Just wanted to add my two-bits to Vivek Narayanan's piece on Indian Poetry in English and its quest for an audience (hat tip: Space Bar).
Overall, I agree with almost everything Vivek says in his piece, including his criticism of anthologies . The one thing Vivek doesn't say, though, is that a "thriving, vigorous poetry community" needs not only a deep awareness of its own poetic history but also, and (I would argue) more importantly, a stronger engagement with contemporary poetry elsewhere in the world.
I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that the Indian poetry community at large is fairly limited in its reading, with a fairly sketchy awareness of what poets in the US or the UK are doing. Certainly the work I read in the few Indian journals I know of seems extremely narrow in its influences. Much of that is availability, of course; I'm keenly aware of how difficult it is to get access to contemporary poetry in Indian book stores (or, for that matter, in book stores anywhere). Still, I can't help thinking that the Indian poetry scene would be richer if a lot of the enthusiasm people seem to put into writing poetry (and trying to find an audience for it) were spent in reading more .
Greater engagement with *other* contemporary poetry communities is important for three reasons. First, it would help broaden the ideas and influences Indian poets bring to their writing, setting the stage for greater debate and conflict. If Indian poetry in English lacks "ferocious, voracious arguments, unending discussions, even intellectual fist fights or several rival aesthetic camps" (and I agree that it does, and I agree that this is a lack) I have to think that's in part because there aren't enough rival aesthetics to go around. Second, more links with the outside world would mean that the Indian poetry community would be less cloistered and less incestuous, and that would help set the stage for more frank and open criticism. And third, greater engagement with the international poetry scene would help keep Indian poetry more honest, because it would bring a set of external standards by which the poetry we produce would be judged, rather than just the standards we choose to establish for ourselves.
What makes this interesting and relevant is that the spread of online journals and an increase in paperless submissions provides Indian poets with an opportunity they never really had before. Ten years ago, the logistics of trying to publish in US or UK poetry journals (especially if you were just starting out) seemed staggering. Postage costs of mailing paper submissions to US journals were prohibitive, and access to leading journals was often hard to come by. Today there are dozens of exciting online journals publishing cutting edge work that are freely available to anyone with an Internet connection (some of them bookmarked in the sidebar of this blog) and most journals (even those that still print paper versions) have moved to some form of electronic submission. Which means that there's really no reason why poets living in India can't actively participate in a larger poetry community, reading the work of their peers across the world and trying to publish in a wide array of international journals. Yet somehow, I don't see very much of that happening. And I have to wonder why. If poets in India feel they don't have enough of an audience domestically, what's stopping them from reaching out to a wider audience across the globe ?
In his article, Vivek says that "there is no question at all that today, it is far easier to make your way in the world as an emerging poet than it was for figures like Jussawalla and Mehrotra in the 1960s and 1970s." I agree, but I can't help wondering if this is entirely a good thing. Obviously more opportunities for high quality work are always welcome, but if the greater ease of publication comes at the cost of lower standards, then the net effect is negative.
Look, publishing poetry is hard. But to an extent, the fact that it's hard is a good thing, because a) it winnows out those who are genuinely interested in poetry from those who just want to be 'poets' and b) it means that poets are constantly challenged, and therefore constantly growing. In the last 2-3 years I've collected dozens upon dozens of rejection slips. It's been brutal, depressing and frustrating. But it's also meant that I've been forced to revisit and question my own writing, and I have to believe that's made me a better poet than I was three years ago. And it's meant that when I've finally managed to get a poem accepted at a journal I value and care about, it's been a source of real satisfaction and pride.
None of which is to say that we should look exclusively elsewhere in our quest for a community. On the contrary, my point is that it's only by engaging more aggressively with contemporary poetry elsewhere that we'll be able to develop a vibrant community of our own. By focusing too much on 'Indian' poetry, we risk creating a community that is insulated, complacent and nepotistic.
As for the problem of readership - I think the problem is less the lack of an audience for Indian poetry but the lack of an audience for poetry in India. The real victims of poor readership are not, to my mind, the poets who can't get people to come to their book readings , but the potential readers who are missing out on all that poetry, as an art form, has to offer. But that's a whole other problem, and one that Indian poetry is a long way away from taking on. Our more immediate priority, as Vivek suggests, should be to make a more productive community available to our poets, and reaching out to a wider international audience for poetry is, I would argue, the way to get there.
 In general, I'm for anthologies - I think they serve a useful purpose, problems of unrepresentative selection notwithstanding, by making one aware of poets one may not otherwise know of. That said, I agree entirely that anthologies should not be the primary repository of poetry. Anthologies are good complements to individual collections, but poor substitutes for them. And the situation that Vivek describes - where anthologies become the only available source of a poet's work - is a troubling one. It's a bit like living in a world where cinema theaters show only trailers and no actual movies.
 Interestingly, my sense is that this was actually true for the generation of poets from the 1970's that Vivek discusses in his piece.
 Not that there's a massive audience for poetry anywhere else, but an audience of a few hundred, even a few thousand is better than an audience of a few dozen.
 Ironically, I suspect that if Indian readers did have a better understanding of poetry and were capable of closer reading, that would work against a subset of Indian poets.