Sachin Ketkar on how little magazines and globalisation contributed to the evolution of Marathi poetry at the turn of the millennium.

The first decade of the 21st century in Marathi poetry opened with poets who had come into their own in the 1990s with their early collections. Avant garde Marathi poetry during the 1990s had undergone a spectacular shift in sensibility, linguistic orientation, styles, thematic concerns and techniques. This shift is correlated with the social, economic and cultural processes of globalisation and liberalisation unleashed upon Indian society at the time. The diversity of social and cultural locations and the anguished encounter with complex processes of globalisation have shaped the poetics, politics and the praxis of the emergent poetry, which has been termed navvadottar or post nineties’ poetry.

New little magazines and globalisation

Navvadottar poetry emerged with the resurgence of the ‘new little magazine’ movement which sought to inherit the legacy of the little magazine movements of the sixties and seventies on the one hand, and to go beyond that legacy by reinventing the language of poetry  to make it contemporary and experimental on the other. The new little magazines like Shabdavedh (editors Ramesh Ingle Utradkar and D.G. Kale, Buldana), Abhidha (editor Hemant Divate, Mumbai)later renamed Abhidhanantar, and Saushthav (editor Shridhar Tilve, Mumbai), provided platforms to an entire generation of emergent voices like Saleel Wagh (b.1967), Mangesh Kale (b.1966), Sanjeev Khandekar (b.1958), Manya Joshi (b.1972), Hemant Divate (b.1967), Shridhar Tilve (b.1964), Sachin Ketkar (b.1972), among many others. Radical Dalit and feminist poets like Bhujang Meshram (1959-2007), Arun Kale (1954-2008), Malika Amarsheikh (b.1957), Pradnya Pawar (b.1966) and Kavita Mahajan (b.1967) continued to write provocative poetry throughout this period. Live Update: An Anthology of Recent Marathi Poetry (edited and translated by Sachin Ketkar, publisher: Poetrywala, 2005) presents English translations of this new poetry. Websites like (Issue 3, Jul-Sept 2005) and (July 2005) provide some of this poetry online.

Numerous senior poets of the earlier generation like Dilip Chitre, Arun Kolatkar, Namdeo Dhasal, Vilas Sarang and Vasant Abaji Dahake brought out their significant collections in the first decade of this century. Other newer little magazines like Navakshar Darshan, Aivaji, Khel, Atirikta and Va emerged in this decade. These new little magazines gave regular attention to the emergent literary and cultural issues. They sought to situate themselves historically in terms of the traditions of little magazines and the little magazine writers of the 1960s and this evolving cultural scene. These attempts can be seen in the special issues they brought out in the mid-1990s. For instance, Abhidha published Chauthi Navta (Fourth Modernism) Special Issue and Dilip Chitre Special Issue. Similarly, in 1999, Shabdavedh brought out a special issue of post nineties’ Marathi poetry. Abhidhanantar published a 21st Century Marathi poetry special issue in 2001 and another contemporary Marathi poetry special issue in 2005. These new little magazines also gave rise to fresh voices in poetry criticism like Vishram Gupte, Shridhar Tilve, Praveen Bandekar, Saleel Wagh, Sachin Ketkar, Eknath Pagar, Avinash Sapre and Mahendra Bhavre. These voices have contributed significantly to the development of recent Marathi poetry and poetry criticism.

Multiple crises and discontents

Critics have largely read this emergent poetry in the context of globalisation and its discontents. As a critic, I have attempted to read it closely so as to uncover the multiple types of crises that form the overlapping contexts of contemporary Marathi poetry. Apart from the context of the ‘crisis of globalisation’, I have sought to theorise it in the context of the ‘poetic crisis’ resulting from what Harold Bloom has called ‘the anxiety of influence’ of preceding avant garde poets like Arun Kolatkar (1932-2004), Dilip Chitre (1938-2009) and Namdeo Dhasal (1949-2015), and in the context of a ‘spiritual crisis’ which shows up as an indirect resonance of the millennial archetypes of apocalypse, and ‘the end of the world’, among many poets of this period. I have also attempted to read this poetry as a realisation of the dynamic, complex and heterogeneous cultural space or what Yuri Lotman terms ‘semiosphere’ to which it belongs and which is transformed by the irreversible processes of globalisation.  Navvadotar poetry may also be conceptualised as embodying what Bakhtin calls ‘the chronotope’ of the globalised world. 

The tradition of the Navaddotar poetry is carried forward by the cluster of newly emergent poets of 21st century.   The newly relaunched Abhidhanantar’s October 2014 issue highlights Facebook Ani Kavita or Facebook and Poetry, providing a platform to yet another crop of new voices like Ajeet Abhang, Omkar Kulkarni, Pranav Sakhdev, Satyapal Singh Rajput, among many others. In many ways, these new voices continue the legacy of the poetry of the nineties and also seek to go beyond this legacy by exploring new dimensions of expression and experience.

Sachin Ketkar books include ‘Skin, Spam and Other Fake Encounters: Selected Marathi Poems in translation’, ‘(Trans) Migrating Words: Refractions on Indian Translation Studies’, and ‘Live Update: An Anthology of Recent Marathi Poetry’ as editor and translator. His Marathi poetry collections are ‘Jarasandhachya Blogvarche Kahi Ansh’ and ‘Bhintishivaicya Khidkitun Dokavtana’. .
Sachin Ketkar, 2015