--II Back II--
Indian Poets Writing In English
Nissim Ezekiel, A. K. Ramanujan, Jayanta Mahapatra, Kamala Das, Keki N Daruwalla and others

Nissim EzekielNissim Ezekiel (1924-2004) --- Nissim Ezekiel, who has been called "the father of post-independence Indian verse in English",  is the foremost among the Indian-English poets. He is the pioneer of modernity in Indian-English poetry. The Age of Ezekiel in Indian-English poetry started with his creative oeuvre. He was also an art-critic and playwright. In 1952, Fortune press (London) published his first collection of poetry, A Time to Change. He published his book The Unfinished Man in 1960. He co-founded the literary monthly Imprint, in 1961. He functioned as art critic of The Times of India (1964-66) and edited Poetry India (1966-67). From 1961 to 1972, he headed the English Department of Mithibai College, Mumbai. The Exact Name, his fifth book of poetry, was published in 1965. During this period, he had short tenures as visiting professor at University of Leeds (1964) and University of Chicago (1967).  In 1969, Writers Workshop, Calcutta published his The Three Plays. A year later, he presented an art series of ten programs for Mumbai television. On the invitation of the US Government, he went on a month-long tour to the US in November, 1974. In 1975 he went as a Cultural Award Visitor to Australia. In 1976, he translated poetry from Marathi, and co-edited a fiction and poetry anthology. Ezekiel received the Sahitya Akademi award in 1983 and the Padma Shri in 1988. He was Professor of English at University of Mumbai during the 1990s. He functioned as the Secretary of the Indian branch of the international writers' organization PEN. After a prolonged battle with Alzheimer's disease, Nissim Ezekiel died in Mumbai, on 9 January 2004. His works include A Time To Change (1952), Sixty Poems (1953), The Third (1959), The Unfinished Man (1960), The Exact Name (1965), The Three Plays (1969) and Hymns in Darkness (1976).  When he began his creative course of life in the late 1940s, his adoption of formal English was controversial, given its association with colonialism. Yet he "naturalised the language to the Indian situation, and breathed life into the Indian English poetic tradition." Ezekiel's poetry describes love, loneliness, lust, creativity and political pomposity, human foibles and the "kindred clamour" of urban dissonance. Over the course of his creative years, his attitude changed, too. The young man, "who shopped around for dreams", demanded truth and lambasted corruption. By the 1970s, he accepted "the ordinariness of most events"; laughed at "lofty expectations totally deflated"; and acknowledged that "The darkness has its secrets / Which light does not know." After 1965, he even began embracing India's English vernacular, and teased its idiosyncrasies in Poster Poems and in The Professor.  He acted as a mentor to many younger poets ---  Dom Moraes, Adil Jussawalla, Gieve Patel and several others. In the last few years of his life, he was deeply involved in helping younger poets, especially those based at Mumbai, his advice being forthright, but seldom blunt.

Jayanta Mahapatra (b. 1928) --- Jayanta Mahapatra was born in Cuttack in 1928, was educated there and in Patna. After his Master's Degree in Physics, he joined as a teacher in 1949 and served in different Government colleges of Orissa. He retired, on superannuation, from the academic profession in 1986 when he was in Ravenshaw College, Cuttack. He started writing poetry in his late thirties. But this late beginning signifies his 'ripe advent'. His works include Close the Sky, Ten by Ten (1971), Svayamvara & Other Poems (1971), A Father's Hours (1976), A Rain of Rites (1976), Waiting (1979), The False Start (1980), Relationship (1980), Life Signs (1983), Dispossessed Nests (1986), Selected Poems (1987), Burden of Waves & Fruit (1988), Temple (1989), Shadow Space (1997), Bare Face (2000) and Random Descent (2005). He turned bilingual and has published a few works of poetry in Oriya including Bali (The Victim), Kahibi Gothie Katha (I Will Tell a Story) and Baya Raja (The Mad Emperor). During 1976-77, he participated in the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. He received the prestigious Jacob Glatstein Memorial Award (Chicago) in 1975. He is the first Indian-English poet to have received, in 1981, the award of the Sahitya Akademi (National Academy of Letters, India) for his Relationship. Other awards and honours include First Prize in Scottish International Open Poetry Competition, Second Prize for International Who's Who in Poetry, London, Gangadhar Meher National Award for Poetry, Ramakrishna Jaidayal Harmony Award and Vaikom Mohammed Basheer (1997) Award. Jayanta lives in Cuttack (Tinkonia Bagicha, Cuttack­735001).

A. K. Ramanujan (1929-1993) --- Attipat Krishnaswamy Ramanujan was born and educated in Mysore, India. He taught at the University of Chicago for more than three decades, where he served as the Chairman of the Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations.  His works include Fifteen Tamil Poems (1965), The Striders (1966), The Interior Landscape (1967), No Lotus in the Navel (1969), Relations (1971), Speaking of Siva (1972), The Second Sight and Collected Poems.   Ramanujan was honoured by Government of India with the Padma Shri in 1976.  He earned  a MacArthur Fellowship in 1983.  In recognition of the excellence of his translations, the South Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies has established the A.K. Ramanujan Book Prize for Translation. A posthumous Sahitya Akademi award was announced (1999) by the National Academy of Letters, India for The Collected Poems of A. K. Ramanujan

Kamala Das (b. 1934) --- Kamala Das was born in Punnayurkulam in Southern Malabar. She was educated mainly at home and spent most of her years in Bombay. Her works include Summer in Calcutta (1965), The Descendants (1967), The Old Playhouse and Other Poems (1973), The Anamalai Poems (1985) and Only the Soul Knows How to Sing (1996). Among her prose works in English are her fictional autobiography, My Story (1976), the novel Alphabet of Lust (1977), a collection of short stories called Padmavati the Harlot and Other Stories (1992). She identifies herself as Kamala Suraiyya after her conversion to Islam. Address : A-2, Ambadi Apartments, Warriom Road, Cochin-16, Kerala.

Keki N Daruwalla (b. 1937) --- Keki N Daruwalla was born in Lahore, now in Pakistan.  His education was at Ludhiana. He joined the Indian Police Service in 1958 and, on retirement, he lives in Delhi. A recipient of Sahitya Akademi Award (1984) and Commonwealth Poetry Award, Keki N. Daruwalla has published several books, consisting of mostly poems and a couple of fictional works. His works of poetry  include Under Orion (1970), Apparition in April (1971), Crossing of Rivers (1976), Winter Poems (1980), The Keeper of the Dead (1982), Landscapes (1987), A Summer of Tigers (1995), Night River (2000) and The Map-maker (2002).  Swords and Abyss (1979)  and The Minister for Permanent Unrest & Other Stories (1996) are his works of fiction. He also edited Two Decades of Indian Poetry. The Library of Congress has all his books.

Dom Moraes (1938-2004) --- Dominic Francis Moraes, popularly known as Dom Moraes, was born in Bombay (now Mumbai) to Beryl and Frank Moraes, former editor of Indian Express. He spent eight years in London, and most of his life in Mumbai. He edited magazines in London, Hong Kong and New York. He became the editor of The Asia Magazine in 1971. He scripted and partially directed over 20 television documentaries for the BBC and ITV. He was a war correspondent in Algeria, Israel and Vietnam. From 1973 to 1977 he was chief literary consultant for the United Nations Fund for Populations. His works include A Beginning (1958), his first book of poems, Poems (1960), his second book of poems,  John Nobody (1965), his third book of poems,  Beldam & Others (1967), a chapbook of verse,  Absences (1983), book of poems,  Collected Poems (1987), Serendip (1990), poems,  Out of God's Oven: Travels in a Fractured Land (1992),  The Long Strider (2003),  Never at Home, memoir,  My Son's Father, memoir, A Variety of Absences: The Collected Memoirs of Dom Moraes (2003), Typed With One Finger (2003), Collected Poems 1954-2004 (2004).  Honours and awards he received include Hawthornden Prize for the best work of the imagination, 1958, for the book of poems A Beginning,  Autumn Choice of the Poetry Book Society for Poems (1960) and Sahitya Akademi Award (1994) for his Serendip.

Arvind Krishna Mehrotra (b. 1947) --- Arvind Krishna Mehrotra was born in Lahore. He was educated at the Universities of Allahabad and Bombay and has been teaching English Literature at the University of Allahabad. His works include BharatMata: A Prayer (1966), Woodcuts on Paper (1967), Pomes|Poems|Poemas (1971), Three (1973),  The Absent Traveller: Prakrit Love Poetry from the Gathasaptasati of Satavahana Hala (1991). He is also the editor of Twenty Indian Poems (1990), The Oxford India Anthology of Twelve Modern Indian Poets (1992) and Periplus: Poetry in Translation (with Daniel Weissbort) (1993). In 1995, he won the Gettysburg Review Award in non-fiction prose. He lives in Allahabad and Dehra Dun.

Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001) --- Agha Shahid Ali was born in New Delhi. He grew up in Kashmir, and was educated at the University of Kashmir, Srinagar and University of Delhi. He earned a Ph.D. in English from Pennsylvania State University in 1984 and an M.F.A. from the University of Arizona in 1985. His volumes of poetry include Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals (2003), Rooms Are Never Finished (2001), The Country Without a Post Office (1997), The Beloved Witness: Selected Poems (1992), A Nostalgist's Map of America (1991), A Walk Through the Yellow Pages (1987), The Half-Inch Himalayas (1987), In Memory of Begum Akhtar and Other Poems (1979), and Bone Sculpture (1972). He is also the author of T. S. Eliot as Editor (1986), translator of The Rebel's Silhouette: Selected Poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1992), and editor of Ravishing Disunities: Real Ghazals in English (2000). Ali received fellowships from The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the Ingram-Merrill Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation and was awarded a Pushcart Prize. He held teaching positions at the University of Delhi, Penn State, SUNY Binghamton, Princeton University, Hamilton College, Baruch College, University of Utah, and Warren Wilson College. Agha Shahid Ali died on December 8, 2001.

Bibhu Padhi (b. 1951) --- Bibhu Padhi was born in the ancient town of Cuttack in Orissa. He was educated there --- at the Ravenshaw Collegiate School, Ranihat High School, and Ravenshaw College. He has been teaching English literature in Government colleges. He started writing seriously around 1975 and his poems were published in all the major Indian literary journals, Debonair, The Illustrated Weekly, Imprint, Indian Literature and Quest. Outside India, his poems have been published in, amongst others, Encounter, Orbis, Outposts, New Letters, Southwest Review and The Toronto South Asian Review. A selection appeared in New Voices: Eight Contemporary Poets (Anvil Press, 1990). He has edited a number of poetry anthologies and is a Counsellor in Creative Writing with the Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi. His critical writing, on D.H. Lawrence and Indian Philosophy and Religion: A Reader’s Guide (co-written with his wife), has been published in the USA. His own first collection, Going to the Temple was published in 1988. Lines from a Legend, which brings alive the world of Cuttack, was published by Peepal Tree in 1993. Other works include A Wound Elsewhere, Painting the House, Games the Heart Must Play (a trilogy of love poems) and Living with Lorenzo (a series of poems on D.H. Lawrence).

Meena Alexander (1951) --- Meena Alexander was born in Allahabad, India. She is currently a Professor at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and still takes trips back to Kerala annually. Her first book, a single lengthy poem, entitled The Bird's Bright Wing, was published in 1976 in Calcutta. Since then, Alexander has published seven volumes of poetry, including River and Bridge; two novels: Nampally Road (1991) and Manhattan Music (1997); a collection of both prose and poetry, The Shock of Arrival: Reflections on Postcolonial Experience; a study on Romanticism: Women in Romanticism: Mary Wollstonecraft, Dorothy Wordsworth and Mary Shelley; and her autobiography, Fault Lines. In 1993 she was the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship.

Rukmini Bhaya Nair (b. 1952) --- Rukmini Bhaya Nair is Professor of Linguistics and English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. She has a Bengali father and a Goan mother. She obtained her doctoral degree at the University of Cambridge in 1982. In 1990, Nair received the first prize in the All India Poetry Society/ British Council competition. She has published three volumes of poetry: Yellow Hibiscus, The Hyoid Bone and The Ayodhya Cantos (Penguin, 2004, 1999 and 1992). Her research interests are in the areas of literary and postcolonial theory, cognitive linguistics, the philosophy of language and the relationship between technology and cultural text. Nair's books include Narrative Gravity: Conversation, Cognition, Culture (Oxford University Press, 2002 and Routledge, 2003); Lying on the Postcolonial Couch: the Idea of Indifference (Minnesota University Press and Oxford University Press, 2002); Technobrat: Culture in a Cybernetic Classroom (Harper Collins, 1997); as well as the edited volume, Translation, Text and Theory: the Paradigm of India (Sage, 2002).

Manohar Shetty (b. 1953) --- Manohar Shetty studied at the Universitty of Bombay and has been working as a journalist. Shetty, who lives in Goa, was the editor for eight years of the Goa Today newspaper. He regularly contributes literary reviews to various newspapers. Shetty has published three collections of poems: A Guarded Space (1981), Borrowed Time (1988) and Domestic Creatures.

Imtiaz Dharker (b. 1954 ) --- Born in Lahore, Imtiaz Dharker grew up in Glasgow and now divides her time between London and Mumbai. She works as a documentary film-maker in India. She is also an artist, and conceives her books as sequences of poems and drawings. She has written three books of poetry, conceived as sequences of poems and drawings. Home, freedom, journeys, geographical and cultural displacement, communal conflict, gender politics – these remain the recurrent themes in her poetry. Purdah (1989) is Dharker’s first book; Postcards from God (1994), her second book; and the most recent book is, I Speak for the Devil (2003).

Hoshang Merchant  --- Hoshang Merchant has a Master's Degree from Occidental College, Los Angeles, and a Ph D (on Anais Nin) from Purdue University. Since leaving Purdue in 1975, Merchant has lived and taught in Heidelberg, Iran and Jerusalem. He has studied Buddhism at the Tibetan Library at Dharamsala, north India, as well as Islam in Iran and Palestine. Merchant’s book on Nin, In-discretions (1990), is published by Writers Workshop, which has also published ten books of his poetry since 1989. While Rupa and Co. published his book of poems Flower to Flame in 1992, his most recent work Bellagio Blues (2004) is published by Spark-India. In 1999, he edited Yaraana: Gay Writing from India for Penguin Books. Currently, Hoshang Merchant teaches Poetry and Surrealism at the University of Hyderabad.

E V Ramakrishnan --- E V Ramakrishnan is Professor of English in the Department of English, South Gujarat University, Surat - 395 007, Gujarat.  Born in Kannur, North Kerala, Ramakrishnan was educated at Tellicherry, Calicut and Hyderabad. He worked as a Lecturer at Jalna in Marathwada in Maharashtra. Then he moved to South Gujarat University, Surat. E V Ramakrishnan has authored three books of poems, including Being Elsewhere in Myself, in English, one collection of critical essays in English and four in Malayalam. He edited : Narrating India: The Novel in Search of the Nation (for the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi), Tree of Tongues, An Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry and Making It New: Modernism in Malayalam, Marathi and Hindi Poetry.

Robin S. Ngangom (1959) --- Robin S. Ngangom was born in Imphal. He has published three collections of poetry : Words and Silence, Time's Crossroads and The Desire of Roots. He teaches literature at the North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. Another work, The Strange Affair of Robin S Ngangom, gives an insight into the poet’s predicaments and that of his home: Manipur --- an autobiography on the lines of Tintern Abbey, the collection talks about memories of a man in exile. Robin has co-edited the Anthology of Contemporary Poetry from the Northeast (Nehu Publishing, Shillong).

Jeet Thayil (b. 1959)---Jeet Thayil was born in India and educated in Hongkong, New York and Bombay. In 1998 he went to New York where he received an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and a 2003 poetry award from the New York Foundation for the Arts. His poems have appeared in 'Stand', 'Verse', 'Agenda', 'London Magazine', 'The Independent', 'Salt Hill' and 'Kavya Bharati', among many other journals. He is an editor with 'Rattapallax' and a contributing editor with 'Fulcrum', and is currently based in Bangalore and Delhi. He is also known for his performance of his poems, with or without his New York-based band, Bombay Down. His works include Gemini (Viking Penguin, 1992),  Apocalypso (London, Mark Arts. 1997) and English (New York, Rattapallax Press/New Delhi, Penguin India, 2003). Besides the three poetry volumes, he has edited two anthologies of short stories, Vox: New Indian Fiction (Sterling, 1996) and Vox 2: Seven Stories (Sterling, 1997).

C P Surendran (b. 1959) ---   C P Surendran was born  in Kerala. He took his Masters in English from Delhi University, and was, for a short while, a Lecturer of English at Calicut University. He resigned from his academic job in 1986 to become a journalist. At present, Surendran works with the Times of India. Penguin India has published his collection of poems, titled Posthumous Poems. The other books of poetry published by Surendran include Gemini-II and Canaries on the Moon (Yeti Books, Kozhikode).  An Iron Harvest  (India Ink/Roli Books) is Surendran's first novel.

Makarand Paranjape (b.1960) ---Makarand Paranjape is a Professor of English at Jawaharlal Nehru University's Centre for Linguistics and English at the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies.  A widely published poet, novelist, critic, and columnist, he is the author of The Serene Flame, Playing the Dark God, Used Book and Partial Disclosure (poetry); This Time I Promise It’ll Be Different and The Narrator (fiction); and Mysticism in Indian English Poetry, Decolonization and Development, and Towards a Poetics of the Indian English Novel (criticism). The books he has edited include Indian Poetry in English, Sarojini Naidu: Selected Poetry and Prose, Nativism: Essays in Literary Criticism, The Best of Raja Rao, The Penguin Sri Aurobindo Reader, and In Diaspora: Theories, Histories, Texts. Address : N-16B Saket, New Delhi 110017.

Rabindra K. Swain (b. 1960) --- Rabindra K. Swain had his Master's degree in English Literature in 1983 and a Ph.D. on the poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra in 1995 from Utkal University, Bhubaneswar, Orissa, India. He has published three books of poetry, Once Back Home (Har-Anand, New Delhi, 1996), A Tapestry of Steps (Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 1999), and Severed Cord (Indialog, 2002). Severed Cord is a poignant collection of poems, which deals with the emotions underlying every aspect of life and its subtle relationships. He has also published a book of translation from Oriya, Rajendra Kishore Panda's Bahubreehi. He is a cotranslator of J. P. Das’s Dear Jester and Other Stories (2006). Besides, he has a critical work, The Poetry of Jayanta Mahapatra: A Critical Study (Prestige Books, New Delhi, 2000). His poetry has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, Verse, New Letters, and Quarterly West, among others.

Vijay Nambisan (b.1963) --- Vijay Nambisan is a journalist and writer. It was for Madras Central that Vijay had won the All India Poetry Competition in 1988, organised by the British Council and Poetry Society (India). He has worked and written for journals in many parts of India. His published work includes poetry and other  books, including Bihar is in the Eye of the Beholder and Language as an Ethic.

Tabish Khair (b. 1966)--- Tabish Khair is Associate Professor in the Department of English, University of Aarhus, Denmark. Born in Ranchi and educated mostly in Gaya, India, he is the author of various books, including the poetry collections, My World and Where Parallel Lines Meet (Penguin, 2000), the study, Babu Fictions: Alienation in Indian English Novels (Oxford UP, 2001) and the novel, The Bus Stopped (Picador, 2004). His honours and prizes include the All India Poetry Prize (awarded by the Poetry Society and the British Council) and honorary fellowship (for creative writing) of the Baptist University of Hong Kong. Other Routes is an anthology of pre-modern travel texts by Africans and Asians, co-edited and introduced by Khair (with a foreword by Amitav Ghosh) and published by Signal Books and Indiana University Press.

Arundhathi Subramaniam (b. 1967) --- Arundhathi Subramaniam is a poet, dance critic, a freelance journalist on the arts and in charge of an interactive arts forum at Mumbai's National Centre for the Performing Arts. As poet, she has been published in several journals. She is also on the committee of the Poetry Circle of Mumbai. As journalist, she has written extensively for leading publications in the country, such as The Times of India, The Hindu, among others, and now writes for several culture portals on the web. As arts administrator, she heads a forum called "Chauraha" that promotes dialogue betweeen practitioners of various artistic disciplines. She is the author of two books of poems: On Cleaning Bookshelves and Where I Live. She has also published a book on Buddha and his role in shaping and transfiguring the course of history : The Book of Buddha.

Ranjit Hoskote (b. 1969) --- Ranjit Hoskote is a poet, cultural theorist and independent curator of contemporary art. He is the author of three collections of poetry: Zones of Assault (1991), The Cartographer’s Apprentice (2000) and The Sleepwalker’s Archive (2001). He has also co-translated Vasant Dahake’s Marathi poems under the title A Terrorist of the Spirit (1992) and edited the anthology, Reasons for Belonging: Fourteen Contemporary Indian Poets (Viking, 2002). He has also written a critical biography of the artist Jehangir Sabavala (1998) and a monograph on the painter Sudhir Patwardhan (The Complicit Observer, 2004). As a literary organizer, Hoskoté has been associated with the Poetry Circle, Bombay, since its inception in 1986, and was its President from 1992 to 1997. Hoskote was Visiting Writer and Fellow of the International Writing Program, University of Iowa (1995) and has held a writing residency at the Villa Waldberta, Munich (2003). He received the Sanskriti Award for Literature in 1996 and the Sahitya Akademi Golden Jubilee Award in 2004. Hoskote lives and works in Bombay. Vanishing Acts (Penguin Books India 2006) brings together some of his best poetry, drawn from his three published collections, along with a substantial body of new poems.

Anjum Hasan --- Anjum Hasan has a post-graduate degree in philosophy from the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong. She has been writing poetry, essays and literary criticism for several years and has contributed to journals like the Indian Review of Books, Kavya Bharati and Chandrabhaga. Her poetry seeks to evoke the small town milieu through a sympathetic engagement with its figures and landscapes. Her first collection of poems – Street on the Hill – will shortly be out. Anjum’s critical writing has largely focused on contemporary Indian poetry. Anjum Hasan grew up in Shillong and now lives in Bangalore, where she works as a Programme Executive with India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore.

Mamang Dai --- Mamang Dai is one of the most intensely poetic new voices from the North East. Mamang left the Indian Administrative Service to pursue a career in writing. River Poems is her first collection of poems. She has also published a work of fiction, The Legends of Pensam (Penguin Books India, 2006). 

 

1