Friday, 31 August 2012

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S. Eliot – Analysis

The title deceives one into thinking the poem to be romantic when actually it is anti-romantic and can be termed as a ‘mock love poem’. It depicts modern man’s feeling of frustration, anguish, despair and alienation. Just as the epigraph details Count Grido’s (a character from Dante’s Inferno) experience in hell; a man trapped on earth is in a kind of living hell and unable to relate to where he lives.

“LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky”  

The poem is camouflaged at the onset to appear to be a love poem but then the tone changes and a sense of pressure is felt. People are etherized and unconscious to life, streets are deserted and restaurants unaesthetic while streets unending and leading to no definite destination.
The man is unable to enter a room full of women seen as the other quite like a cat that is unable to enter a house or like the mist that circles the house and then is content to settle around it. ‘Time’ and its passage is a repeated motif akin to Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress”.   

“There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,”

In the last line of the quote we see objective correlation where objects are used to describe the speaker’s emotions. There is a sense of inability predominant. The speaker wants to go somewhere but once he reaches the house and is infact at the threshold of the room he is held back by awkwardness. He cannot enter, he feels inadequate and ill at ease. There is an inability to penetrate both sexually and also intellectually. Just as the cat that is unable to enter the house, Prufrock is indecisive and unable to move with the times.
“And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare? and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair –”

Modern man is self-conscious. Prufrock cannot go forward and nor can he turn back, he is frozen. He is conscious of the toll time has taken on him physically and intellectually. He cannot keep up with the woman on their talk of ‘Michelangelo’ while his physical limitations like his thinning hair, add to his feeling of inferiority.
“For I have known then all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall”

There is isolation; a life lived alone without any human connection. A man who wants to enter a room but is too afraid to do so as he has spent too much time on his own. He has spent his life alone at his table in a way letting each epoch of his life be a lump o coffee dropped into a cup from a teaspoon. To speak to others is as acutely uncomfortable as being pinned on the wall like an insect being studied. He perceives himself to be a boring middle-aged man whose conversation no one can take any pleasure in for he cannot take any pleasure even in himself.

“But though I have wept, fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet – and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,”

Prufrock has tried to reverse the ravages of time that he is so conscious of; he keeps coming back to his baldness with embarrassed consciousness. He no longer sees any germinating spark within himself as he has spent his all. There no longer is any passion left in him even though he wants to evoke it. And due to this feeling of inadequacy he is afraid.

“And in short, I was afraid
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,”

Instead of taking a plunge he like Hamlet sits debating the matter in his mind even as the precious minutes slip by and the chance passes him by,

“To squeeze the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,”

One gets a sense that Prufrock is exaggerating the crisis. It surely cannot be as crucial or difficult as he makes it seem. He makes a mountain of a molehill. Language falls apart, he is unable to express himself clearly and so he keeps repeating: That is not it at all/ That is not what I meant at all.
“I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

In vain effort to make himself seem more with the times he takes to fashion and dresses himself younger which has the reverse effect. He tries to appear serious and staid and ends up a walking joke. Despite all his efforts the mermaids shall not sing to him as he doesn’t even see them as part of the same species. He is a man who has wandered to streets that are endless and he is unable to find a space he can call his own in a world that bewilders him more by the day. Even though he embraces the superficial aspects like fashions in dress, he is unable to penetrate to the root of the matter and reconnect himself to life.

The Structural Study of Myth – Claude Levi-Strauss – An Overview

Myths are unpredictable and contingent due to the uncertain circumstances surrounding their origin but yet they seem to share some commonalities. The interpretation of myths is still widely contested for some feel myths merely base themselves on common human traits or shared experience while others feel myths are a way of explaining phenomena that the ancients had no explanation for. 

What Strauss feels is that anthropologist and psychoanalysts have missed the point by focusing so much on the sociological and psychological field of study for you can’t simplify the existence of an evil grandmother by merely stating that the society had many such evil grandmothers and that mythology thus, reflects the social structure and social relations.
The contradictory aspects of myths:

·         In a myth anything can happen, you cannot predict the outcome or sequence of events logically
·         There also is a lack of continuity as any given number of characteristics can be attributed to a character
·         Relations between characters can spring up at short notice and so there is nothing impossible in a myth

Despite this arbitrariness in a myth when we study the myths around the world we find there exists some similarity.
The archetype
When we were looking at Structural Linguistics we learnt about how people at first believed that the sound and concept had some link. The name existed due to some suggestions it gave regarding the nature of the thing it named was their premise. However, the same sounds were attributed to completely different meanings in other languages and so this falls flat making the relationship between signifier and signified arbitrary.

In the same way, Jung held a belief that a given mythical pattern or archetype had a certain meaning. This would be making a myth a language when actually it is a kind of language and the arbitrary nature of sign can best explain it.
Myth as a language

When we look at the study of language you can analyse it on the basis of things that share a similarity and yet are different. For example, langue is the structural and timeless aspect of language. This can be linked to the basic outline of a myth (like all creation myths deal with how the world was born). And parole is the statistical aspect that deals with now reversible time and so can be the various instances or shapes of the same myth (creation myths are all different though they explain the same thing).
Thus, myth is a kind of language that can be distinguished from other linguistic signs on the basis of its ability to hold both reversible and non-reversible time. The basic meaning resides in the structure of the myth and not in its expression (speech).

This is why the myth is said to have a third referent as it explains the past, present and future. And the originality of myth over other linguistic phenomena is seen in its triumph over translation, the formula traduttore, tradittore (The translator is traitor) does not apply.
A summation of the characteristics of a myth

Despite our ignorance of the language or the culture from where the myth stems we will yet perceive it to be a myth and so its substance is not in its style or syntax but in the story that it tells. Thus, myth is a language that functions above linguistic grounds as the meaning of a myth does not diminish even with style or syntactical changes.

·         If mythology really has some meaning you cannot find it in an isolated element in the myth. It exists in the combination of all those elements

·         Though one can say myth is a language in truth it is only a part of it as the language of a myth has specific properties like dealing with both reversible and non-reversible time

·         These language based properties of myth are above ordinary linguistic levels as they are more complex

·         Therefore, myth like language, is made up of constituent units

·         These constituent units are much like those present in language like phonemes, morphemes and sememes but they differ to each other just like those in language do.

·         Since these mythemes are more complex than those prevalent in language we can distinguish them as gross constituent units


Myth is different from normal types of speech and so a myth cannot be confused with other types of speech. So, in order to find the mythemes of myths one has to look at them on the sentence level. To do so, one should analyse each myth individually and break down the story into the shortest possible sentences (quite akin to Todorov’s grammatical diagram of plot) and write each down on an index card numbering them in chronological order as per the story.
Each card thus, has a certain function in the story at a given point of time and is linked to a particular subject in the story. Each gross constituent unit has a relation. There are two problems however, the mythemes looked at it this way possess relations just like grammatical units do and furthermore, since we are dealing with the narrative element of the myth we are treading in the area of nonreversible time. Mythological time is both reversible as well as nonreversible and so one must elaborate these relations by stating:

“The true constituent units of a myth are not the isolated relations but bundles of such relations, and it is only as bundles that these relations can be put to use and combined so as to produce meaning.”
The relations of each bundle can be diachronic placed i.e. much like Todorov’s method we can place them in the : X Violates the law – Y will Punish X – X wants to escape; sequence where we see the axis of simultaneities as in Saussure. This will be the horizontal axis of study. But then once we have such a grouping of relations we see the two-dimensional time referent emerging. If we were to place them in a chronological sequence:

(1)    X violates the law

(2)    Y will punish X

(3)    X wants to escape

We find a vertical successive sequence that is synchronic in nature and so there is an interplay of both the diachronic and synchronic which means a mingling of the langue and parole elements. It is as if a phoneme is made up of all the variants it consists of.
The Oedipus Myth in this context

Overrating Blood Relations

Underrating Blood Relations

Denying Autochthonous Origins

Accepting Autochthonous Origins

Cadmos seeks his sister Europa, ravished by Zeus






Cadmos kills the dragon



The Spartoi kill one another






Labdacos (Laois’ Father) = Lame (?)


Oedipus kills his father, Laios


Laois (Oedipus’ father) = left-sided (limping) (?)



Oedipus kills the Sphinx





Oedipus = swollen foot (?)

Oedipus marries his mother, Jocasta





Eteocles kills his brother, Polynices



Antigone buries her brother, Polynices, despite prohibition





·         A narrative of the myth would be possible if we read the myth diachronically, i.e. from left to right from the top to the bottom. But to understand the myth one must read it synchronically treating each being as a unit and going from one column to another from left to right

·         When studying it synchronically we begin to perceive a common feature in each column

·         In the first column we find an overration of blood relationships where they are celebrated over what is normal while in the second we have an inverse. Blood relations are underrated as kin kills kin

·         In the third apparently monsters and slain and in the fourth there is a commonality in the connation based on the names. All the names have a common feature viz. the hypothetical meaning of the names refers to difficulties in walking straight and standing upright

·         Thus, column three denies the autochthonous (originating where found) origin of mankind as we find it deals with the slaying of monsters like the Sphinx and dragon that are chthonian (relating to underworld or dwelling beneath the earth. These monsters are originating from the soil and in primitive times man was said to be born from the soil so the act of slaying is an unconscious denial of this belief and echoes what we see in column 2

·         The fourth column therefore, showcases the belief that when men emerge from the bowels of the earth they have a difficulty in walking. For example, a mummy on emerging from the underworld tends to at first walk clumsily but then improves on practice

What one learns from these connections of bundles of relations viewed synchronically is that:
The inability to connect two kinds of relationships is overcome (or rather replaced) by the assertion that contradictory relationships are identical inasmuch as they are both self-contradictory in a similar way.

Myth interpretation
From this we can conclude that a myth is not merely a simple story. When we begin our study of myth it is not morality or aestheticality or the mere literary interpretation of a text that is our goal. There are certain oppositions that are being resolved by the myth as we can see in this case. The myth shows us the existence of a culture where people believe that man is autochthonous but actual facts prove otherwise – man is born out of a union of man and woman.

So, in column 1 and 2 we see a relation of inversion. On one hand, blood relations are glorified while on the other they are underrated and in this dilemma we can see the echoes of column 3 and 4 which is based on denial acceptance of autochthony. Even though practical experience indicates such belief, it is validated by the society and cosmology and so it is held to be true.
A myth has many versions and each of these is of equal importance and consequence. Like in Homeric versions of the Oedipus myth we have Jocasta hanging herself and Oedipus crippling himself that leads to an aspect o self-destruction.

Fx(a):y(b)::Fx(b):Fa-1(y) (inversion of terms and relationships algorithm)

Fx  overvaluation

Fx overvaluation

Fy  undervaluation

Fy undervaluation

a    column 1

a-1 column 3

b    column 2

b column 4

 overvaluation(column1):undervaluation(column2)::overvaluation(column4):column 3(undervaluation) 
There are two conditions to be noted:

(1)    one term (a) be replaced by its opposite (a and a-1 , above)

(2)    inversion between function value and term value of two elements (y and a)
Indian mythology

In Indian myths the structure differs as there is a mediator present. The mediator stands between the two opposing forces. The mediator is central to a myth as myth is a method that man uses to make sense of the world. Functions of myths are to make sense of the absolute essentials of life and death. The mediator is an intervening element.









Herbivorous animals



Carrion-eating (raven, coyote)






Beasts of prey






“Myth grows spiral-wise until the intellectual impulse which has produced it is exhausted. Its growth is a continuous process whereas its structure remains discontinuous.”

A mediator is a method to reconcile opposing forces and shows the possibilities that exist. It is not easy to break a myth down to segments as there are cultural factors too residing within its narrative. Myths might be similar in nature but aren’t identical. Its main function is to provide a logical explanation to contradiction. Myths can keep growing but their basic structure stays along the same lines.










Family Status

Double family (father remarries)



Beautiful girl

Ugly boy


No one loves her

Unrequited love


Luxuriously clothed

Stripped of ugliness


Supernatural help

Supernatural help


Thursday, 30 August 2012

Oedipus Myth – A Synopsis with key features in respect to Strauss example

Thebes was a principal city, originally named ‘Cadmeia’ after its founder Cadmus (Cadmos). It was later renamed as Thebes after the wife of Zethus. It was one of the prominent cities during the classical period and home to Pindar the great lyric poet who wrote odes on the Olympic and Pythian games (early 5th century BC).

Agenor was the father of Cadmus. Cadmus is sent by his father to seek out his sister Europa who is abducted by Zeus. He had four brothers, Phoenix, Cilix, Phineus and Thasus who to went in search of Europa. Cadmus went to the Oracle of Delphi who told him not to return to his father but to follow a heifer and build a city where it stopped. Cadmus follows a cow and builds Thebes at the spot where the cow sits. He then slays the dragon (sacred to the war god Ares) and is told by goddess Atehna to sow the teeth of the dragon in the earth. The Spartoi are born from the soil and they commence fighting till only five of them survive.    
Cadmus was punished for killing the dragon (in some versions serpent) and had to serve Cadmus for 8 years. He later married Harmonia (daughter of Ares and Aphrodite). Aphrodite was displeased and gave her daughter a cursed necklace. Polydorus was the only son born to Cadmus and the next king of Thebes. He dies early and so Nycteus rules as regent in place of the child king Labdacus (Laius’s father). However, his daughter Antiope is seduced by Zeus and has two sons, Amphion and Zethus. After Nycteus’s death, his brother Lycus orders his nieces sons to be left in Mount Cithaeron where they are discovered by a cowherd.

Later they are reunited to their mother and usurp the throne after killing Lycus. Due to this, Laius is sent away to Pisa. They renamed the city ‘Thebes’ and on their death Laius returned and became king. Lauis or Laios on his visit to the King of Pisa, Pelops, was appointed as chariot instructor to the King’s handsome illegitimate son, Chrysippus. He falls in love with the boy and abducts and rapes him resulting in Chrysippus’ suicide. Pelops loved  his son dearly and so curses Laius.
In some versions before Oedipus is born it is prophesied that he would kill his father Laius and marry his mother Jocasta. In other versions, Laius hears the prophecy after he marries Jocasta. He orders his infant son’s feet to be bound and the infant to be left at Mt Cithaeron. His mother takes pity on the child and asks a shepherd to take him to the neighbouring childless King. In other accounts, it is the shepherd leaves him and the infant is later discovered by a cowherd and taken to Queen Merope or Periboea; the wife of Polybus – king of Cornith.

Oedipus learns of the prophesy when he attains manhood. He flees the kingdom for he does not know about his adoption. Meanwhile, Laius is on his way to consult the oracle regarding the Sphinx’s riddle. Oedipus chances upon Laius on his flight as both of their chariots block their paths. An altercation follows that leads to the death of Laius. Creon (the brother-in-law) takes over the kingship.
Oedipus continues on his way and is met with the Sphinx and answers the riddle: What creature walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening? Oedipus correctly answers that the creature is man. The Sphinx destroys herself by jumping from a mountain or drowning herself. Everyone perceives Oedipus to be a hero and he is offered the kingship along with the hand of the dowager queen; his mother Jocasta.

They had four children: Eteocles, Polyneices, Antigone and Ismene. The land suddenly begins to suffer from plague, amine and drought. The oracle tells King Oedipus that the root cause was Laius’ murder and so, Oedipus seeks the murderer. On the other hand, Polybus dies a natural death in Cornith. Teiresias the blind seer tells Oedipus that the plague is a result of an unnatural act. When Oedipus learns the truth he blinds himself while the Queen hangs herself as she learns the truth before Oedipus.
Creon rules again as Oedipus is exiled. His sons Eteocles and Polyneices are both supposed to rule each for a stipulated time but are unable to keep to the agreement and war breaks out. Eteocles is favoured by Creon and made king while Polyneices flees to Argos. Oedipus meanwhile, wanders the land with Antiope while Ismene moves back and forth from Colonus to Thebes to keep her father politically posted.
According to the Sophoclian version, Eteocles and Polyneices both visit their father in Colonus hoping that I either gains his blessing or support they would have more political clout. Oedipus disgusted with their failure to make up differences, curses them instead saying that each would result in the destruction o f the other. In another version, Creon kidnaps Antigone in order to force Oedipus to support Eteocles but Theseus the Athenian hero rescues her and allows Oedipus to die in peace after which he restores both the princesses to Thebes.

Eteocles and Polyneices die in single combat and Creon rules as regent to Eteocles son, Laodamas. He gives Eteocles a hero’s burial while forbidding anyone from burying  Polyneices. Antigone disobeys and buries her brother with dignity. For this act of disobedience, Creon ordered Antigone to be entombed alive. Haemon his son tries to save her for he loves her but his father refuses and Haemon kills himself. Haemon’s mother, Eurydice curses her husband due to her son’s untimely and unnatural death. She then proceeds to hang herself just like Jocasta.

South Asia and Southeast Asia – Writings in English – An Overview

In the case of South and Southeast Asia English is a language that is a mode of internal unity due to the very many regional languages that exist. It is also the language of international and global relations. Macaulay’s minutemen in India, for example, was the first truly conscious effort to form a new breed of colonized citizens that would be Indian by blood but English in walk and talk. He called for dissemination of English in India at the cost of the Asian languages.

Considering the fact that India stemmed from a more oral tradition, the new thrust of British literature was overwhelming. Admiration and emulation was the first consequence and what followed was a product of colonial writing in English. Even after independence English was retained as a language that was looked upon as modern, international and a means of unification.
As early as 1956 we have poets like Sujata Bhatt writing of the partition in a style of poetry that is not polished but yet conveys expression:

‘How could they
     have let a man
who knew nothing
     about geography
divide a country?’

 The same train of thought is carried forward in Charmayne D’Souza’s ‘Trains of Thought’ (1990):

‘The British knew
how to bring a nation together –
an elbow in the rib,
a space divided.’

Colonisation was a double-edged phenomenon for it made the British with their civilized view of living see themselves to be reflected as the savage other as works like E.M. Froster’s ‘A Passage to India’ highlight. On the other hand, Asian societies now had a chance to come into contact with the elements that had made colonization possible like economic practices, technology, modes of knowledge and the European concept and structure of a civil society.
Unwittingly Macaulay put into the hands of the people the very tool that would make them more aware of the world around them. And so, postcolonial writing has shifted from mimicry to varied forms of literary expression but this shift has not been easy. The West was identified with modernity and English was seen to be a medium of understanding the West. In 1995 Rushdie coined the term ‘Westoxication’ that highlights the more seductive aspects that lead to such aspirations, he felt writing in English was a part of this. In Southeast Asia the political independence led to poetic aspirations towards writing in English whereas on the other hand, in South Asia poets felt the need to write in English long before it was accepted by their societies.

English in India
“English is everyone’s language in India; and it is no one’s language. Because it is the former, everyone can read the Roman alphabet and knows the meanings of words; because it is also the latter, they can completely miss the tone and emotional charge the words carry, as in poetry words must, always.”

It took over a century for Indian poetry to turn from its imitative aspect as the British writings were a sort of benchmark that poets in India aspired to through imitation. The first Indian poet was Henry Derozio an Eurasian whose volume of ‘Poems’ (1827) pre-dates Macaulay’s Minute of 1835. Thus, one can see that though Macaulay did aid the rise of English as a language; the fascination it imposed existed much before.
A study of 19th century Indian poetry shows its highly imitative nature for it was the Western model which was the only one the poets could fall back on. Post-romantic Indian poetry had three major Indian exponents namely Rabindranath Tagore, Aurobindo Ghose and Sarojini Naidu. Though Tagore was held in admiration by Yeats and to some extent by Pound, his Bengali poetry is more effective than English showing that he was not as comfortable in English as in his native tongue.

Despite all this reverence bestowed upon Tagore internationally, Indian poets shy away from his style of writing like ‘Matthew Arnold in a sari’ to quote S.C. Harrex. Contemporary writers like Keki Daruwalla have protested that there is a lack of innovations in the works of Indian poets like Toru Dutt, Sarojini Naidu and the like for they have switched western Hellenistic myths for their own local ones instead of starting from scratch.
It was only in the 20th century with writers like Nissim Ezekiel and Dom Moraes that contemporary poetry was introduced. Infact, theirs were the first two volumes of Indian poetry published after the independence in 1952. Moraes had a clipped style while Ezekiel sported a dry and ironic manner though both moved from formal to more relaxed styles. While Moraes preferred overseas portraits, Ezekiel looked back closer at home and fingered Bombay.

Unfortunately, encouragement was scarce as the idea of Indian writing in English was seen to be much akin to the former bluestocking itch. In 1937 Yeats said, “no man can think or write with music and vigour except in his mother tongue” which is too dismissive a statement to look seriously into. Indo-Anglian potery was considered to be more of a blind alley that was housing curio shops and had no definite aim or purpose.
Patriotism and the oppressor’s tongue

Writers were the worst condemners’ o a language they held foreign. Like Marathi novelist Bhalchandra Nemade who presented a nativist argument on the lines that if one is truly conscious of one’s culture one would be linguistically conscious as well. Since Indian culture is valued low to write in a foreign language would tarnish its already tarnished reputation still further and such writing in English would not be able to convey any ‘Indianness’ to the body of world literature.
A fear of betraying one’s country through the adoption of an alien language too was a concept most writers grappled with, like Lakdasa Wikkramasinha (Sri Lanka) feared writing in English would amount to ‘cultural treason’. The language here has been identified with the oppressor and the oppression borne; hence, it is a politically conscious rejection. R. Parthasarathy declared he had been “whoring after English gods”. Note here, that it is not the language he mentions but the ‘gods’ which show an unconsciously instilled religious fear of English customs.

English was oft times associated as the language of the Englishmen and so, Wong Phui Nam (Malaysia) remarks, “The non-English writer who writes in English is…in a very deep sense a miscegenated being”. It was of course, not all Asian writers that treated English so wearily. Yasmine Gooneratne turns the tables by stating that it is envy that causes people to badmouth the language rather than any other more pious motive. There were others who opted for a bilingual approach like Arun Kolatkar who wrote in English as well as an Indian language to each both audiences.
 English – the mistress and not muse

One senses during the period of the 1960s and 70s is that there is a certain self-consciousness felt by poets in their selective use of English as a medium of communicating their poetic expression. Daruwalla for example, was energetically self-deprecatory on this front, preferring to call the English muse ‘The Mistress’, “No one believes me when I say/ my mistress is half caste” and so, though the medium of expression is English it is an apologetic use of it rather than something stemming from a right to use English as a language as colonial association have not yet been broken.
Kamala Das is the first Indian woman who writes in English and that too with candour with regards to feminine sexuality. In her poem ‘An Introduction’ she brings out the hybrid aspect of a colonized citizen who may speak three languages, write in two and yet dream in only one. She says very emphatically: Don’t write in English, they said/ English is not your mother tongue.

A shift in the type of English
English is not a static language in India for the local linguistic movements did interact with English as translations and bilingual approaches by poets has kept some contact alive. A new concept was emerging of ‘Indian English’ as the language was transmogrified by the local speech habits prevalent. Ezekiel’s parody ‘Soap’ is a perfect example of how many people spoke the English language:

Some people are not having manners,
this I am always observing,
For example other day I find
I am needing soap

From Ezekiel’s poem we find that there existed individuated types of Indian English but these were prevalent due to error rather than through any conscious attempt. Ezekiel gives the flavor of Bombay as he sees it while Adil Jussawalla addresses the problem of Westernisation that sprung up in the post colonial world. He is bound to the West by its Westoxication and yet he feels alienated from his country. According to Bruce King he is an intellectual preoccupied by ‘an historical awareness of his own situation as a representative of a decaying class soon to be replaced by forces which he cannot be part’. This is quite akin to the consciousness of decay predominant in Vassanji’s ‘A Bend in the River’. Sujata Bhatt on the other hand, who grew up in India and studied in the US, writes with more variation for she moves between cultures, language and societies: Which language/has not been the oppressor’s tongue?/ which language/ truly meant to murder someone?
It is with her poems that we notice a blend of her native Gujarati language within her English poems giving a polyglot effect which however, fails to move Indian readers. However she does ask important questions in her poetry like how poets come to being and why they prefer certain languages over others.

It is only from around 1992 that poets have begun to use English with less selfconciousness and more innovation. A good example is Vikram Seth’s long narrative poem ‘The Golden Gate’ which is in sonnet form. This may not be the best poetry but it shows an effort to move away from the Modernist shadow and has a more easy-going pace stemming from a decolonized attitude.
Language and affiliation

Asia is more of a region divided by its diversities and also due to the effects of colonization and paradoxically despite all the resistance to English as an oppressors tongue, it now began to be a common base for a region torn asunder by political events. Independence not only led to throwing off the colonial yoke but also a division based on ethnic and religious affiliations.
Rukhmini Bhaya Nair for example, brings out the senseless religious violence in ‘The Ayodhya Cantos’. The poetry of Ghose shows the portrait of a culturally displaced migrant who revisits the fear of a world which is vanishing before his eyes. There is no definite object or statement in his postcolonial poems, there is only a feeling that one is looking at the memory of a memory.

Sri Lanka and English
In Sri Lanka things were different as with its independence nationalism erupted on an aggressive-defensive scale causing English to be displaced as the medium of education. Despite this resistance, there was a need felt by poets to write in English. There have been three persistent problems on this front, one being the persistence of Sinhala as the language of the majority. The other reasons are the country’s proximity to India and the ethnic strife that makes many writers wan to migrate to a more stable environment.

The poems of these poets in English do not reflect self-consciousness.  On the other hand, they are more concerned with a consciousness of the political instability prevalent in their country. Like Jean Arasanayagam remarks in ‘The Poet’:
Today it’s the assassins who are the new messiahs
Their voices herald salvation
With a hail of bullets

In the case of migrants like the novelist Michael Ondaatje, his writings give us a sense of not an orphan but a cosmopolitan member of his new country Canada who seeks a relation with his birth land. His poems seek for something that has been ‘lost’. There is a correspondence between inner and outer worlds established. A relation between akam and puram (Tamil) as A.K. Ramanujan would call it.
This method transcends cultural and political borders as we can see in Gerard Manely Hopkins term ‘Inscape’ which invokes a sense of relation between uniqueness and pattern to objects of poetic contemplation. In a sense, poetry rises to comfort Ondaatje. In the case of his poem written in remembrance of his first ayah Rosalin, we find her to be a figure that stands for everything he, as a migrant leaves behind before he finds release in poetry. Thus, he says: Who abandoned who I wonder now.

We constantly find a need of homecoming and departure and a sense of that which is lost being recovered only to be lost again in such poems. What the poets have managed it so place the blurred line of a sense between longing and belonging through the medium of the English language on paper.  
English in Pakistan

Longing and belonging is a common aspect found in postcolonial poetry but with Pakistani English writing it took on a whole new meaning as the resistance to English was from not only the State but indigenous languages as well. Urdu and Persian was the norm for writing poetry and since English had such a negative past behind it politically speaking, there was certain suspicion associated with it. Yet there were poets like Muhammad Iqbal who wrote with brilliance and passion as a bilingual poet.
Persian was an old imperial language while others like Punjabi, Sindhi, Baluchi and Pashto were oral in nature and so due to this, though there were poets writing in English, there were a minority. It was in the 1990s that a change came about and English began to be seen as more than a non-Islamic language. Obviously religion and politics had quite a hand in the suppression of English.

Southeast Asia and its English
In the case of Singapore and Hong Kong which were sparsely populated by colonizers and more trade centric, it took some time for cultural expression to voice itself. It was only after Singapore split with Malaysia that English began to prevail over local languages like Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. The use of English in creativity only emerges around the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Just like Hinglish in India, there was an attempt to have a blend of English with local Chinese and Malay expressions thrown in. This was supposed to be ‘Engmalchin’ i.e. ‘Eng(lish)-mal(ay)-chin(ese). An example of this can be seen in the poem ‘Ahmad’ by Wang Gungwu:
Only yesterday his brother said,
‘Can get lagi satu wife lah!’

Though this attempt was later given up, Singlish (Singapore English) was the next experiement attempted. But one prevalent problem in this writings is that there is a feeling that poetic self-expression hasn’t been fully achieved due to a self-deprecatoriness or self-conciousness. Again politics becomes a theme and their works bring out underlying pools of anxiety with a sense that the new modernity and achievements of their land may still turn out to be too fragile to be sustained.

Edwin Thumboo focuses on the importance of individual bonds and the importance of a collective effort towards community and nation building. One sense that the poet is aware of literary developments outside his country and also of the political and cultural immaturities that his country still is in the process of shedding.
Among the other colonies, Hong Kong was the slowest to feel the urge to write in English. Though English served as a language for international trade and colonial administration, it wasn’t a people’s language like Cantonese. But yet, the poetry one finds from Hong Kong is coloured  with political worry.

Thus, English from being merely the language of the colonizer or a language for international trade; has also become a language of self-expression. English was a means through which poets could address their people as well as the rest of the world and it was due to this consciousness of the modernity or prosperity of other cultures which lead writers and poets to question what was lacking in theirs.