5 Amazing Indian Poets You Should Read, like Now
Poetry is an expression of experience, so I noted very recently. When we write, it is borne from that experience, be it emotional or observational, or even inspired by the work of another poet. I love reading. One of the blessings of this life has been that love for reading that has been inculcated in me since childhood. One of my earliest reading memories is opening the new poetry textbook in school and reading the poem Leisure by W H Davies. I had only taken baby steps into the world of poetry then, writing small verses and being pushed to do better by my school co-ordinator, so this poem inspired me to write further. From that, to declaiming Mark Antony’s speech in front of my schoolmates, poetry has been ever present in my life.
Today on World Poetry Day here I list 5 poets I have absolutely loved reading. Start reading one of them TODAY…
Of all the Indian poets I’ve read, I feel the best is Gulzar saab. There’s something surreal about his poems that just touch a chord whenever I read. On my little shelf, the poetry books are a handful. From that handful, four are Gulzar saab’s. There is an undertone of hope throughout his work, if not prominent. To express a lot in little, that is the power of poetry, and in his works, this is easily seen. Of all the verses in all the books, the one that moved me most was a couplet from his book Pluto Poems. The couplet says…
If it bleeds, it is but a wound
Otherwise, every hurt is a poem
It confirms my belief that poetry is indeed an expression of experience, and a way to heal. Poetry and writing, for me, have been therapeutic. It is but a way to put every hurt into verse. In his books, the original verse is shared too, along with the English translation. I love reading that too, for the beauty of any piece of writing is most seen in the original language.
Vikram Seth is probably more known for his novels – A Suitable Boy, The Golden Gate and An Equal Music. But I was pleasantly surprised to find a book of his poetry in my library. It was titled, Beastly Tales from Here and There. The book is simple, enchanting, and it took me back to my childhood, since in its essence, it was a retelling of some animal fables in verse. I love to rhyme when I write poetry, and this book left me amazed at how easily Vikram Seth used rhyme in these tales. One of his verses I came across recently reads…
All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above –
Know that you aren’t alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.
Reading this beautiful verse, I can’t help but imagine those who leave the ones they love for protecting our country. It’s not possible to imagine their plight, but this poem would give them some happiness. It could even be those who have to stay at work late, unable to make important meetings or occasions because of that. How a poem is remembered is up to the reader in the end, isn’t it?
There are some poets who become favorites by a few poems read on the web. I don’t have a book of her poems yet, but I hope to, someday soon. My friends speak highly of this wonderful poetess, and it is that way that I happened to search for her poems online, and one in particular made me happy. The verse, titled Words, expressed quite well, the way words come to her, and I could relate to that way. It goes…
All round me are words, and words and words,
They grow on me like leaves, they never
Seem to stop their slow growing
From within… But I tell my self, words
Are a nuisance, beware of them, they
Can be so many things, a
Chasm where running feet must pause, to
Look, a sea with paralyzing waves,
A blast of burning air or,
A knife most willing to cut your best
Friend’s throat… Words are a nuisance, but.
They grow on me like leaves on a tree,
They never seem to stop their coming,
From a silence, somewhere deep within…
The sheer idea of words growing like leaves from a silence deep within was enchanting. Often I have spent the night, sleepless, listening to the silence around me as I beseeched the words to come, the insomnia that could only be cured by writing. Another verse I admired from her was one titled Love. It’s a very short, very direct verse that expresses what it needs to, nothing more, and nothing less.
There would be many Indian bookworms who love the works of this writer, but the first memory when we hear the name Ruskin Bond would mostly be The Room on the Roof. When I saw the book Ruskin Bond’s Book of Verse, I immediately picked it up, and by far it has been one of my best investments, book wise. Poetry can be as simple and direct as the heart that writes it, thinks it and beats its words. This is one thing that this book helped me understand.
One poem which helped me realize the beauty the book would hold was on the back cover of the book itself. It went…
This leaf, so complete in itself,
Is only part of a tree.
And this tree, so complete in itself,
Is only part of the mountain.
And the mountain runs down to the sea.
And the sea, so complete in itself,
Rests like a raindrop
On the hands of God.
It showed me how nothing really stands alone, that in the cycle of life, everything is co-dependent and part of a larger picture. The best was imagining the sea as a raindrop. Brilliant.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by
narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening
thought and action—
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
When it comes to poetry in India, one name that is a must, which comes to mind immediately, has to be Rabindranath Tagore. I loved reading his book Gitanjali (Song Offerings), which had some inspiring poetry, one of which I shared above. It is one of his most known poems and it feels relevant even today. What Tagore dreams of is a utopia, and one that I hope the country strives for now too.
These are poets I love to read, and poets will get added to this list as I read more books of poetry. India has many official languages, and each language has its own set of amazing poets. I hope to read some from Hindi, Kannada and Malayalam too, so this list, in the future, has some diversity too.
As for now, let’s celebrate poetry today. I certainly will be.