Amar Nath Prasad: INDIAN POETRY IN ENGLISH: A CRITICAL APPRAISAL. Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 2009. Pages 148. Price Rs.75/-. ISBN 978 81 7977 328 4.
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The book is a collection of Amar Nath Prasad’s eight or nine published articles on some of the major Indian English poets such as Henry Derozio, Toru Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarojini Naidu, Sri Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Nissim Ezekiel, Kamala Das, A.K. Ramanujan, and Jayanta Mahapatra, with a claim to provide ‘standard’ criticism, largely to literature students at the undergraduate level. The author has tried to reflect on the ‘art and craft” of these poets with a bias towards philosophy.
There is nothing new in his ‘bird’s eye view’ of Indian poetry in English with which the book opens: the author repeats what one would find in any book on Indian English poetry even if he includes O.P. Bhatnagar in his survey of recent poets. His narrow perspective does not permit even mention of many new poets of the 1980s and 1990s, perhaps because they do not appear in the critical appraisal of King Bruce or M.K. Naik? Prasad seems to have ignored various anthologies, books, and critical articles that include many other poets, for example, I.K. Sharma, R.K.Singh, R. Rabindranath Menon, Maha Nand Shrma, P. Raja, I. H. Rizvi, Niranjan Mohanty, Gopal Honnalgere, D.C. Chambial, D.H. Kabadi, S.L. Peeran, Angelee Deodhar, Mani Rao, Anuradha Nalapet, Sudha Iyer, P.C.K. Prem, D.S. Maini, and others who, too, have a significant presence for their vitality, quality, and vision.
The second essay, which deals with the formal and thematic study of Derozio’s ‘The Harp of India’ , Toru Dutt’s ‘Our Casuarina Tree’, Ezekiel’s ‘Enterprise’, Kamala Das’s ‘An Introduction’, and A.K. Ramanujan’s ‘Another View of Grace’, is readable. I appreciate Prasad’s positive view that the future of Indian poetry in English is bright.
The third essay deals with symbolism in Tagore’s Gitanjali. Prasad explains the Nobel Laureate’s use of such recurring imagery as flute/harp, music, flower, garment/ornament, door/gate, fire, dust/darkness, silent steps, woman, and journey/voyage. In the fourth essay, he chooses the poet’s poems in Fruit Gathering and further explains such recurring imagery as fruit and flower, door, unheard melody, traveler/sailor, and lamp.
The fifth essay dwells on four short poems of Sri Aurobindo, ‘The Tiger and the Deer’, ‘A Child’s Imagination’, ‘Transformation’, and ‘Nirvana’, to highlight the philosopher-poet’s aesthetic and philosophical excellence. The sixth essay deals with some poems of Vivekananda to view the reformer-poet’s fine correspondence between poetry and philosophy. The seventh essay reflects on Sarojini Naidu’s ‘Village Song’, ‘My Soul’s Prayer’, ‘Songs of Radha: The Quest’, ‘In Salutation to the Eternal’, and ‘Peace’ in terms of certain Vedantic and Upanishadic influences on her.
The next essay deals with Ezekiel’s ‘Island’, ‘The Night of the Scorpion’, ‘Philosophy’, and ‘The Poet, Lover, Bird Watcher’. It is not as well written as the previous essays on Tagore. The ninth essay, again, as weak as the essay on Ezekiel, seeks to present Jayanta Mahapatra as a poet of competent craft. The last essay, a sort of judgmental summing up, is a brief study of Ezekiel, P. Lal, Kamala Das, and A.K. Ramanujan a la T.S. Eliot’s sense of tradition and sensibility. Here Prasad does not sound as enthusiastic and positive as in the second essay.
The prefatory note, though not as seriously written as some of the essays in the book, does promise a rewarding experience to readers, and I am glad Amar Nath Prasad has succeeded in presenting a useful background information to researchers and students interested in Indian English poetry. The select reading list at the end of the book should be helpful to everyone. The publisher deserves kudos for producing a nicely gotup and attractively printed book for a very moderate price.
R K Singh