(A Quarterly International Peer-reviewed Refereed e-Journal
Devoted to English Language and Literature)
P C K Prem
Poetry carries restrained praise, a bit of irony and satire, and reluctance of many to share or not to share its joy and here, just ignore smiles and applause. Poems can be straight, complex, and at times, obscure but genuinely try to portray life in multitude of activities of thoughts, emotions and instinctive reactions to persons, relations, incidents and social scenario.
One writes or scribbles a lyric with intensity of intellectual power and emotional reach, is difficult to believe. I understand it as random jotting or perhaps faintly arbitrary it is. An adolescent passion it is to connect with the soil and heart or to stay away in fantasy incomprehensible. Today, poets seem to be in a hurry in many cases and so feel convenient in free verse and defy rhythmical rules. I do not think a poem in free verse is precisely a poem, as obviously it is neither rhythmic nor metrical to be true but if the sounds of the words appeal and innate music strikes ears it is a lyric melodic. However, it is spirit of age a man lives with that is probably a little patchy and a bit muddled sans discipline.
If it is about the age, we care for, the poetry or text of it takes birth at this point, and one ascertains linkages with the language, throng of words and meanings. Efforts to sit beside truth in recapturing experiences and little indistinct thoughts words construct, begin. Unease is innate as one tries to travel unsure distance between experiences, thoughts formless, phrase and the final shape words take.
That way I justify what I write. Some verses are serious. A few are light and incongruous but are incisive reflections on man and society. If ‘the self’ stays out, well, it is good to see around what takes place, what exists and what appears to pester the ‘the inside’ and ‘the outside’ of you as body and heart or whatever exists inside. I think poetry is private with an intrinsic desire to participate in societal anxieties and actions where personal reactions and sentiments intercede. Something vague springs up, takes shape and thus, a few words you call rhythmic appear what one calls image of feelings, a little flowing stream of words –perhaps poetic it is. Thus, passion and its upsurge, call it poetry and it continues, and it is only an obsession and thereafter, a thought to put it out arises.
Poetry as one of the forceful segments of literature looks at life in entirety but is not absolute. It takes upon the responsibility of cultivating and spreading values –ethical and materialistic melodically I feel at times, but it raises questions, I do not wish to answer for obvious reason. It is inessential that a poet stays as a guru, a preceptor and if it is, he tells lies. Fierce scrutiny of moral principles causes humiliation one does not want. An optical illusion like situation in a desert arises inside where one finds water but is lost in sand dunes but as a guru one must stand up to attest truth so that inner passionate gush gets shape in words. Let the critic start work from here and find actual source of poetic outbursts –a little bizarre, abstruse and still distinct.
As poetic venture moves ahead, it looks messed up as emotions engulf experiences even while distortions arise. It looks odd, for art as a teacher, appears disgusting at times, and here, analytical faculties of intellect of vast scholarly field work to protect its region and it is not necessary that you as a poet adhere to what probity wants. Poetry is what hops and soars sans destination like the first cry of a child in a cradle but visualizes a final structure of creative music in words.
Art functions as a purgatory, a conduit that brings about limpidness, wholesomeness and inviolability even without giving a hint. It is natural and unintended but definitely, it expresses inherent wish to pen down experiences and thoughts even when you, as a poet or an author do not know what precisely you want to convey. If it is the frame of mental region, you want to be true to what you think of man and society it has plausible rationality. Art of continuing real connotation with a strong epithet has definite sources with some elimination. It is precisely a method to get rid of inessentials in what you find awkward and out of context during review or as you refresh or alter word construction.
Notes are good to bring back what you thought once. To give language to emotions and experiences causes tremendous anxiety and uncertainty since articulation of the indefinable shadows or vaguely hides the real meaning. Therefore, anonymity is bound to emerge but poetry has its regions of exclusivity and isolation where many a time, it does not allow any access to an ordinary poetry lover and it is now for the critic to do the rest.
Young age is unconscious of the truth and reality it depicts. It loves to walk into regions new in the hope that it is good to obliterate what exists. Therefore, it reinstates what challenges sensibilities with diffused relation to purported reality.
First, you sit in the right and now, you turn left to locate its bearing on the background. To gain knowledge of truth appears good but it is stressful. I understand even immature mind raises questions of metaphysical nature he does not know. Later, academicians indulge in the pleasure of imparting it varied meanings touching borders of esoteric interpretations where these meanings do not exist. Here, it turns out phony construal of intellectual prowess or scholarly thrust of not only a lyricist but also the critic. At times, it may be amazing and relevant but many a time, just for the enjoyment of demonstration of one’s knowledge that looks mostly meta-psychic related, it hints at absent spiritual quests.
Another aspect that requires elucidation is poet’s predilection for love of man, society and humanity I feel. It infuses spirit of humanism, secularism and universality where he functions assiduously toward a future of universal consciousness and unity of minds even as impossibility of realization is understandable and instantly decipherable. However, to tone down such fixation is good for poetry.
Basic nature of human beings never changes and so the poets normally adhere to the social, cultural and religious regions of upbringing they inherit through parents, books or scriptural texts. I am not an exception even when I try to create a different space for ‘the self’, ‘the self’ I often try to explore but sadly enough fail to arrive at the correct understanding of what it is. However, vagueness and ambiguity stare and it is the poetic mess that persuades to indulge in pleasure of binding fragile structure of words –one, two, or three, called lyrical lines that give compound meanings. Is it chaotic spirit of the age where man is in a hurry I wonder?
At a very later stage, if humanistic thoughts percolate down the psyche, they imbibe invasive thought patterns of wellbeing of everyone irrespective of doctrine, colour or grouping or region and it is not a new but an ancient thought that finds expression in all religions and so in poetry.
A creative artist of any genre carries character of age but he does not experience the awesome internal or external burden. Perhaps, feelings of autonomy and innate yearnings of a man nay a creative artist stay independent so that a reformist in him functions freely sans restraints on wayward feelings. At that time, liberal approach and its assertion take deep roots within. A cause of immense anxiety and further inquisition it is.
To understand social regions depends upon the quality and degree of knowledge and cultural understanding of a poet’s backdrop and comprehension of contemporary times. Subjectivity overwhelms despite extraneous factors that engage poet’s empathy for the age with the vibrant help of experience, awareness and quality of life a creative artist lives. He expects better life or hopes that people live a rich and happy life. At this point, an ideal perception of poet is noticeable. It involves challenges and assertion of positive attitude with understanding of environment -good or bad and here, any creative man goes beyond the borders of privacy and thinks of universal situation of life and wears mantle of an ethical man many a time and so, appears good and also disgusting. To teach morality is not good and it is not always welcome but it is an enjoyable poetic endeavour and a tool for entertaining ‘the self’ with value-system that one hardly adores.
I believe feelings of love and love for nature are elementary basics for human aspirations. As poetic sensibility and intensity of experience engulf, cultural proclivity gets strength and it encourages a poet to delve deep into areas of history, religion and myths of humanity in diverse regions that stimulate passion and craze to fathom even unvisited locales –that can be philosophical, spiritual and metaphysical.
At this stage, man’s energy to know more about man, society and its evolution function as germane curiosity infuses systematic doze of moral principles. It is not easily discernible but carries the temper of times with reflexive vehemence and enthusiasm.
During its early years, Indian English poetry had its vibrant and dormant spot and here, one can measure the growth with apparent stops, jerks and repositions and now, poets’ near aptness in depiction, causes some satisfaction.
It is time of uncertainty in nearly every wing of social spectrum but study of age displays poets’ worries, an essential perspective it is, and it is, no doubt, triumph of poets to open up hearts in hard times. If flaws surface, it is natural but the learning appears genuine, for at times, poets work without any frame to depend upon.
If a poet is cynical or wittily ironic, it gives hint of discontent in social setup and reveals awakened consciousness even if the narrative appears not very correct, I not only realized this crystallization but also experienced deeply. If a versifier is a victim to reformatory social and cultural life, it deflates beauty of a lyric. To appear as a reformer or social scientist in poetry may also exhibit disquiet at the fall of values and necessarily it makes an unlikable indentation in poetic charm and so, it is not true poetry. It is ‘chalta hai’ type of verse.
To create a lyric out of inner earth ‘the self’ and define limits of experiences ugly or striking is authentic, for here the architect or artist of verse draws out stuff from within and speaks out what it contains. If he shares what is within, he makes hesitant efforts to become part of men walking outside the social continuum. However, even with disavowal, social set up restricts a creative artist to speak up what he wishes to say. It is not good for poetry, and one is reluctant to call it a tragedy.
Poetry is born as one looks outside on birth and gains impetus as one grows, one may realize or not. I remember days I spent in securing degrees and heard words of principles and morality, of truth and integrity from elders and teachers. It exercised immense influence and I loved good things like anyone else but as I grew, I was apathetic when I observed them in social system. Is it possible to save soul, the inner man? It is big problem. It is good to speak of nature and its beauty, of values and principles but to live purely on them raises questions, notwithstanding what the written word says. Can poetry in such environment, maintain purity of thought and expression? It is for the versifier to find a solution. Expediency tells to create a distance and live at equidistant. It is a suggestion and every artist has to find his own truth, I feel.
To write has its limitations and poetic frenzy is a little different. You just pick up a pen and begin to scribble lines and as the words come to mind, they form a specific pattern –clear and at times, a little obscure. Experience down deep the heart confronts strains and tensions, for to translate it into structure of a sentence of a few words that appear to flow naturally, is the real problem.
Rhythm or music related to sound softens coarseness words give and here, at times, one tries to find, poetic phrases. However, cadenced or metrical poetic lines for many are not so easy. It requires immense efforts, mental discipline to create music and melody through lexis, an artist realizes, and so it happens with most of the poets when they understand that sensitive expression in blank verse works well. Rhythm and melody require internal poise and equilibrium having source outside I realize and so natural conflict causes barriers in creative process.
If a poet puts stress to bring form to a verse and makes expression pleasant-sounding, tuneful or cadenced, it is extra struggle with the thought and message he wishes to convey I feel but it hampers instant surge of thoughts even if it is modest.
If thoughts and feelings try to touch psychological borders, these give birth to interpretation that carries multiple meanings. To know strength of poetry through mental exercise gives unique pleasure I understand and it is anguish and joy together. One realizes at this moment that realistic comprehension is essential even if inner complexities obstruct.
To me internal maze of thoughts and emotions needs isolation, a kind of insulation from each other to grant it authenticity. It is difficult to find out what actually is true, for emotional and experiential makeup has a thin line of differentiation and therefore, the indistinctness lingers on until a poet tries to arrest it in possibly effective language. In many verses, it works as a restraint. Talking of thought, at times, one is appalled as taste of black blood travels painfully along the Ganges.
Here, in such constructions one fails to convey what precisely one wishes but still the breakup of lines puzzles and reflects some veiled caution.
One wonders if a poet wants to underline intrinsic incongruities or irritations. It hints at a sanctifying process, perhaps as elusiveness assails. Poems also compel one to make a choice between what is obviously existing dilemma and old impulsive urge–good or bad.
A poet’s tendency to be ethical and realistic often creates genuine problems where it is unimportant, and therefore, hanging around gives adequate stress. One cannot say what poets really feel when they suffer from irresolution and uncertainty of language they put to use, for the ultimate expression conveys a labyrinth of experience with a few flaws. Even then, it sustains poetic strength and offers moments of pleasure to an insightful poetry enthusiast, I believe.
A creative work apparently looks simple and spontaneous but it requires truth of feelings and thoughts. A poet, a creative artist builds up a certain artistic structure and if he maneuvers inner multiplexes, it is not a genuine art. It is expression of thoughts and emotions with a sense of solemnity and integrity and here the choice is with the artist. If he arranges the choices aptly, it is good but not the best, for truth is an exclusive and instantaneous entity sans disjointed construal, which appears an easy proposition but carries burden of uneasy option with regard to factual understanding.
To take up truth as a subject in lyrics carries limitations because a poet even dilutes the legitimacy and intensity of accepted experiences with the language he uses and the semblance of rhythm he wishes to generate. That is a grave error a poet realizes when he indulges in elegiac joy.
A creative artist deliberates cautiously and discerns a pattern in what he writes I believe. Lyrics, at surface even irritate, inveigle and confound, for he tries to go to the backdrop of formal birth of lyrics and then, understands the hidden meaning and its real face outside.
Very few verses, in this context, I know, I penned down during the last two decades, are not personal in nature it looks. It was neither intended nor deliberate, I understood later. I am still unable to make out. Probably, it was an attempt to hide what I felt for fear of personal infirmities of understanding relations, society and environment I recognized much later. Subjective scrutiny often obstructed correct rationalization. Maybe efforts were not working! However, it was a false perception I knew because at that time, social anxieties born of prejudices and typical cultural abstractions appeared irresistible.
To see the ugly and the unpleasant and make efforts to change it into beauty is a huge crisis. It requires a very strong heart to nurse hopes even while darkness rampant haunts future. To say good words, to smile and to see only light and radiance even in darkness and innate strain, and intolerance and impatience outside, is a good quality but it is also running away from realities and definiteness and that makes a man nincompoop, and perhaps turns him out of shape, and dreary he is I believe.
In creative art, it is good to speak of hopes but to ignore truth and realism often speak of ominous or murky side of life or does not appear pleasant, and at last, it drives man to imperfect knowledge of life and compels him to live in camouflage and illusion. It kills unprejudiced evaluation and thus, imperfections surface to blur correct appreciation. If a creative artist tries to avoid the downside, he is close to truth and makes art somewhat good if not the best.
About the Author:
PCK Prem (P.C. Katoch of Garh-malkher, Palampur, Himachal, a former academician, civil servant and member PSC HP, Shimla), an author of more than fifty five books, is a poet, novelist, short story writer and a critic in English and Hindi from Himachal, India.