Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An unsung tale…..true meaning of Poetry.


“John Keating: Words and ideas can change the world. We don't read and write Poetry because it is cute? But because we are the members of the Human Race, and the Human Race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But Poetry- beauty, romance, love, Passion. These are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman:

" O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless--of cities fill'd with the foolish;.......
What good amid these, O me, O life? "

answers that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.

What would your verse be?”

‘Dead Poets Society’ (1989).

A section from the original script which I took from the movie ‘Dead poets Society’, which vastly speaks about Poetry in context of Walt Whitman. Why did I choose the section from the script of a movie? I read somewhere, some days ago, movies are being criticized very boldly as they are challenging the identity of other art movements like music, drawing, dance, writing etc. I am not against such accusations nor am I supporting them. Escaping such polemics, I want to enlighten you with the fact that movies are a melodious blend of image, motion, music, verses and many similar artistic accessories which a director includes to make his point. Movies are very close to theaters. What promotes the fact of their sky-breaking height is it covers vast majority of audiences. This above mentioned scene portrays the beauty, art and meaning of Poetry in the first reading. But it has a lot more to tell than this. The above section of the script is giving us motivation (later this section is picked up as a part of Poetry’s teachings) to search for a meaning of life, to escape death. Other than material realities there are other realities as well which are not filled with cheating, jealously, hatred and revenge but are filled with pure ecstasy, that even the agony and the tragedy may sound as appealing as a verse written on a Spring. The world of life in life’s context.

To quote from Thomas Gray from ‘Elegy Written in a Country’s Churchyard’:

” The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.”

answers that we all are predestined to death; the ultimate end. But at the same time questions it and promotes us to rise out of it…..

“Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.”

In the movie too this theme is portrayed through “Carpe diem!” which means “Seize the Day!”. Make your every ordinary day count as extraordinary. Do something which will promote you to be called as a human of worth existence even if you have to pay your life for it, but in the end you can count yourself worth living. John Donne also gave a spirit to us to overcome such “ultimate end” in ‘Death Be Not Proud’ as,

“………………, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,”

“Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell;”

“One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

What do all these provide us? A spirit. A spirit to survive. To survive against even the most dreadful enemy of human existence i.e. death. The Poem talks about the triumph of human emotions and optimism over the eternal fate of whole mankind.


What does Poetry consist of? The Poetry must possess some elements of revelations in it. Why am I saying this? Because this is what I want you to notice and understand. Before reading Poetry we must have our own reflection of Poetry. What do I mean from the word “revelation”? It is not just the dictionary meaning of the term as “uncovering the divine truth”, but I want to make you all realize how does Poetry works, how does it handles such revelations and how does it takes the “marrows from our lives”. The most common way of reading Poetry which is mostly prevalent in schools and colleges and institutions are not in correct fashion, the fashion they are meant to be read. We can read the poetry, analyze it with the poet’s historical, personal, social and political contexts, but this is not the thing which a poet asks from the reader. The thing which came to my notice in the movie ‘Dead poets Society’ is the Dead Poets Society itself. Some teenagers breaking the norms of social institution and standing, not in heraldry but to form there “own grounds” and stand determinedly on them; the way they read poetry… the way which “O Captain! My Captain!” teaches them to pronounce a “barbaric YAWP”, John Keating asking children to stand up on there benches to look at the class (a metaphor for world) in a different way, with different perspective; to see what you want to see not what others want you to see. In my first year of graduation I learned that Literature is a literary art which is meant to read aloud verbally to understand the tones, and the lifts and drops of it. What are we missing while reading a Poem? A Poet never likes his work to be just read and interpreted with certain philosophical theories or some one drawing graphs, and charts, and techniques for understanding poetry. They all are rubbish; a trash. The way in which the other person thinks cannot be the way I would think, there is always a difference in a person’s perception of things; which we term as our own natural “reception”.

Why does a poet write a poem? Because, a poet is urging us to understand those smallest things of life which we randomly overlook; which gets unnoticed. T S Eliot in his essay ‘Hamlet’ wrote that “work of art cannot be interpreted; there is nothing to interpret; we can only criticize it according to standards, in comparison to other works of art”, he further somewhere said that he wants us to read and feel his Poetry, not to be just interpreted and analyzed and then put aside. It is not only about T S Eliot almost every poet want the same approach from a reader, which is not getting fulfilled. Poet is urging us to grasp the juice of the poem, not the matter of which it is composed of. All the poetries of this world can be summed up in a single person’s life. The point which has not been spread commonly to the readers is how to read a poem, the manner in which it should be read, not only to stress upon its Meter, rhyme, Figures of Speech, but to get the feeling, the warmth, the bliss and the essence behind it.

Never read a poem in its original context, but try to relate it with your own life and personal experiences and this is what a poet wants us to do. He wants to reveal to us that we are humans, full of fertility, potency, passion, love, hatred, agony, that we all will decay one day and we all will be food for worms, birds and animals but still, we live and we exist, we have an identity of our own, not only as a human but also our own, which is not framed up constitutionally, but the identity which is worth noticing. Within the immense expanse of the universe we are worth noticing because we have life which is so damn beautiful. That we are full of life!

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