Through his early years there, Ramanujan was reading widely in modern American poetry, in particular that of Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams. He had accumulated a substantial body of poems to add to the writings of his twenties, publishing them every now and then in minor American journals. In the mid-1960s, Girish Karnad, who had been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and was now working at Oxford University Press’s office in Madras, wondered if the Press might consider Ramanujan’s work for the new ‘Oxford Poets’ series edited by the poet Jon Stallworthy. Karnad could not persuade the aesthetically conservative Roy Hawkins, OUP’s general manager in India, to give the typescript his official endorsement (“I don’t know why you call this poetry. Looks like prose cut up and pasted to look like verse to me”) and had to send them to London as a personal recommendation. To his delight, Stallworthy liked the poems. On the 5th of August 1964, Karnad wrote to Ramanujan in Chicago: Dear Ramanujan A hurried note before I get down to the work for the day. I’m sorry I can’t give you more definite news but things—so far as ‘The Striders’ is concerned—are warming up.

more from Nakul Krishna at Caravan here.