Vinay Dharwadker

The Indian subcontinent's poetry in English was the first body of verse composed in a European language by writers of non-European origin to enter print outside the Western hemisphere. Between the second quarter of the nineteenth century and the middle of the twentieth, it emerged as a relatively small but cohesive order of works modelled mostly on Romantic and post-Romantic British poetry in closed forms, much like the English poetry of the colonial period produced in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and several parts of the Caribbean and Africa. Starting with the partition and decolonization of the subcontinent in 1947-8, however, the region's poetry in English - like its poetry in Urdu, Bengali, Punjabi and Sindhi, but on a larger scale - split up into distinct national canons. Throughout the post-Independence decades these new bodies of writing in English have diverged steadily from each other, as also from their counterparts in Britain, the British Commonwealth, and other Anglophone and Anglicized regions around the globe. Viewed as a whole at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the map of subcontinental poetry in English therefore looks larger, more crowded, and more diverse than its map at any time in the first one hundred and fifty years of its existence.

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