Rarely will the words Indian poetry evoke images of youth and vitality? The automatic connection is the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore or Sarojini Naidu. It’s the poetry you read in school and remember because it was one of two works by an Indian in your literature syllabus.
Thankfully, the following poets are aiming to change that,
Devashish Makhija – One of a very known poets
This acclaimed filmmaker, graphic artist, and novelist master of pretty much every form of self-expression, with poetry being no exception. His poems are explosive and filled with questions. Questions for you to ask yourself, your friends and your community. His work makes you ponder the value of life, the intent behind your actions and the lives of the people all around you.
Standout works include – There are no poems and If I kill myself today.
Arundhathi Subramaniam is an acclaimed writer, winning many awards, including the Kushwant Singh Poetry Award and the Sahitya Akademi Award. The author writes mostly about spirituality with a critical and artistic view. Her book on the mystic – Sadhguru was highly praised for its fresh and honest take.
Her poetry follows this theme with works about god and scripture written with a modern understanding of the controversial themes. Works you should check out include – Leapfrog and Finding Dad.
Chattarji is a novelist, translator and poet with 14 published books to her name, with five of them being poetry titles. Her poetry has appeared in several national and international journals. In fact, her first poetry collection – sight might strike you blind, was first published by the renowned Sahitya Akademi and has since been reprinted.
Her work is magnificent, albeit slightly tough to read for those unaccustomed to poetry. Check out any of her poetry books; they’re perfect for an afternoon in with a warm beverage.
Katyal has published three books of poems, and his latest – How many countries do the Indus cross, won the Editor’s Choice Award from The Great Indian Poetry Collective. In 2016 he was also a University of Iowa International writing fellow. He currently teaches at the Ambedkar University in Delhi and is a proud queer activist.
Katyal also helped edit a South Asian Queer poetry anthology in 2020 that garnered a lot of press.
Anand Thakore is a Hindustani classical vocalist that also moonlights as an incredible poet. With works like Dead, at your mother’s funeral, and seven deaths and four scrolls, Thakore is an evocative poet. Each set of verses fills you with emotion and makes you want to keep reading.
Thakore also founded Harbour Line, which is a publishing collective.
With only a couple of works out in the publishing world, Sengupta is a comparatively fresh face. But that doesn’t diminish her talent. Her writing is resplendent and emotional; it’s no wonder her work is gaining traction.
For a glimpse at her work, visit her website – aninditasengupta.com where she has all her published poetry available for reading.
A journalist by trade and a poet from every other aspect, Surendran is an internationally acclaimed wordsmith. Many publications have anthologised his work, and he has even received a Reuters International Fellowship at Oxford, among many others. He writes about love, death and loneliness, three universally felt emotions – so his poetry is relatable and sometimes painful.
Works like Gemini II or Portraits of the space we occupy are especially heart wrenching and worthy reads for anyone who feels like wallowing.
A champion of women’s rights, Menka is a revolutionary poet. She played a key role in founding the Bombay based Poetry Circle and anthologising a series of partition-based poems. She has also worked as a journalist and an author.
Notable works include – Implosion, Stet and Safe House.
A co-founder of The Great Indian Poetry Collective: Ellen is an exemplary poet in her own right. Her first book, Histories of a future perfect, was published to much acclaim. And she hasn’t stopped since then.
She currently teaches creative writing at Hunter College.
Best known for his anthology on gay writing – Yaarana, Hoshang is a prominent gay Indian poet. In fact, he is the first openly gay modern Indian poet. His work pushes the boundaries of the socially acceptable and focuses on gay liberation. He recently retired from the University of Hyderabad, where he taught for 26 years.
Prominent works of his include, The Lotophagi and Two explanatory poems about mother/father archetypes.