Thursday, May 07, 2015

What is poetry? An elaborate definition

A long time ago, when I was at IITB, I thought hard about my poetry. What did it mean and what was its place in my life. What was the benefit of writing poetry to my life and to society? Those days there was a particular hindi song illustrating the regularity with which outstanding poets tended to be failures in practical life, which used to scare me. I had realised that I had some talent for writing but hadn't realised exactly how much I had. I knew I liked to write, needed to write and felt better by writing, but did not really understand my relationship with my writing, particularly poetry, which was the mainstay of my writing. But I was worried big time that I might become a failure in practical life like poets in many movies of those days were shown and like even the might Ghalib was a failure in practical life. One of the good things about living in IITB campus was that I was able to reflect deeply on what is poetry and what it meant to my life.

I realised that if one stays true to one's self and lives life on the front foot emotionally i.e. follows one's heart, one tends to be hurt far too easily. This was my experience too and I will skip the detail of that/those experience because that is not central to what I have to say. Essentially life is challenging and following one's heart leads to difficult emotional situations of various kinds. Some might be of not being sure, about so sure that one has doubts, of hope, of loss and lots and lots of other typical human emotions related to searching and finding one's goals and then achieving one's goals. I investigated myself deeply and found that I carried an emotional burden with me and wrote due to that emotional burden. Forcibly ditching the emotional burden did not seem possible and emotional burden tended to influence my life far too much in ways which were not always good. Even through writing the burden did not seem to go away. It seemed almost like my heart had some scars/lacunae which needed healing/filling. When I realised this, I also realised that I wanted to feel light and whole hearted again. But I did not know how this would happen but felt that poetry somehow would help me understand how this would happen. I decided that I would go deep into myself and make sense of what I felt deeply and write poetry about my deepest feelings. That helped me write some good poetry and helped release some of the burden. It helped me move on. I realised the truth of this song.

Writing poetry based on sense made out of one's deepest emotions (which might be shared with others for social/national/religious poetry) is articulating a problem and CHOOSING to view it in a particular way, which makes emotional and practical sense. I am writing this article for few friends who have mentioned that they do not get release from writing poetry. I KNOW that writing poetry helps one to move on. For these people who have tried and have not been able to move on, I would suggest that they explore themselves even more deeply and try to articulate the "problem" and review the various ways of looking at the "problem". If they do this, the heart and mind will tell them the right way of viewing the "problem", so that they can come out of it. There was a time when I felt good about poetry celebrating pain. Perhaps there are some people for whom, there is no way of viewing the "problem" in a way that provides release/meaning. But for most people, I think that viewing one's pain at a deep level differently can help find a way away from it to a richer experience of life. Most of the time, we never celebrate what we have and keep crying over what we do not and/or cannot have. Your problem and your view may vary. But going deep within oneself, reviewing one's pain and CHOOSING the right view can help release the pain.

So poetry is a way of making and sharing sense of the residue of one's experienced and imagined reality. It can help in healing scars and filling gaps so that one can experience life more deeply and whole heartedly. If one spends life with scars and gaps in the heart, one is likely to live lives of a particular kind. I believe that those who live more deeply and wholeheartedly are likely to be more socially responsible and sensitive. So poetry is a good thing. It is an intensely practical tool for anyone wishing to live a life emotionally on the front foot to get in and stay in touch with one's deepest self and live a life that really makes sense from the core, despite the very nature of life expressed in this song. Living a dignified and practical life is easier if one uses poetry as a tool.


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