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How Small American Magazines Brought Contemporary Indian Poetry to the United States in the 1960s and 70s

More than a decade before Pritish Nandy’s edition The Vikas Book of Modern Indian Love Poetry (1979) and the edited Keki Daruwala Two decades of Indian poetry: 1960-1980 (1980) introduced postcolonial poetry written in a range of Indian languages ​​to English readership or speakers of other Indian languages, a 74-page compilation titled India poetry was published in the United States, providing contemporary writers of different Indian languages ​​with a readership across language borders. Nandy was one of the poets included in the 1968 publication. Four years later, in 1972, another publication appeared in the United States, titled Young Indian Poetsa 96-page publication.

In the early 1970s, English translations of contemporary writings in Indian languages ​​were still rare in India, and those available were mostly the writers’ own translations. English-language publishers in India were primarily interested in publishing Indian writers who originally wrote in English. Anthologies of Indian writings in English had appeared, at least three in 1972-73, but no anthologies of writings in Indian languages.

Thanks to the beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg’s Indian tour in 1961-62, when he spent long hours with poets in Kolkata, Mumbai, Patna and Varanasi, translations of contemporary Bengali poetry, mainly those by Hungry Generation writers, appeared in the first three issues of the emblematic city ​​lights diary, published by Beatnik poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The interest this generated in American literary circles for contemporary Bengali literature later spread to other Indian languages, as evidenced by Howard McCord’s visit to India in 1965 on the Fullbright Fellowship and of his enrollment at Mysore University.

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Postcolonial literature in India, that of the 1950s and 1960s, has seen three interesting trends. First, a new type of writings challenging the predecessors appeared in all major languages ​​- the Krittibas and Hungry Generation movements in Bengali, Navya in Kannada, Nabakatha in Marathi, Nayi Kavita and Nayi Kahani in Hindi, for example. Arvind Krishna Mehrotra wrote that they were all more or less of the same nature and strongly influenced by European writings and existentialism.

“It was a consciously modernist movement, breaking with the classical predilections of the past and redefining the concerns of literature,” Mehrotra wrote in A History of Indian Literature in English (2003), “From Hindi to Kannada, from Tamil to Bengali, young writers have ‘killed their fathers’ with vigorous new prose.”

The second changing trend was that while colonial period writers were more eager to translate their published works from the UK, postcolonial writers were more eager to have them published in the United States. The third trend is the emergence of the small magazine movement in all this regional literature.

Under these circumstances, Ginsberg’s trip played the bridge. In fact, it was Ginsberg’s letters from India to Ferlinghetti that prompted him to start a new annual journal. In 1963 he wrote to Ginsberg in India: “I have just been prompted by your descriptions of India to start another journal and publish your description there, together with all that you send.”

After the first issue of city ​​lights diary (1963) published parts of Ginsberg’s Indian Diary, Gary Snyder’s prose A journey from Rishikesh to Hardwar‘ and the manifesto of Bengal’s Hungry Generation Movement, the second issue of the journal published detailed translations of both the Krittibas group of writers and the Hungarianists, under the title ‘Some Bengali poets.’ The third volume (1966) also included writings from Bengal, as well as an article by McCord on the Hungarianists.

In fact, McCord in his article said that it was the 1963 edition of the journal that sparked interest in the United States for new Indian writings, especially those in Bengali. In 1967, Salted Feathers had published an entire issue titled “Hungry!”

Going back to the 1968 publication, Intrepid was a small press, one of America’s “small magazines”. German writer-translator Carl Weisner, who was a close associate of writers of the Beat generation, was the editor of this particular issue. More than half of the issues were translations of the works of Bengal’s Hungry Generation and the Krittibas group of writers, and the rest were titled “Poets of Delhi, Bombay and Allahabad”.

The second half included the works of Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Kamla Das, Pavankumar Jain, Arun Kolatkar, Dilip Chitre, Ashok Chopra, Pritish Nandy, Rabindra Nath Gupta, Shyam Parmar and Satish Jamali. Some of these poems were originally written in English. The Bengali section included the works of Malay Roy Choudhury, Subo Acharya, Pradip Choudhuri, Saileshwar Ghosh, Subhas Ghose, Debi Ray, Subimal Basak of the Hungry Generation and Sunil Gangopadhyay, Tarapada Roy, Shakti Chattopadhyay and Shankar Chattopadhyay of the Krittibas group.

He understood Mehrotra Bharatmata: a prayerself-translated Gujarati poem by Pavankumar Jain The moonDilip Chitre’s translation of Kolatkar’s untitled work, Ashok Chopra’s Birth of a bed from ‘Town Poems’, Pritish Nandy’s Gemara and Herod & mefrom Chitre The first five breakfasts towards self-realizationKamala Das’ The convicts and the descendantsby Rabindra Nath Gupta all fleshby Shyam Parmar Snake harvests and Satish Jamali’s “anti-poems”

The World Everywhere Poem
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Most of them translated their works themselves and some (mainly Bengalis) in collaboration with Weisner and the American poet Michael Aldrich, also associated with the Beats. Interestingly, the collection appends the corresponding addresses of all Indian writers, Weisner commenting in his introduction that “Indian poets crave contact with poets and publishers in the United States” and that “they would like to exchange their publications with magazines in the United States”. America.”

In fact, such collaboration between small Indian and American magazines had already begun, with Mehtrora’s magazine, Ezra, publishing McCord’s poem in its third volume (1968). Subsequently, Mehrotra and McCord had extensive exchanges with each other, which are now part of archival collections in the United States.

McCord’s closeness to the Hungry writers and with other regional writers through Mehrotra culminated in his 1972 publication, Young Poets of Indiaof his own The Tribal Press, in the magazine’s third volume Measure. Again, this offered a broad view of contemporary Indian poetry, with most of the writers mentioned above finding their works included.

When David Cevet’s editing, The Shell and the Rain: Poems of New Indiawas published in London by Allen & Unwin, it was in 1973.


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