An Obsession with Roots
INDIAN POETRY IN ENGLISH: A CRITICAL ASSESSMENT by Vasant A Shahane & M. Sivaramkrishna Macmillan India Limited, 1981, 173 pp., 65.00
Sept-Oct 1981, volume 6, No 2

R. Parthasarathy, returning from ‘exile’, wrote ‘My tongue in English chains/I return, after a generation, to you.’ Taking this poem as a paradigm of Indo-English poetry, M. Sivaram¬krishna says in his introduction to this collection of critical essays on the work of eleven poets, ‘It is in terms of this triadic frame of reference…the transcen¬dence of Anglo-mania through an assertion of the Indian identity, the discovery of a ‘viable’ past and the residue of linguistic significance—that the following pages try to map out the features of the unchained tongue, that is Indo-English poetry today.’ This ‘triadic frame of reference’ becomes a vice in which the ‘following pages’ are inextricably caught. Within it the critics play the game of ‘looking for roots’. Every word and phrase used by a poet must first pass the test of Indianness’ before it is examined for poetic excellence. And when it is thus examined, one realizes that the tools used are by and large inadequate.

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