped in this anthology. This has resulted in the re-discovery of discourses and voices previously suppressed or marginalised.

The metaphor of the tongue in the title of this anthology is a reminder of the proliferating discourses that erupt into the public sphere from the realm of the suppressed subaltern life. "The Tree of Tongues" written by Satchidanandan during the Emergency invokes the memory of Thiruvarangan, the folk -bard who roams the countryside singing to awaken households. When poets withdraw into 'bunkers of individualism' (D .R. Nagaraj 1992: 108) poetry comes to be privatised and the larger public function of poetry becomes suspect. The ideological location of celebratory individualism becomes visible and available for criticism only when the interrogatory idiom of a radical voice puts it in relief. This is an attempt to dialogise poetry. A poet like Dhoomil in Hindi could do it effectively in a tone that alternates between concern and confrontation:

 

Twenty years later

 

I ask myself-

 

how much endurance does it take

 

to turn into an animal?

 

And move on in silence

 

without an answer,

 

for these days the weather's moods are such

 

that it's almost dishonest

 

to go chasing the little leaves

 

blowing about in the blood.

[20 years after Independence]

Dhoomil's self-questionings are directed against the manufactured consents that inhibit our voices and the colonial legacy that we retain in our attitudes and institutions. The cultural space opened up by this self-critical enquiry has made it possible for the Dalit poets of the 1970s and the woman poets of the 1980s to represent their worlds more convincingly. This radicalization of poetic idiom is evident in several poems of this anthology. This is not to say that the poetic tone here is militant or strident. Public poetry can become tedious and tiring when it cannot preserve a certain inwardness as a characteristic mode of resistance. The three generations of poets assembled here- the elder ones were young rebels in the sixties and the younger ones are fighting their battles in the channel-surfing nineties-seem to constantly search for the tight-rope walking tone of tense, taut lines that can balance the private and the public without the safety net of ideology below them.

When poets incorporate their self-awareness about their very medium into the language of their poetry, they problematise their speech. The central motif that runs through this volume is that of loss of language and the need to recover or invent a language. Satchidanandan's ''Languages'', Kolatkar's "Old Newspapers", Sitanshu Yashaschandra's ''Language'' and Raghuvir Sahay's "Hindi" restate in personal and political terms the acute agony of Mardhekar's famous line, "Grant me, 0 Lord, just this one boon: May my tongue be never paralysed". The Dalit writer and the woman writer have understood that mainstream literary language excludes them. They have to purge the existing language of its associations and sub-texts before it can be deployed in their defence. The politics of speech has never been so central to the reading of poetry in Indian languages. What is 'regional' about language becomes a sedimentary layer of cultural memory to be invoked and rediscovered in the struggle against spurious versions of identity fostered from above. The search for a new language and the theme of resistance become inseparable in poets as diverse in themes and styles as Dilip Chitre, K.G. Sankara Pillai, Vasant A. Dahake, Sitanshu Yashaschandra and Kedarnath Singh. It is no accident that several of the poets collected here retain their access to their dialects and through them to the hidden resources of social imagination.

In a perceptive moment Dhoomil described his village as a Bhojpuri version of 'narak' (hell). He did not, of course, mean Dante's text but the great Indian dream that had gone sour. The Dalit poets in Marathi and Gujarati refuse to translate their particular hells back into the middle- class dialect of poetry. Their historical sense has an undercurrent of anguish and irony. Pralhad Chendvankar calls for a social audit of history in ‘Audit’.

 

Mahatma Phule and Ambedkar

 

Have audited your accounts

 

Have detected the frauds

 

On each page of each book,

 

Have submitted audit reports

 

Of how many journal entries to be made

 

You weep your self-same griefs

 

Pretending innocence, wearing your sacred threads.

(Audit)

The italicised words happen to be in English in the original Marathi poem. This destroys the illusion of poems as well-crafted artifacts. In several poems concerning history such as K.G. Sankara Pillai's "The Trees of Cochin", Dilip Chitre's "Emergency", Ghulammohammed Sheikh's "Delhi", Shrikant Verma's Magadh sequence; Pravin Gadvi's "When Nadir Shah Arrived", Attoor Ravivarma's "Re-Call" and D. Vinayachandran's "History", poetry becomes urgent, immediate speech like despatches from zones of civil war where intermittent fighting goes on. Attoor Ravivarma's poem is in fact about civil war and ends with the agonising lines:

 

I am neither the trigger

 

nor the bullet, I am

 

neither the monkey

 

nor Valmiki.

 

I am only

 

a completely bald

 

half-dhoti -clad

 

bullet ridden

 

question mark

 

with no front teeth

Mark that tone that captures the cramps in the conscience. It neither panics nor pleads in the face of a moral crisis that has no easy resolution.

The women poets also demonstrate the same ability to turn inward while probing the public world. The troubled conscience becomes their only manifesto. Vijayalakshmi in her (Malayalam) poem "The Animal Trainer" speaks of the caged animal retreating into the silence of the cage out of habit. She is perfectly at home in the metrical idiom of traditional poetry even when she communicates an anger that cannot be easily contained by traditional metrics. Women poets such as Malika Amar Sheikh, Savithri Rajeevan and Teji Grover seem to be looking for more open-ended forms. There is a hint of the free play of surrealist imagination in their irreverent images. They would not like their speech being slotted into pre-fabricated idioms. Savithri Rajeevan in her "Slant" warns us of the dangers inherent in our globalised notions of self- hood. These are poems that remind us that the moral crisis gripping the nation can only be understood by addressing the subject that speaks through us in our daily discourses. Decolonisation, like charity, has to begin at home. History figures as a major theme here since memory, both social and personal, is the site where the struggle against colonised notions of the body and social structures has to be fought.

I have steered clear of the term 'postmodernism' in describing the new poetic trends of the eighties and nineties. It is true that the radical sensibility represented in this volume comes very close to post-modernist sensibility because these trends share 'a set of characteristics that place them in an adversarial relation to high modernism' (Krishna Rayan 1996: 41). But there are significant distinctions to be made. A Euro- centric post-modernist package would effectively neutralise the emancipatory thrust of the poems produced in Indian languages. There is nothing to be gained by blurring the difference between passive acceptance (of Western technology) and active resistance (implicit in domestic production). An Indian postmodernism which distances itself from Western modernism and Western postmodernism on the one hand and Indian high modernism on the other will naturally have a place for the liberating potential of the radical sensibility represented here.

The persuasive power of poetry comes from its ability to infiltrate the collective voice of the community. The poets gathered here do not labour after the false elegance of transcendental visions. They also question the relevance of such supreme fictions and apocalyptic visions.

No attempt has been made here to make these translations particularly presentable. They grapple with the otherness of the source language in their separate ways. They make us aware that it is in the everyday world of living- that problems of caste, gender and power are encountered. In a poem titled 'Call Me Caliban', Dilip Chitre presented Caliban more as a precursor than a victim. Those who have to invent a language can turn the disadvantage into an opportunity. The radical sensibility in Indian poetry has the advantage of having no ready-made language to write in. Each blank page affords a challenge and a chance to redeem oneself through speech. When the wounded tongue tree sprouts branches, buried truths gleam on each leaf.

 

Contents

 

     
  Foreword V
  Acknowledgements XV
  Introduction XIX
 
MALAYALAM
 
  N.N. Kakkad  
1 BEHOLD THESE SHEEP ON THE ROAD 3
2 DEATH OF A ROGUE ELEPHANT 4
3 THE ]ESTER 5
  K.Ayyappa Paniker  
4 I MET WALT WHITMAN YESTERDAY: AN INTERVIEW 7
5 THE PRISON 10
6 INSIGHT 11
  Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan  
7 BOILED EGGS 13
8 DRINK NOT YOUR MOTHER'S MILK, 0 CHILD! 15
9 THE PUMPKIN 18
  Attoor Ravivarma  
10 METAMORPHOSIS 22
11 CANCER 24
12 RE-CALL 26
  K.Satchidanandan  
13 THE SURVIVORS 28
14 LANGUAGES 29
15 HOW TO GO TO THE TAO TEMPLE 31
16 NOAH LOOKS BACK 33
  K.G. Sankara Pillai  
17 PHOTOS IN VARIOUS POSES 35
18 THE TREES OF COCHIN 38
19 BETWEEN THE NECTAR AND THE POISON 42
  Balachandran Chullikkad  
20 FREEDOM 46
21 A LABOUREKS LAUGHTER 48
  A.Ayyappan  
22 THE FLEETING SUN 52
23 BAPTISM 54
  D. Vinayachandran  
24 MEDITATION 55
25 SHIP 56
26 HISTORY 57
  Vijayalakshmi  
27 MARTHA 58
28 BHAGAVATHA 59
29 THE ANIMAL TRAINER 60
  Savithri Rajeevan  
30 THE SLANT 62
31 THEBODY 63
32 KRISHNA 65
  Anwar Ali  
33 THIRD WORLD TIIOUGHTS 67
34 WHE ORGANS ARE SEVERED 69
 
MARATHI
 
  Dilip Chitre  
1 DEATH OF GRANDMOTIIER 75
2 SHAKESPEARE, 1964 76
3 EMERGENCY 77
4 THE MOON AND THE MULE 78
5 UNTITLED 79
6 TIIE BEING ALIVE OF BROKEN TIIREADS 80
7 RESTLESS SOULS OF TREES 81
  Arun Kolatkar  
8 OLD NEWSPAPERS 82
9 TIIEFUSE 83
10 CELIBACY 84
  Narayan Surve  
11 VIGIL 85
12 IN THIS SEASON 86
  N.D. Mahanor  
13 POEMS-ONE TO FIVE 87
  Bhalchandra Nemade  
14 GRANNY 89
15 FAREWELL 92
  Namdeo Dhasal  
16 A NOTE BOOK OF POEMS 94
17 AUTOBIOGRAPHY 95
  Manohar Oak  
18 ... FROM WITHIN THE PAPER-WEIGHT OF ONLINESS 96
  Malika Amar Sheikh  
19 METROPOLI5-24 97
  METROPOLIS-41 98
  Vasant Abaji Dahake  
20 NAlLS 99
21 MACHINE 100
22 THE SLEEPLESS ONE 101
  Chandrakant Patil  
23 WOMEN 102
  Anuradha Patil  
24 POEMS-ONE, TWO 105
  Anuradha Poddar  
25 ONLY THEN THE CURSED DRAUPADI IN ME 106
  Keshav Meshram  
26 THE INDEBTED 107
27 THE PLEASURE-BAZAAR 108
  Bhujang Meshram  
28 ABOUT SCHOOL 109
29 GRANDFATHER 110
30 ABOUT THEIR SPEECH 112
  Pralhad Chendvankar  
31 AUDIT  
 
GUJARATI
 
  Labhshankar Thaker  
1 THE CLOCK HAS STOPPED 117
2 SUNLIGHT 119
  Sitanshu Yashaschandra  
3 THE SEA 120
4 ORPHEUS 121
5 THE WOMAN 122
6 LANGUAGE 124
  Ravji Patel  
7 THE SAFFRON SUNS 129
8 WHILE LEAVING FOR THE HOSPITAL 130
9 POETRY 131
10 ONE AFTERNOON 132
  Gulammohammed Sheikh  
11 DELHI 133
12 FATHER IN DREAM 134
13 UNTIILED-l 135
14 UNTIILED-2 136
  Chinu Mody  
15 BAHUK SECTION 3 137
  Dileep Jhaveri  
16 INCARNATION 140
17 OH,NAME 141
18 STRAIGHT AND SIMPLE TALES 142
  Kanji Patel  
19 SPEAKERS OF THE COMMON SPEECH 144
20 GOD AND THE WORLD 146
21 APHASIA 148
  Kamal Vora  
22 CROW-2 149
23 MUTATION 151
  Udayan Thakker  
24 THE COBBLER 153
25 VOICE VS. VOICE 154
  Mangal Rathod  
26 IT IS SILENT, MY FRIENDS 155
27 HERE 156
  Yoseph Macwan  
28 A MAN OF NO CONSEQUENCE 157
29 AFTERNOON TEA 158
  Jayant Parmar  
30 THE PANTI-IER AND THE POSTER 159
31 TEMPLE 160
32 MY POETRY IS A SHARP STABBING KNIFE 161
  Praveen Gadvi  
33 WHEN NADIR SHAH ARRIVED 162
  Yashvant Vaghela  
34 IDENTITY 164
 
HINDI
 
  Raghuvir Sahay  
1 HINDI 167
2 PRIVACY 169
3 CYCLE-RICKSHAW 170
  Kedarnath Singh  
4 THE BRIDGE OF MAJHI 171
5 THE TIGER 174
6 REMEMBERING THE YEAR 1947 175
7 THE PLAIN PAPER 176
8 SHEPHERD'S FACE 177
9 A FEW DO'S AND DON'TS FROM A PEASANT TO HIS SON 179
10 CRANES IN THE DROUGHT 181
  Kunwar Narayan  
11 DESCRIPTION OF THE MISSING ONE 183
12 HOROSCOPE 184
13 THE KEY TO SUCCESS 185
14 REMAINING HUMAN 186
  Shrikant Verma  
15 MAGADH 187
16 THE LICHHAVIS 188
17 A BLESSED END 189
18 VASANTSENA 190
19 KOSALA LACKS IN IDEAS 192
  Dhoomil  
20 TWENTY YEARS AFTER INDEPENDENCE 194
21 THE CITY, EVENING AND AN OLD MAN: ME 196
  Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena  
22 SHOES I-IV 198
23 A HANDCART FULL OF WORDS 200
24 I WON'T ALLOW THE SUN TO SET ANYMORE 202
  Vinodkumar Shukla  
25 WHILE WE WERE DISCUSSING ... 204
26 ONE SHOULD SEE ONE'S OWN HOME ... 205
  Girdhar Rathi  
27 DIARY 206
28 MASTER! 207
  Mangalesh Dabral  
29 GOOD FOR A LIFETIME 208
30 POEM OF PAPER 209
  Gagan Gill  
31 YOU WILL SAY, NIGHT 210
32 GOING AWAY 212
33 TAKING LEAVE 213
  Teji Grover  
34 AS MANY BIRDS AS IN THAT BIRDSTREAM 215
35 SILENCE 217
36 THINKING OF SAKHIS 218
37 DON'T TELL ME A POEM WAS HERE 220
  Notes on Poets 223
  Notes on Translators 230
  Suggestions for Further Reading 234

 

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