Containing pieces of nearly seventy poets in their 40s, Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians (2019) can be called a landmark new anthology that maps contemporary poetry scene in India and the broader Indian diaspora. In some significant ways, this collection also acts as a second volume to The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry (2012) edited by the same editor and renowned poet Sudeep Sen. As the Indian poet diplomat Abhay kay observes, “Paired together, these two anthologies comprehensively map the last 70 years of Indian English Poetry with a substantial representation of 150 of the best poets writing today.”
It is close to a hundred years since E V Rieu published India in Song: Eastern Themes in English Verse by British Indian Poets (Oxford University Press, 1920), and there have been many anthologies from Macmillan, Orient Longman, Oxford, Penguin, Rupa and Harper Collins. And through them one can trace that gradual evolvement of the sub-continental poetry. However, in the last two decades Indian poetry has made progression in what Sen calls, “leaps and bounds,” following almost an algorithmic graph. He also remarks, “The best of Indian poetry in English now is arguably far superior than the general fiction that is currently produced by Indians by a long distance.” Indeed, new poets have emerged displaying confidence in their literary tropes, diverse writing styles and introducing new literary styles. They have dared to address political turmoil, gender issues, divergent sexualities, and they have employed languages that not only match their subject-matter, but venture into a new world of poetry.
And poetry has founded its way through small presses, often set by the poets themselves. There are more poetry readings organized these days in cities, more book shops springing up—a venture that the poetry scenario in Dhaka also needs to build up. The online pages set up by the poetry community, too, is an inspirational effort that announces a bright future for poetry.
Editor’s Note: Sudeep Sen has published a number of award-winning books. He has also edited influential anthologies. His works have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times among many others.