7 Adored Indian Female Poets you need to Know

Indian female poets have been the backbone of South Asian literature for generations. We delve into seven of them that you need to know.

"My poetry is like dancing."

Indian female poets have long been inspiring and surprising with their work.

They possess the knack of creating ideas that stay with readers a long time after they have read the texts.

The astonishing variety of poems are the jewel that adorns Indian literature, with thought-provoking writing and interesting themes.

These poets encompass feminism, fissures of post-modern life, and learning in original and unique ways, carving an indelible mark on the hearts of readers.

DESIblitz is proud to present a curated list of these great writers that you must check out.

So, let’s delve into seven adored Indian female poets that deserve your readership.

Margaret Chatterjee

7 Adored Indian Female Poets you need to Know - Margaret ChatterjeeStarting as an itinerant individual, Margaret Chatterjee moved from Dorset to Delhi after marriage.

In 1961, she obtained a Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Delhi.

During the 1960s, Margaret began making a name for herself in the vibrant world of poetry, publishing philosophical work and human poems.

Some of her magnificent work is also based on her own experiences.

Her five collections are The Spring and the Spectacle (1967), Towards the Sun (1970), The Sandalwood Tree (1972), The Sound of Wings (1978), and The Rimless World (1987).

Margaret died in 2019. Reminiscing about her, Shefali Moitra wrote:

“Her originality in the field of philosophy is yet to be fully assessed and appreciated.”

“Her thoughts are well documented in the form of published works.

“The treasure trove awaits the attention of those working in this area of philosophy and culture studies.”

Gauri Deshpande

7 Adored Indian Female Poets you need to Know - Gauri DeshpandeHailing from Maharashtra, Gauri Deshpande primarily wrote in Marathi and English.

Her three poetry collections include Between Births (1968), Lost Love (1970), and Beyond the Slaughterhouse (1972).

Between Births capitalises on the theme of bereavement and longing, leaving behind numb-eyed readers with a new respect for poetry.

An article quoted Shanta Gokhale, who after Gauri’s death in 2003, questioned:

“How could this strapping, handsome, vibrant, gutsy, intense and intellectually passionate woman have just ceased to exist?

“Gauri had an insatiable zest for living, for experiencing new places and people, for friendship, for loving and giving.

“As a writer and as a person, Gauri Deshpande has left a gap in English and Marathi fiction and society that is not easily filled.”

There is no denying that Gauri Deshpande is one of history’s most talented Indian female poets.

Toru Dutt

7 Adored Indian Female Poets you need to Know - Toru DuttToru Dutt was born Tarulatta Datta in 1856. She has works published in English and French.

In 1869, she became one of the first Bengali girls to travel to Europe by sea.

Toru attended a lecture series at the University of Cambridge, which fuelled her passion for literature and poetry.

When Toru was captivated by France, a journal entry inspired one of her most unique poems titled France.

One of her publications – A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields – comprises 165 original poems. It was released in 1876 when Toru was only 20 years old.

This signifies how creative and passionate she was at such a young age.

In 2021, Aisik Maiti paid tribute to Toru:

“Dutt’s poetic craftsmanship reflects a remarkable cross-cultural and trans-discursive dialogue.

“Her remarkably articulate poetry captures a seamless blending of not only ancient Indian classical and European categories of thought.”

Unfortunately, Toru passed away in 1877 at the age of 21 due to tuberculosis.

The words of Aisik perfectly encapsulate the impression Toru created in such a short life.

Kamala Das

7 Adored Indian Female Poets you need to Know - Kamala DasWhen it comes to the realm of Indian female poets, the name of Kamala Das shines like a diamond.

Born Kamala Surayya, she is considered one of the most influential confessional poets.

One of her most famous works is My Grandmother’s House in which Kamala explores homesickness as a theme.

Nostalgia and sorrow fill the poem, as Kamala intertwines the love for a grandmother with a desire to revisit the love of her childhood.

In 2018, the filmmaker Kamal directed a Malayalam biopic based on Kamala. Titled Aami, the film stars Manju Warrier as Kamala Das.

The film won numerous accolades, highlighting Kamala’s legacy.

In an interview, Kamala shared the naturalness poetry brings her:

“Poetry for me is like writing a diary. It is a very natural expression of my very personal emotions.

“My poetry is like dancing because whenever I write poetry I feel as I am dancing with words.”

Kamala also delved into why love is so rampant in her work:

“I can’t think more beautiful than [love]. Every act of mine has been influenced by it. Everything is inspired by it.

“I can live without food but I cannot live without love. Love is my strength.”

Menka Shivdasani

7 Adored Indian Female Poets you need to Know - Menka ShivdasaniThis poetess is renowned not only for her own work but also for her endeavours to strengthen the field of Indian poetry.

Menka Shivdasani is one of the co-founders of The Poetry Circle in Bombay.

Since 2011, in honour of the global movement 100 Thousand Poets for Change, Menka has been pioneering annual poetry festivals.

She has four poetry books to her credit. These are Nirvana at 10 Rupees, Stet, Safe House, and Frazil.

These were all published between 1980 and 2017, making Menka a veteran writer who continues to enthral generations with her poetry.

Frazil won a Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize Certificate for ‘excellent contribution to literature’.

In an interview, Menka discussed the roles of poets in shaping the future:

“I believe poets play a huge role because they respond with depth and intensity to a world that is in constant flux and disarray.

“I do hope that someday, [children] will look back on these poems and remind themselves of how they once believed that war is evil, peace is necessary, and it is important to speak up for what one believes in.”

Sohini Basak

7 Adored Indian Female Poets you need to Know - Sohini BasakSohini Basak is one of the most confident Indian female poets.

She dived into adulation with her very first poetry collection titled We Live in the Newness of Small Differences (2018).

The collection was awarded the International Beverly Manuscript Prize.

Sohini’s poetry stretches across Penguin Press India, Red Hen Press USA, and Emma Press UK, underscoring the borders that her words have impressed.

She is a self-confessed lover of trees, windows and streets, which make up some of the themes in her poems.

Sohini disclosed how Bengali lullabies formed her fascination for poetry:

“The first poems I heard in my life were Bengali lullabies.

“I did not know they were ‘poems’ then, but I loved the ways the words hummed and danced around the dark room as my mother or sometimes my grandmother would sing them to me.

“I loved how the sounds invited me into a softness.

“They’d be songs about flowering lemon trees, fox brides or cat grooms, and they would transport me to absurdly beautiful place.”

Sohini Basak is a great poet, whose work deserves to be consumed a thousand times over with the same amount of reverence.

Divya Rajan

7 Adored Indian Female Poets you need to Know - Divya RajanDivya Rajan combines her pining for greens with her solemn, distilled poetry.

Countless literary journals feature her poems which include Factory Girls, Ode to Poetry, and Ganesha Speaks.

Tammy Ho analysed Factory Girls and noted Divya’s bravery in depicting an unabashed portrait of poor factory workers:

“Rajan’s poem Factory Girls is a depiction of a moment in harsh reality of poor factory workers in a developing economy.

“It is not as if the tedium and prison-like depressing mood of the factory is not disquieting enough, the particular products that the protagonist puts together are cigars (L32) instead of shoes or electronics.

“A luxury item for upper classes and nothing but a detriment to one’s health.

“Unfair as it may be, there is no choice for the protagonists.

“They must work hard because that is all they have, and try to savour the whatever brief dreams of a happier life they can afford.”

Divya doesn’t go for an obvious happy message that usually propels smiles from readers.

For that, she is one of the most unique poets out there.

These Indian female poets are essential voices who have used their talent to educate as well as entertain.

Through the power of their words, they communicate messages that are vital for the progression of society.

Not only have they written about important aspects, but they have also encouraged poetry in others by connecting it with humanitarianism.

Their legacies will continue to live on.

So, find a cosy spot and prepare to embrace these adored Indian female poets.

Manav is a creative writing graduate and a die-hard optimist. His passions include reading, writing and helping others. His motto is: “Never hang on to your sorrows. Always be positive."

Images courtesy of Instagram, The Times, Medium, Pinterest and File 770.

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