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Becoming poets

The Asian English experience

Agnes Lam

Literatures in English have emerged in several Asian communities and have enjoyed a growing readership. Creative writing programmes in Asia and other parts of the world have also attracted many new voices from Asia. However, little is known about how learners from different language backgrounds become published poets in English. This book is a pioneering work on the development of poets and poetry in English in Asia. It offers a five-stage model to understand such phenomena. The life experiences of 50 published poets from five Asian locations: Macao, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and India, based on interviews conducted by the author, and their poetry are analyzed to appreciate how learners of English in multilingual environments become published poets and how such individual metamorphosis contributes to the growth of literary communities at local, regional and cosmopolitan levels. Researchers on Asian Englishes and literatures in English, teachers and participants in creative writing programmes, policy makers for English in education or the nurturing of the creative arts and any one interested in poetry writing will find the book highly informative and inspiring.
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Chapter 7 – India: Home and beyond


Chapter 7 India: Home and Beyond


India (area: 3,287,590 square kilometres; population: 1.21 billion) was under British hegemony for almost two centuries before it became independent in 1947 (Government of India, 2013). The Himalayas mark its north and the Bay of Bengal lies to its east, the Indian Ocean to its south and the Arabian Sea to its west. With the second largest population in the world, India is a land of many languages and several religions. The Constitution of India recognizes 22 languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Kokani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu; Article 343(3) also permits the ‘continued use of English for official purposes’ (Government of India, 2013). While Hindi has been cited as an official language (Government of India, 2013), the current rhetoric is fairly pluralistic (Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, 2013).

Prominent in India’s language education is the Three-Language Formula defined in the 1968 National Policy on Education:

At the secondary stage, the State Governments should adopt, and vigorously implement, the three-language formula which includes the study of a modern Indian language, preferably one of the southern languages, apart from Hindi and English in Hindi-speaking States, and of Hindi along with the regional language and English in non-Hindi-speaking States.’ (Department of Education, 1968, p. 40).

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