But as Dr. Iyengar goes on to observe, it is difficult to say when exactly the era of new poetry began either in India or in England, for even in English literature Hopkins, the Victorian has been hailed as one of the ‘modernists’, on a par with Eliot and Pound. In a similar way the later Tagore, like the later Yeats was as modern as the newest of the new poets. New poetry may however, be said to have begun in Indian English literature, with those writers who were hailed as the “Progressives” and the “Proletarians” and produced a literature of protest disillusioned with romantic idealism and turning more satirical, cynical and ironic.
One of the important consequences of this was that they began writing in a new style too. The earliest among these new poets were Shahid Suhrawardy and Manjeri S. Iswaran. Suhrawardy’s Essays in Verse published in 1937 has a section entitled “An Old Man’s Songs” which is said to be in the Prufrockian manner in sentiment and rhythm.
These songs are a wistful looking back on the past sadly reflecting on the process of growing old and on the irreversible nature of the movement of time. In this long poem “The Indian Tragedy” Suhrawardy “stirs the backyard gutter of urban vulgarity and bathos and pathetic futility, and imitates the modernist techniques of allusiveness, clowning, multi-linguism and facetiousness to communicate his sense of nausea and disgust” Almost similar trends are noticed in the poetry of Manjeri Iswaran though his first book of poems Saffron and Gold (1932) came up for a violent and unsympathetic attack. They were generally the products of melancholy, frustration and bitterness, and ‘Modernist’ in their sentiment and articulation as may be seen in the following lines:
Let us not tarry, you and I,
to touch and kindly feelings when they are dead;
where men and women measure their years in yawns
clothed in cobwebs of boredom spun of their
bloated flesh and sins,
carrying dead races, dead nations, dead worlds
and the carcasses of dead constellations in their breasts
Wife I why this desperate struggle to keep up a synthetic youth
having passed the milestone of mellow menopause?
Similarly, P.R. Kaikini whose, earlier works like Rower Offerings (1934) show the influence of Tagore, began writing in a different way after 1937. “Instead of singing of joy and dynamic life he began to scream about ‘blood and war’ and rhythmic prose gave place to free verse”. (Dr. K.R.S. Iyengar) Kaikini’s later poems were the recordations of his response to the great tides of change which swept India as well as the world during the era of the Nazist and the militarists.