Linguistic Perspectives and Existential Anxiety in Arun Kolatkar’s Poems This paper focuses on the linguistic perspective and existential anxiety in Arun Kolatkar’s poems. Arun Kolatkar is not a familiar name for many of us, in fact until he was included in the undergraduate syllabus of English Honours by West Bengal State University two years ago he was not known to us. Arun Balkrishna Kolatkar (1932 –2004) was a poet from Maharashtra, wrote in both Marathi and English. Radically experimental in nature, his poems are oblique, whimsical, mysterious, baffling and at the same time dark, sinister, and sarcastic and funny. His poetry represents the quintessence of modernism and left profound influence modern Marathi poets. Despite his inspiring and profound creativity it is ironical that his greatness has not been adequately acknowledged or recognized even after 7 years of his death. I would like to begin by quoting from one of Kolatkar’s Marathi poems. main bhAbhiiko bola
kya bhAisAbke dyuTipe main a jAu?
bhaRak gayi SAli
rahmAn bolA goli chalAungA
mai bolA ek raNDike wAste?
He translated the poem into English himself as “Three cups of Tea” allow me beautiful
I said to my sister in law
to step in my brother's booties
you had it coming said rehman
a gun in his hand
shoot me punk
kill your brother i said
for a bloody cunt
(Three cups of Tea) Although a major influence on Marathi poetry, he is primarily known for his first book of English poetry, Jejuri (1976), a sequence of 31 poems about a visit to the temple of Khandoba at Jejuri, a small town in western Maharashtra. A visual artist and designer by profession Kolatkar went on to win the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1977, while his Marathi verse collection Bhijki Vahi won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2004-2005. He claimed that he was inspired by the Beat generation poetry as well as by Eliot, Pound, Dylan Thomas and Baudelaire. His early Marathi poems are radical, dark and humorous and they are far more audacious and takes greater liberties with language unlike his later works where his poetic language becomes more accessible and less radical compared to his 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 becomes more direct. Kolatkar’s poetry baffles us, his language shocks us. He deliberately adopts a tone of violence and aggression to shock and shake his readers out of their complacence. His early poetry shows his love for parody, postures and experimentations with language. Aridity and ugliness decay and neglect, perversion and fossilization are all that he sees everywhere. His language also reflects this picture of decadence. His poems include imageries like ‘lime stone loins’, ‘cactus fangs’ for he shared a fascination for the ugly and the grotesque. A bilingual poet who wrote profusely in both Marathi and English; Kolatkar's techniques, like many British poets, brings out a blending of casual and terse elements with grim and serious tone: ‘I killed my mother/ for her skin./ I must say/ it didn't take much/ to make this pouch/ I keep turmeric in.’ In Marathi, his oeuvre is shaped by a combination of epic, devotional, and weird science fiction and passionate impulses. In English, Kolatkar's impetus and ambition are somewhat different: it is to create a vernacular with which to express, with a febrile amusement, a sort of urbane wonder at the unfinished, the provisional, the random, the shabby, the not-always-respectable but arresting ruptures in our moments of recreation, work, and, as in Jejuri, even pilgrimage. The tone deepens, and darkens, in Kolatkar's later poetry. His later works Sarpa Satra and Kala Ghoda make one feel as if Jejuri, was only a first step— though a firm and confident one — towards the questioning. With...
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