Reimagining Bombay: Postcolonial Poetry and Urban Space
Bird, Emma Jade
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis considers the ways in which poets writing in English in Bombay have represented the city and negotiated its particular challenges, focusing in particular on poets starting to publish during the 1950s and 1960s. Examining in detail work by poets whom Bruce King refers to as constituting a “Bombay circle”, this project examines how Nissim Ezekiel, Adil Jussawalla, Gieve Patel and Arun Kolatkar in particular have represented the modernity of the city (Modern Indian Poetry in English 45). Despite Bombay’s significance in postcolonial studies, this highly mediated city has been disassociated from its material histories by recent critical and imaginative portrayals. The over-determination of Bombay is countered and nuanced, this thesis suggests, by examining the ways in which poets have represented the city. Evaluating Bombay poetry closely, and considering the relationship between poetic form and language and the articulation of space, this project asks how poetry written in the city contributes to, intervenes in or disarticulates dominant readings of Bombay. The material contexts in which poetry was written and circulated provide further significant and under-researched sites of engagement with this postcolonial city. This thesis thus turns to a period in the city’s cultural and literary history that has not been extensively documented: to the emergence of its poetry scene from the 1950s onwards. This project combines close, poetic analyses with archival research, examining Bombay’s little magazines and small press publishers, and tracing the various local and international affiliations evidenced in this body of work. In doing so, its aim is to historicize and contextualize the city and the work of its poets, enriching a critical and materialist understanding of this paradigmatic city.