On the inaugural issue (2020-2021) of the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English, edited by Sukrita Paul Kumar and Vinita Agrawal
A lecture delivered on June 25, 2021, at the online event hosted by India International Centre (IIC), Delhi.
Thank you, India International Centre, for inviting me to this event on the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English. I’m a contributor to this collection, representing Hawakal, the publisher of this book. Before I say about the book or its making or Hawkal, let me tell you, IIC is an organization that dwells in my heart. Back in 2018, when we had no pandemic to be scared of, I visited IIC in April. I was accompanied by Bitan Chakraborty, who is the founder of Hawakal Publisher. It was in IIC where I was awarded Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize, among other winners. And Vinita Agrawal, who is one of the editors of the Yearbook, also won the award. It was only then I met Vinita in person. So the last year, when Vinita Agarwal sent us the proposal for publishing this Yearbook, we gladly accepted her plans.
Before I talk about the Yearbook, let me say a few words about Hawakal Publishers. Hawakal was founded by Bitan Chakraborty back in 2009 in his Calcutta home. It’s been more than a duodecade (12 years) that Hawakal is relentlessly publishing books, especially poetry. Recognized as one of the flag bearers of poetry in India, Bitan delightfully takes his traditional press to newer heights every time Hawakal releases a new title. Two years ago, they launched their premium imprint called CLASSIX that has published names like Prof. Satchidanandan and Sudeep Sen. They are currently working on Sanjeev Sethi’s latest book of poems, Hesitancies. Hawakal has also collaborated with the Indian Institute of Advanced Study Shimla for Satchidanandan’s book of travel poems. Hawakal now has dedicated workstations in two metro cities—one in Delhi and the other in Kolkata.
The Yearbook is a unique project. Aimed at being an annual publication, this anthology promises to compile Indian poems written in the English language and published within a given period. So, readers and scholars get a chance to peruse the verses by both seasoned and young poets. The inaugural volume has veterans like Jayanta Mahapatra, Adil Jussawalla, and on the other hand, budding talents like Kunjana Parashar or Jhilam Chattaraj. As the publisher, our work began with designing the cover. I’m sure you will agree that Bitan has done a spectacular job as he meticulously architectured the surface esthetics for the Yearbook.
The next part was typesetting and copy editing. Hawakal made sure they didn’t miss out on any poet whose work was accepted by the editors. Although there are a few minor flaws in the biographies and publication credits, we are reasonably happy with the final product. Thanks to Thomson Press (Okhla Unit) for helping us with their finest printing machinery.