The new September 2007 issue of Poetry Magazine has almost justified my subscription after two years, with a selection of 13 Indian poets gathered by R. Parthasarathy, author of the 1977 long poem, Rough Passage and his translation of The Tale of an Anklet, a Tamil epic.
He is a professor of English and Asian Studies at Skidmore College in New York.
In the portfolio Dr. Parthasrathy has selected, he's chosen poems from "thirteen of the twenty-four languages, including English, recognized by India's National Academy of Letters (Sahitya Akademi)."
There are a lot of provocative statements within his explanatory essay, including an assertion that there haven't been any poets comparable to the European Moderns since the Indian poet Ghalib.
Dr. Parthasarathy says that English poetry, described by one poet as the "milk of the tigress" has 'served as a model to be imitated, often with unhappy results'.
He does cite the emergence of Dalit poetry (poetry of the oppressed and downtrodden) and feminist poetry as significant developments in Indian poetry.
He also has an intriguing line regarding the Buddhist monk and translator Kumarajiva who remarked that in the act of translating 'a Sanskrit text into Chinese it loses all its nuances...It's something like chewing cooked rice and then feeding it to another person. Not only has it lost its flavor; it will also make him want to throw up."
A charming image, but how far off the mark is Kumarajiva?
I'm only now just starting to read through Dr. Parthasarathy's selections, left wondering how many other really good Indian poets are also out there who had to be excluded or who are slipping under the radar.
I'll probably comment more on this issue later.
It makes me wonder who would go into a portfolio of Laotian American or Hmong American poets right now, and what a commentator/curator would say. And how would we put together a portfolio of TRA poetry? The hamster wheel turns...