Indian English poetry is not full enough, rich enough and just not enough to be able to comprehend with all its might, qualities and bulk. Unlike Indian English novel, poetry in English could not sustain beyond a point in India and all we have are a few collections edited by finest of the English poets themselves. R. Parthasarthy’s collection for Oxford India is one of them – Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets. This is the collection that gave publicity break to some of the finest Indian English poets as well as established some of them, the editor himself included.
The book came out in 1976 and since then, there have been more than 10 reprints of the book with modifications at times. However, the popularity of this poetry collection by 10 different poets have never lessened in the academic circles where Indian English poetry is discussed. R. Parthasarthy, the editor of this collection and also one of the included poets himself, has been at his best describing the poets and their poetry, in brief.
In 1976, Indian English poetry was going through a phase of experiments and there has not been a single phase in Indian English poetry that could sustain a momentum it caught. To get a collection of 10 poets at that time and finding the best of their poems and also justifying why the editor made such decisions and eventually the readers’ response which is still tremendous, all go on proving that Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets was a collection that happens seldom in a century.
Today, the collection is liked, appreciated and also critically scrutinised by any research scholar who wants to work on Indian English Poetry. Other than the research scholars, anyone who is simply interested in knowing more about Indian English poetry and understand the themes, trends and style of Indian English poets should read this collection by R. Parthasarthy. The introduction to the poets, the preface and also the notes at the end, will be helpful. Nothing to say about the poems included as analysis and appreciation of a work of literary art is up to one’s own interpretation. However, to me, the choice of poems have been wonderful.
However, the poet’s ego gets involved here as well. The editor, who is himself included by himself in a collection of English poems by Indian English poets, goes on banging on the doors of other Indian poets since the beginning of an idea called Indian English poetry… he knocks almost everyone down for this or that reason… For Parthasarthy, Savitri fails as a poem because Aurobindo did not have knowledge of English language and Sarojini Naidu disappoints at her poetry and excels only in her use of language… The poet-editor has perhaps forgotten that his poetry neither entertains at poetry itself nor uses English with conviction as he is himself in dilemma even for the very reason that he writes in English… and this, precisely, has been the chief reason that Indian English poetry has been failing to gather as a conscious idea, around one conscious idea… no one is ready to appreciate one’s idea truly for being unique!
Well, to conclude the review, let me say that the collection edited by R. Parthasarthy gives an ample reflection of Indian English poetry in the 20th-century and one can understand a few important facts about it. However, more interest might be found in reading the prose part of this book. All the best!
Review by a reader for Indian Book Critics
Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets – R. Parthasarthy: Book Review
- IBC Critical Rating
The choice of poems and poets may just be fine but the centre of attraction might be preface and other prose pieces by the editor. Do read those.