Just got The Collected Poems of Arun Kolatkar in English, published by Bloodaxe Books (UK), and what a treasure chest of poetry it is! I love Kolatkar’s poems just as much as I love Neruda’s and Lorca’s. Actually even more, because I can relate to their Indianness. His poems are like arrows that hit the heart straight. There is reverence for the mundane, humor and irony of how the lives of man, animal and landscape collide, and irony in how things come together and fall apart. Kolatkar is the real deal.
Can there ever be poets like him and his Clearinghouse gang in our generation? Now that I’ve thrown myself back in the poetry ring, I’ve come to realize how fickle the business of poetry has become, with more poets focused on image and publicity, rather than the power of their words and the inspiration that propelled the whole process. Kolatkar, Chitre, and other poets of that generation knew that their words, once put down on paper, became avatars of their own and they respected that. Call me an idealist, but I long for those endless cups of chai, wrinkled manuscript in hand, type of meetings with poets and writers, where the laptop and cellphone are absent and our minds are focused on the craft and its numinousity (this should be a real word, an extension of numinous).
P.S. If nothing else, one should read Kolatkar’s poem BREAKFAST TIME at KALA GHODA (p. 125), to see how beautifully this maestro of poetry conducts his orchestra of words. The poem in itself is an opera of Indian street life. How I wish I could have met him.