HOW DOES POETRY ENGAGE with the world without referring overtly to something larger than the poem itself, such as an allegory of the nation or the hope of a coming insurrection? The work of three contemporary Hindi poets—Kedarnath Singh, Vinod Kumar Shukla and Mangalesh Dabral—offers a possible answer to that question. The concerns of their poetry might seem limited, yet these poets have, through their intense engagement with language, shown how poetry’s formal and stylistic concerns can renew one’s connection with the world. The microscopic focus of their poems does not sunder the ties between the poem and the world but forges it in rather new and original ways.
Singh, Shukla and Dabral all started writing around the 1960s, when the Pragativaad, or progressive movement,which emphasised the social content of poetry, had already given way to Nayi Kavita,or New Poetry, which sought to pay attention to the poetic form. Pragativaad and Nayi Kavita represented two strains of thought about how poetry ought to be written, and they influenced the poetic choices that all succeeding Hindi poets have made since.
Kedarnath Singh, published in the last of the three pioneering anthologies of Nayi Kavita edited by Agyeya, a pre-eminent Hindi poet and novelist of the time, was, unlike Vinod Kumar Shukla and Mangalesh Dabral, involved with the movement formally before he parted ways with it.