Modern Indian Poetry

Modern Indian poetry in English is a relatively new entrant in India’s poetic traditions, which have existed for more than 4000 years. However, in a span of 65 years, modern Indian poetry has carved a space of its own, with voices that are strong, exploratory and revealing, often emblematic of the challenges independent India has faced. Whether it’s the self-scrutinizing verse of Jewish Indian poet Nissim Ezekiel leading to greater insights, the paradoxical beauty of street life captured photographically in Arun Kolatkar’s poems, or the explosive feminist poetry of Kamala Das, Indian poetry in English has inspired and enlightened many, revealing an ethos that is their own.

Modern Indian poetry in English can be defined as poetry written/published from 1947 onwards (the year India gained Independence from British rule), by poets of Indian origin, writing in the English language. This includes poetry from the Indian Diaspora, written by poets of Indian origin/ancestry, born or settled outside of India. With India having over 1500 languages, modern Indian poetry in English carries with it the weight of being written in the language of those who once ruled India, and along with that, the accusation of not being ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ to the Indian experience. Tags such as Indian Anglophone, Indo-English, Indo-Anglian, Indian Englishpost-colonial, make matters even more complicated and at the same time remind us that modern Indian poetry is not so easy to label. While scholars and critics alike debate, we at T(G)IPP prefer to look at modern Indian poetry as a body of work that is constantly growing, shifting and evolving, while remaining true to what poetry means, in a language that has come to transcend geographies.

The Oxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets, edited by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Oxford University Press, 1997
Nine Indian Women Poets, edited by Eunice De Souza, Oxford University Press, India,  2001
60 Indian Poets, edited by Jeet Thayil, Penguin India, 2007
The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets, edited by Jeet Thayil, Bloodaxe Books, 2009
The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, edited by Sudeep Sen, HarperCollins India, 2012

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