Poetry, What Is Poetry?
Bijay Kant Dubey
Poetry Written By The Song Writers, Metaphysicals, Augustans, Romantics, Romantics, Victorians, Decadents, Georgians, Moderns, Modernists, Post-moderns/
Poetry imagistic, symbolical, urban and contemporary, eco-centric and digital/
Poetry of the hollow man
Poetry, what is poetry, how the elements of it, what the sources and how the expressions, who can but ever determine it? Various scholars and critics from time to time have expressed their opinions and thoughts, views and ideas in their own way as for to delve in and to define it, but it is not within their reach to conclude with regard to poetry and its origin. What is poetry? How to define it? Where does it originate from? Whatever say you, we are not going to contradict it as because there is nothing as that to be said with certainty, which but know you, know we. Poetry is poetry simply, the emotions and feelings almost the same. The opinions will keep varying from man to man. What a romantic believes that a realist may not take to, what a realist believes that a humorist may not as the perception varies from man to man as per their taste and liking. Poetry is the criticism of life or for aesthetic pleasure, how to conform to it? For some, poetry is songs and lyrics and for some, poetry is religious psalms and hymns. For the first the lyrists are required while for the latter the devotional hearts will suffice to do it. Under the caption songs and lyrics, lyricality, spontaneity, natural expression, beauty, charm, rhyme and rhythm are taken into consideration to be a successful writer. As for religious poetry, devotion and dedication, divinity and piety are quintessential. To be a man of divinity and virtues is to be a man of a different sort. The heart is like a temple and the beauty we perceive is pied beauty. Such a feeling does not come to all the time and for it the heart has to be pure, free from all that maligns it. If one is not godly and virtuous, one cannot think in such a way.
Thoughts and ideas do not remain the same as human feelings and emotions keep changing. It is also true taste and tenor changes when the stereotype bores one or the trend continues for so long. Similar had been the case with the Elizabethan sonneteers and lyric-writers who gave way to religious and divine verses and from the amorous and the metaphysical, poetry swung to classical poetry and the satires. The metaphysical will take poetry in their own way to indulge in the amorous and the divine. But the neo-classicists take to poetry differently. Perhaps the change in taste sometimes takes to a different domain of delving and that is why in the negation of the prevalent theological and divine discourses, the poets of such a period take to satire, humour and criticism. The other thing may be it that the standard too might have fallen. So, in the absence of devout and divine poets, religious from within, sacred to the core of heart, they turn to skepticism looking in askance. Why religion all the times? What is God? Where is He? Human ugliness, vice and sins tempt man and gets committed to sinning. The inns do not remain the inns; the pilgrimages turn into farce. The empty stomach too cannot take the name of the Lord for so long. The word-play with terse and Latinized diction, artificial and ornamental takes the stage from the metaphysical and the poetry f the age turns neo-classical. The third thing is this that all are not metaphysical, many like it not, as they understand it not, what it is in metaphysics. The fourth is this that too much of metaphysics, theology, cosmology and religion and divinity bores us too as because we are the creatures of this world and we have live here.
It is natural that one trend and tenor does not last for long and it keeps changing. So are the times of man; the ages showing the time-spirit and the time-span. After a long engagement with satire and humour as their chief properties, jokes, funs, puns, humours, satires, jibes, caricatures, scathing attacks, double-speaks and ironies fail to restrict human mind. The practitioners turn to romance, romancing with fancy and imagination, paint and brush and colour. A return back to Nature imprints the mind of man otherwise as the fresh breeze blowing and refreshing it all seconded by the slogan of democracy, equality and fraternity, appreciation of simple life and living, the shepherd girl and the country in the aftermath of the industrial revolution preceding it or in succession.
When romanticism as a movement too appeared to be on the wane, the Victorians too came up with their ghettos and taboos, conventions and modalities. Already annihilated by scientific and sociological thoughts and ideas, seemed to be depressed with and the personality split between faith and doubt inflicted them too much and they felt the crisis within. The diseased self bewildered mechanically and technically talked of making the machine, giving life to exasperated man and promised of creating new, lengthening the expectancy of life which was but a sign of discovery and exploration rather than vexation. Again decadence started in with poor presentation and they lost the way failing to keep track of, but they can never be ignored. The Georgians tried their best to rescue the scene with their efforts and attempts and as thus heralding the advent of modernism afresh, emboldening the stance into the field of poetry. Whatever people say about Walter de la Mare and John Masefield, but they were no less than and were great, great poets.
Modern poetry full of modern tendencies so varied and wide in its spectrum and dimension tells of an age and time so complicated and complex in thought, idea, image and reflection that it cannot be fixed at all what the norms and fixtures around which the modern poetry will revolve. The modern age is an age of comfort and luxury; science and technology; development and growth; expansion and addition; economic stability and solidity. The modern age is an age of discovery and invention, widening of avenues, sociological, economic, financial, adventuresome and constructive. Well-connected by road, rail and airline, the modern thought of conquering time and distance and conquered too, but the world wars frustrated the efforts and man felt miserable before the fusion and fission of the atoms, human loss and casualties, collateral damage and destruction. Today we read the war poems in the history of English poetry, but the soldiers never thought of dying and they expressed through the lines of the hope for living rather than, not intended for poetry at all, but for life and this living which is so precious more than poetry. What poetry cannot give science and technology can. First, life is important and then poetry.
As the modern age covers the whole millennium, the whole of the twentieth century with its start from 1850 and onwards so it is very difficult to assess it in stricter terms and it is confirmed that there are so many isms and tendencies into the realm of modern English poetry with so many exponents and originators of poetic styles and clichés, trends and tenors doing the rounds. After the world wars, the horror and terror almost spent, trauma and tribulation could not be dispensed with. Hence, the poetry of the thirties, the forties, the fifties continue to take the space and come to us decade wise. Poetry changes in writing written before and after 1950; poetry written before the world war, during the inter-war period and in the post-war scenario will definitely vary from. The atom bombs were dropped over Nagasaki and Hiroshima and those two Japanese cities slumped to swirling heat and dust exposure, smoke billowing and suffocating, almost turning into the mounds of earth, which but America could not understand it then. Wailing sirens and shrieks deafened it all and it finished what it was good in them. It was not merely Japanese imperialism, Nazi or Fascist dictatorship or autocracy, but British colonialism which but brought the world to such a brink of disaster and tragedy. American diplomacy too appeared to be shrewd and cleverly rather than helpful in bailing out. What could the French Revolution give to? The Reign of Terror is the answer with the beheading of Louis XVI and his wife. Similar was the consequence of the Bolshevik Revolution and the Russian Revolution. The Czar and the Czarina were executed painfully. None could feel about the diasporan Jews and their sufferings. Such a pain one felt it again in the caravans of refugees coming and going in the aftermath of India’s partition. Kashmir was partitioned, so was Bengal as were Korea and Germany and Yugoslavia.
Modernism linguistically strides along the modern, the modernist and post-modern lines. The modern poetry is simply modern from the start phase of modernism or what it is that makes it so in content and expression. The modernist actually refers to the imagists in the early years of the twentieth century and it is intriguing indeed.
In the aftermath of the spent force and the defusing of the cold war impact, the stars’ war programme and the nuclear stockpiles, Mikhail Gorbachev’s declaration of glasnost and perestroika helped us irrespective of blatant and radical Leninism, the world changed from polarization, the notion of being with or not to be with the axis or allied forces and in a liberalized world of globalization, liberalization and privatization, roamed and breathed we like the free birds under the open spaces accessing it all without any restriction or binding.
The modern age had been an age of power, electricity, speed, building and construction; medicine, engineering, science and technology. Initially, it had been of the radio, the telephone, the cycle and the watch. Had the scientists not solved the food, housing and health problems, had we been modern? Had small pox, plague, cholera and typhoid been not checked and diagnosed? Had the Caesarean operations been not carried our successfully, what would it have happened? The pregnancy deaths used to humiliate the feminine race and cut across life frequently. Had the textile, dairy, agricultural and other problems been not solved, could we have been? Modernism and modernity is not a matter of poetry simply, it refers to the whole of our living. Had the stainless steel and the plastic things and the polythene, resin and other items been not discovered, could we have been? Polyester yarn has added to the longevity, durability of clothing.
But today in the age of telecommunications and video-conferencing, the television and the audio-visual contact, the mobile and the computer application, things have changed drastically and shrunken to a mere globe in hand. Saat samudras does not matter it; travel and tour destinations seem to be welcoming us. The telegram and the type-writer have gone out of use.
In the age of internet posting and website opening, putting up of blogs and computer prints, how will be poetry, is the question perplexing us from our end? Will the manuscripts go out of use? Perhaps the writers will upload and post them instantly without revising them. The analytics will tell about the visitors, the statistics of the readers. Who reads poems now-a-days? None, but the poets read it themselves. They write as well as read the poems of others; they themselves are the readers and the writers and those who are not read them not without any purpose.
Sometimes think we that life on this earth will come to a stop abruptly and everything will be annihilated hereon. Global warming, climate change, environmental pollution, ecological disaster and so on are threatening our existence seconded by acid rain, atomic summer, population explosion, deforestation and radio active material. Nuclear moratorium, we have not thought about that so far as how to bury the nuclear wastes? The Chernoyl nuclear tragedy narrates it woefully how did the people vacate it the long stretch of land with the winds bolting and opening the doors themselves, the school children affected with coming out of the schools at noon with the bleeding noses and mouths? How to save life on earth is the alarming question which perhaps has no answer to offer? Are we so close to extinction? So, keeping it in view, we need to be eco-friendly rather than poetry-friendly? Many a flora and fauna is on the brink of extinction. Genetic cloning is the last hope which can at least save them. But if the poets think it that they are more valuable than the cloning and fertility scientists, it can never be acceptable to us. Science or poetry is the case of debate? Only poets are not creative, but the mathematicians, scientists, biologists, engineers and technologists too are equally.
Nuclear holocaust does not frighten us today, nor the stockpiles, arms and ammunition, but the terrorists triggering unmindful attacks, bombarding and exploding mindlessly. The fanatical suicide bombers they will detonate the live bombs to blow themselves away and others too keeping in view the targeted killing. They generally strike the public gatherings as for a collateral damage. The world today has greatest fears from the fanatics and terrorists, fundamentalists and the religiously blind people. Religious fanaticism is a type of blindness which blocks from clear reasoning and we fail to distinguish light from darkness. Terrorists are misogynists; man-haters. Communal harmony, peaceful co-existence, human love and bonding and amity they cannot think of liberally with the cool and calm, the peace of mind.
Poetry of the hollow men talk we, re-live we, the hollow men as the poets and critics of our society, modern man as the hollow man. The abnormal people of the abnormal times are they living and writing in their own way. The urban and city-bred people, they have nothing to think about and brood over; they are the people of the modern age and times. From the lifts they go up and come down to their flats high on the square buildings. The cemented periphery their own circle from which they cannot move about as they are dependent on men and machines. The air-conditioned rooms, things of luxury and comfort, tours and travels, outings and parties are the tidbits of their talks. The shopping malls, plazas, parks, cyber cafes, picnic spots, five star hotels, flats and skyscrapers the talks of theirs and they cannot without please, thank you, goodbye, see you and other forms of etiquette. Life spends too much on the gesture of on saying please and this is what makes us sophisticated and polite.
There are different ways of writing poems. As far as modern poetry is concerned, many take to broken lines and statements as for poetic expression. Half-said, half-expressed words are taken to be as poetic statements. The poet as a Marxist rebel not, the Maoist prototype too not, shooting the Tiananmen Square student movement not, but crushing them brutally instead of quelling peacefully, which ultimately led to the ouster of the sympathetic Zhao Ziyang who was demoted and purged for the atonement. The poet may be a myth-maker or music-maker; an image-maker or portrait-maker and poems can be images, photos, paintings or portraits; thoughts, ideas and reflections.
What is poetry? Poetry is images, ideas, thoughts, opinions, views, pictures presented lyrically in stanza patterns with the content or context of delving; side by side poetry is broken lines and broken statements presented meaninglessly, evoking the rhythms of life, gasping and panting for breath in busy cities and towns, metros and mega cities. What is poetry? Poetry is music and idea mixed together with, image and reflection, thought-content mixed with word-music. He range and dimension of poetry is vaster than as it is all-encompassing. A mythic man will write mythical poems while a singer of heart will keep singing the songs of life. A Nature lover has the ingredients of his own, the blue skies, meadows, wilds, forest-tracts, flowers, rivers, lakes, mountains, hills, cattle and solitary landscapes. A book of poems can be an autobiography in verse or the story of life. A poem can be a memoir, a souvenir, a memento.
Today we like to talk about the Partition poetry, Dalit literature and diaspora literature, but one should keep it in mind that there is nothing more tragic than this painful Partition ad poetry can be no match to it, but instead of we love to paint and portray the scenes. Can someone’s tragedy of living and personal loss be used for getting name and fame? For example, the books on Bhopal gas tragedy have just benefitted the authors, not the victims. Dalit literature is like American literature, the Black and White counterpart. Though literature ahs nothing to do with Dalit or un-Dalit stuffs, but instead of human indiscrimination in any form be condemned. Tagore’s Chandalika is one such one-act play taking the matter under its perusal.
Poetry of life, poetry of the world, talk we, discuss we to clutch along many a tidbit, chit-chat, the metaphysical, cosmological, theological, religious and divine; sociological, histriographical, musicological and archival; archaeological, sculptural, archaeological and architectural; economic, financial and societal; social, abstract, artistic and aesthetic to cover up the all, science and technology without which modernity could not have been achieved, leaving it not behind even any spectre or leaf of thought, idea and reflection.
Poetry, the range and dimension of it is very vast. Gandhi going attend the Round Table conference in London, the half-naked India fakir, in dhoti, kurta and specs, will it not interest you? Poetry about Abraham Lincoln, will it not? One can definitely paint and portray a picture of his in words. A poem can be about the injustice meted out to Eklavya, the forest boy by cruel and callous Dronacharya just for favouring the royal Arjuna, blackening all the gurus, teachers. Karna’s pains, the world could not feel it? Kabir’s pains, who has but?
Poetry is photography; poetry is imagery and you making images in the studio of art. Poetry is pantomime and you trying to mimic man and his manners. Poetry is, when seriousness bores us or classicism puts pressure on, humour and satire regale us to keep in the right spirit. Poetry is in the art of humorist; poetry is in humour, the art of satire. One may caricature to regale us. The comic too has the importance of own. But ironies keep cutting across and the doublespeak inculcates wit and conceit. The goggleswalli a Bombayan heroine in the making is the case in hand.
Poetry normal not, abnormal, delving deep into he layers of consciousness, psychic and psychological, talk we, discuss we; this abnormal living of ours, mechanical and technical, devoid of healthy ways and standards, living abnormally, growing abnormally under impoverished and improvised situations and circumstances of life. The poetry of the maniac man, the hysteric, talk we, discuss we, the modern as a mad man babbling under the tree in rags and tattered clothes. It is malnutrition of the underdeveloped countries, the poor child lies it with the big bulging belly or sucking the breast of the poor sickling mother whose skeleton one can see it easily. The poor child sucking the breast of Poverty the Mother, already a sick and poor mother, both of them suffering from malnutrition, is but an oft-seen scene of life poor countries. The maniac man locking and re-locking the door to check it whether it is locked or not is the other example.
Man-woman relationship is the other spectrum to be explored, to delve deep into the dark layers of consciousness. It is a story of attraction and repulsion, give and take, flesh and blood relationship. The yogi not, but the bhogi is the things of perusal. Sambhoga to Samadhi, sex to bliss, is the theory of Acharya Rajneesh and the sadhu with the sadhvi, the sadhu not, but the bhogi is there in the ashram piping in ganja. Yoga is yoga, make it not bhoga, as some yoga gurus are defaming it in America. The frescoes carved in stone on the walls of Khajuraho and Konark themselves are the best to express erotic love-loving, sensual and sensuous enough, flesh and blood attachment and affinity carved in stone. Poetry can be Vatsyayana’s Kamsuttra in terracotta figurines or sculptures carved in stone. Confessional poetry contains the bits of it and it van be seen in Sylvia Plath and Kamala Das. Maybe it that dissatisfied love is there in Kamala Das and she a dissatisfied Lawrentine heroine. Thomas Hardy too is a hard drinker and a seller of the woman as he narrates in The Mayor of Casterbridge and he himself married a teenaged girl at the age of seventy plus.
The ships and the sails are the topics of John Masefield as William Wordsworth was of Tintern Abbey and The Westminster Bridge and W.H.Auden of the island imagery as it is also there in Dylan Thomas’ Poem in October. The Sea Fever of John Masefield is better than that of Coromandel Fishers of Sarojini Naidu. Such a thing it is there in Tennyson’s Ulysses and Joseph Conrad.