Arun Kolatkar Poems

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Arun Kolatkar
Arun Balkrishna Kolatkar (1932–2004) is one of the most important and influential poets in the post Independence Indian poetry. He was born on 1 November 1932 at Kolhapur, Maharastra. He had his education as a fine artist from Sir J. J. School of Art and he worked as an art director and graphic designer in many reputed advertising agencies like Lintas. He wrote in Marathi and English. His Marathi poetry collections include: Arun Kolatkarcha Kavita (1977) Chirimiri (2004) Bhijki Vahi (2004) Droan (2004) His first collection of English poems was Jejuri named after the religious site in Maharashtra (1976) and winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1977. His other collections of English poetry are Kala Ghoda Poems and Sarpasatra (2004). He won the Kusumagraj Puraskar given by the Marathwada Sahitya Parishad in 1991 and Bahinabai Puraskar given by Bahinabai Prathistan in 1995. He has also won the prestigious CAG award given in the field of advertising for six times and consequently was admitted to the CAG Hall of Fame. His poetry is something of a trendsetter in both the languages. In Marathi, his poetry is the quintessence of the modernist as manifested in the 'little magazine movement' in the 1950s and 60s. His early Marathi poetry was radically experimental and it displayed the influences of the European avant-garde poetry like surrealism, expressionism and Beat generation poetry. These poems are oblique, whimsical and at the same time dark, sinister, and exceedingly funny. Some of these characteristics can be seen in Jejuri and Kala Ghoda Poems in English, but his early Marathi poems are far more radical, dark and humorous then his English poems. His early Marathi poetry is far more audacious and takes great amounts of liberties with the language of poetry. However, in his later Marathi poetry, the poetic language is more accessible and less radical compared to earlier works. His later works Chirimiri, Bhijki Vahi and Droan are less introverted and less nightmarish. They show a greater social awareness and his satire become more direct. Sarpa Satra is an 'English version' of a poem by similar name in Bhijki Vahi. It is a typical Kolatkar narrative poem like Droan, mixing myth, allegory, and contemporary history. Although Kolatkar was never famous as a social commentator, his narrative poems tend to just that. Many poems in Bhijki Vahi contain plenty of comments on the contemporary history. However, these are not politicians' comments but a poet's, and hence he avoids the typical Dalit-Leftist-Feminist rhetoric. What is significant here is the shift in the poet’s attitude and technique. While Jejuri was about the agonized relationship of a modern sensitive individual with the indigenous culture, the Kala Ghoda poems are about the dark underside of Mumbai’s underbelly. The bewilderingly heterogeneous megapolis is envisioned in various oblique and whimsical perspectives of an underdog. Like Jejuri, Kala Ghoda is also 'a place poem' exploring the myth, history, geography, and ethos of the place in a typical Kolatkaresqe style. While Jejuri, a very popular place for pilgrimage to a pastoral god, could never become Kolatkar’s home, Kala Ghoda is about exploring the baffling complexities of the great metropolis. While Jejuri can be considered as an example of searching for a belonging, which happens to be the major fixation of the previous generation of Indian poets in English, Kala Ghoda poems do not betray any anxieties and agonies of 'belonging'. With Kala Ghoda Poems, Indian poetry in English seems to have grown up, shedding adolescent `identity crises’ and goose pimples. The remarkable maturity of poetic vision embodied in the Kala Ghoda Poems makes it something of a milestone in Indian poetry in English.

the butterfly
There is no story behind it.
It is split like a second.
It hinges around itself.
... [read poem]
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