The eighties and the nineties saw a spurt of literature and creative writing, in Northeast India including that of writing in English. Those were days of emergent crisis in this region: violence, demands for seceding, frequent calls for shut downs and of course the historic Assam movement. In such situation creative writing flourished. The common man was caught in vicious nets of militarism and militancy. Poetry suddenly sprang among local writers and those of English.
Though violence is considered to be a popular leitmotif of such poets and writers, what is critically significant is their fantasy of the past and alignments with stories, myths and legends. This was a sure creative way of connecting past and present and look towards a definable or even, indefinable ‘ peace’. At the same time many of the poets in Assamese, Manipuri and Khasi were publishing translated versions into English in classy journals such as Chandrabhaga and Kavya Bharati.
Our literary editor ANANYA S GUHA draws out a list of some of the best poets of the region. The poets listed here, are not in any particular order, but do represent some of the greats of Northeast Indian poets writing even today.
Nilmoni Phukan (Assamese): He is the doyen of contemporary Assamese poetry. A former college teacher Nilmoni Phukan’s poems are known for their celebration of life and historical moorings. The symbolism is never arcane. Lyricism is his forte.
(Assamese): The poetry of Harekrishna Deka is poetry at once soulful, wistful and nostalgic, even though not oblivious of present happenings. There is a charade of both impossibilities and possibilities in his powerful poetry. He explores the past and looks at the present with uncanny eyes.
Nilim Kumar (Assamese): Nilim Kumar explores the world of relationships and love. At once a sensuous poet, the immediacy in his poetry comes alive through colour, texture, form and shape. Rustic life emerges in his poetry powerfully.
(Manipur): The poet in him rebels, but also mellows down to the world of softness and love. He evinces interest in history, people and place. Not averse to some kind of ‘protest’ in his poetry, Ibopishak weaves irony, satire and humour with a rare creative intelligence.
(English, Arunachal Pradesh) The bureaucrat turned writer writes poetry with felicity, rakes up memories of peoples, races, tribes and nature. Obsessed with natural habitats, her poetry infuses feelings and spontaneity.
(English, Nagaland): Temsula Ao a former Professor goes into Ao myths and legends, the primal man, and her historical antecedents. In a rock stone she finds carvings of pre-historic man, in the annals of the vastness of history and culture. She celebrates the art of tribal living, digging out immortal remains of cultural roots.
(Kokborok, Tripura): Chandrakanta Murasingh has introduced novelty in Kokborok poetry by creating myths and legends, romantic love among kings and people. He takes the clock back to a mythic past, speaks also of the common man in his tribal world of day to day living.
Robin S Ngangom
(English, Meghalaya): Robin S Ngangom, a University teacher has made Meghalaya his home, living there for over forty years. But his original home Manipur also find echo in these hills where he presently lives. Recycling his love for nature and infusing this with love for land, Robin’s poetry shuttles between landscapes of Meghalaya and Manipur in a cinematic manner. He is truly the prima donna of English poetry in India and Northeast India.
Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih
(English & Khasi, Meghalaya) Kynpham’s poems are at once exotic and mythic. They are flexible in terms of range, theme and form, but finds in love the exact prophylactic of the soul.
Desmond Leslie Kharmawphlang
(English & Khasi, Meghalaya): Desmond Karmawphlang also a Professor, like Kynpham breathes music into poetry. He is the poet of folk, myths, and stories. Lyricism in his poetry gives a shaking effect to the reader.