POETRY AND THE EMERGING WORLD SCENARIOAugust 11, 2021
1. POETRY AND THE EMERGING WORLD SCENARIO
Poetry connects us to yesterday and stimulates a vision for tomorrow. Poetry communicates beyond the barrier of culture, geography, nationality, and race. Poetry helps us in the purgation of negative human emotions. Poems illuminate our individual lives’ purgation. Contemporary poetry does not belong to poets and poetry lovers only. Every educated socially active person is connected to poetry in one or another ways. Serious poetry is less popular today. Art for art’s sake and art for society’s sake, both are prospering side by side. Contemporary poetry is easily comprehensible and it makes it more readable and reachable to a large number of audiences. Poetry has lost the certificate of feudality. Social media is bringing a new definition of poems. Popular poets from Instagram are ruling over the taste of readers.
Looking at the style of poetry, the most recurrent poetic device in contemporary poetry is poetic license. A founding figure of new criticism John Crowe Ransom commented that poets get pleasure in an illusion of freedom; generally writing in verse libre they occasionally shift to stanza rime etc in a careless pattern. Because of the influence of social media, the brain that composes is less important than the mouth that recites. Slam poetry is a contemporary glamorous literary phenomenon. With the marketing tools of social media and the boom in publishing houses, anyone can establish himself as a poet. The question of quality in contemporary verse is unanswered. Scholars and critics are unsure yet optimistic about the future of poetry. Griffin poetry prize winner Canadian poet Christian bok has claimed, poetry in the future will be written by machines for other machines to read, there will be, for the foreseeable future, someone behind the curtain inventing these drones; so that even if literature is reduced to mere code- an intriguing idea—the smartest minds behind them will be considered our great authors.
- WHAT IS POETRY FOR? WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF POETRY?
Poetry is an expression of inner emotions, much like music, art, painting, it is an abstract form of expression. The purpose of poetry is to derive aesthetic pleasure and evoke human emotions with the use of language.
Poetry as a literary form – Poetry evolved as a form of literature in prehistoric times, even before writing where poems were sung as a tale from mouth to mouth by minstrels before being written down as text.
Example: Beowulf – The oldest surviving epic in Old English
- HISTORY OF POETRY
“Poetry has a long history, dating back to prehistoric times with the creation of hunting poetry in Africa, and panegyric and elegiac court poetry were developed extensively throughout the history of the empires of the Nile, Niger, and Volta river valleys . Some of the earliest written poetry in Africa can be found among the Pyramid Texts written during the 25th century BC, while the Epic of Sundiata is one of the most well-known examples of griot court poetry. The earliest Western Asian epic poetry, the Epic of Gilgamesh, was written in Sumerian. Early poems in the Eurasian continent evolved from folk songs such as the Chinese Shijing, or from a need to retell oral epics, as with the Sanskrit Vedas, Zoroastrian Gathas, and the Homeric epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. Ancient Greek attempts to define poetry, such as Aristotle’s Poetics, focused on the uses of speech in rhetoric, drama, song, and comedy. Later attempts concentrated on features such as repetition, verse form, and rhyme, and emphasized the aesthetics which distinguish.” (Source Wikipedia)
• EVOLUTION OF POETRY WITH TIME
Poetry as an art has evolved itself through the ages.
Classical Poetry – Classical thinkers followed a refined tradition in writing poetry. Aristotle’s Poetics describes three genres of poetry, namely the epic, the tragic, and the comic.
Until the late 19th century, poets followed few distinctive forms while writing poetry, that is, prosody, meter, rhythm, intonation, alliteration, and other poetic devices. The traditions and forms changed from time to time but there was very little change in metrical patterns.
Modern Poetry – Post world war, the art of writing poetry changed dynamically. Long set traditions were broken with the breakdown of metrical patterns, rhythm, and diction. Symbolism, imagism, surrealism was introduced.
Contemporary poetry – is usually defined as poetry written after the start of the 1920s (some extend it until the 1950s). Contemporary poetry is difficult to define as it is a plane that is being built while in flight, but there are some fundamental characteristics of contemporary poetry that distinguish it from traditional poetry.
- MODERN TRENDS AND CONTEMPORARY POETRY
Poetry as an art in the 21st Century: With the evolution of technology and the internet, there has been a steep decline in reading and writing habits. For those who still love reading, most prefer fiction and novels. So, the pivotal question – Will poetry survive the modern trends, or will it face death as an age-old tradition?
The deadly enemy of real poetry according to the famous British poet James Sale is like a hydra. It has many heads, many names, postmodernism, for example, communism for another, but the key one is ‘Progress’. Progress of course does not mean progress; it means regress; it’s the ‘newspeak’ of George Orwell,” Sale said.
He continued, “We want to counter these tendencies, these beliefs in progress, and all their formless ugliness. We want to re-establish the importance of form, the centrality of the imagination, and its ability to bring real beauty into our world. To develop the Muse means openness to reality, an ability to live with ambiguity, and what Keats called negative capability.”
Defense – Poetry is a form of art that is natural. A poet does not need the effort to write, it comes randomly. It is an expression of the innermost thoughts of human emotions. So, poetry will die only if emotions die in humanity. Of course, it will not remain the same. From the classical age to the modern age, the art of writing poetry has undergone distinctive changes in pattern, diction, language, rhythm, style, and meter and evolved itself with time. The focus will shift, the patterns will change but emotions are everlasting. From Haiku to slam poetry, to light poetry, prose poetry, speculative poetry, visual poetry, pictorial poetry, etc. poetry will evolve itself in different forms and traditions.
Contemporary poetry is most often written in free verse (unrhymed lines).
- The lines follow the natural rhythms of the language and not the strict five stresses per line in iambic pentameter.
- Contemporary poetry is written in language that is accessible to the common reader.
- Contemporary poetry suggests ideas rather than overtly stating ideas.
- Contemporary poetry is brief in comparison to traditional poetry.
- Contemporary poetry is grounded in the image. (show, don’t tell)
- Contemporary poetry invites the reader to complete statements, offer conclusions, and extract meaning.
The meaning of the contemporary poem exists more in the mind of the reader than in accessing the mind of the poet. The problem is that within the category of contemporary poetry we find many differences. But it is still a style of poetry that follows a specific series of traits and literary tools: inconsistent meter variations upon standard rhyme, abandonment of a classical musical style, variations on the conventions of poetic lines otherwise inconsistent regard for standard poetic structure also known as FREE VERSE. It gave a sense of freedom to the poets, which they enjoyed. But as skilled poets, they take advantage of the poetic devices. The poem ‘Subversive Modernism in Art’ by Sarban Bhattacharya speaks volumes about the modern mindset.
“Progressive” mind accompanies the art
Of writing poetry at present time.
Great intellectuals from forms depart,
And love the free verse that spurns meter and rhyme.
If poems be composed in such a way
That lines consecutive are relevant,
They may attract the readers’ snort today
Though they convey what they have truly meant.
“Why should not poetry resemble prose”–
Their argument they draw from godlike Marx.
All genres are “equal”! Each strand of his beard flows
Like hanging rope to strangle classic arts.
“Art for art’s sake”? When politics is twined
With literature, its basic worth’s denied.”
- THE PROBLEMS WITH MAINSTREAM POETRY
Professor Joseph S. Salemi, a legend in the formalist community, talked about the problems with mainstream poetry today. “Here are persons presuming to write and publish literature, but who have an imperfect grasp of their own language. It’s bad enough that much contemporary poetry since Allen Ginsberg has been ‘nihilistic free verse oral diarrhea,’ as the poet William Childress describes it. But that its creators can’t even put it into coherent English? That’s really disgraceful,” Salemi stated.
Professor Salemi, works at the New York University, edits the journal Trinacria, wrote for The Pennsylvania Review, and now writes at the website Expansive Poetry On-Line.
He pointed out the strong liberal bias that has taken over mainstream poetry.
“Anyone with strongly expressed conservative views will be hounded out of a poetry workshop, or asked to leave an online discussion group, and his work will be reflexively rejected if he submits it to a mainstream magazine. This is real, this is actual, this is happening right now, today. The world of modernist poetry has turned as politically rigid and uncompromising as the old Soviet Central Committee. As the poet Joseph Charles MacKenzie once very aptly said, ‘poetry has become the eunuch of the left,’” Salemi stated.
The deadly enemy of real poetry according to the leading British poet James Sale is like a hydra. It has many heads, many names, postmodernism, for example, communism for another, but the key one is ‘Progress’. Progress of course does not mean progress; it means regress; it’s the ‘newspeak’ of George Orwell,” Sale said. He continued, “We at the Society of Classical Poets want to counter these tendencies, these beliefs in progress, and all their formless ugliness. We want to re-establish the importance of form, the centrality of the imagination, and its ability to bring real beauty into our world. To develop the Muse means openness to reality, an ability to live with ambiguity, and what Keats called negative capability.”
Poetry is ageless like an evergreen tree, the existence of poetry in the future depends upon the existence of human beings; even at the moment of the apocalypse, the last man on earth will do poetry. Still, it is worth attention to predict the face of poetry available for the next generation. British poet Judith Palmer said, one of the things poetry gives all of us is a way of developing an attentiveness to life, a way of observing the world, of noticing things and seeing them differently. We turn towards poetry for a little hope and support. Some poets have composed their best poems out of grief, some people developed a habit of doing poetry in pain. In the time of war and emergencies, poets instill hope in the conscience of suffering masses. Prominent poet Emily Dickinson once said,“A poem is a house that tries to be haunted.”
I believe that poetry is the most exquisite form of writing. And anyone can write a poem if they want to. In today’s world of fast, moving images, poetry has lost much of its appeal to the masses. But there are those of us who thrive on language and who still appreciate a poem and its power to move us emotionally. It’s our job to keep great poetry writing alive. And it’s our job to keep writing poetry.
- POETRY TODAY
Poetry with the passage of time saw growth in textual, audiovisual, and graphical mediums. Technological advances also influenced the creation and reception of verses. Earlier an aesthetic medium of record-keeping of important events, later poetry incorporated all kinds of emotions and experiences. In the Romantic age, William Wordsworth called poetry to be a spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions. In the succeeding Victorian age, Mathew Arnold summed up poetry to be a criticism of life. The current scenario of poetry is a mixed canvas of great and mundane poetry. Pop culture has brought so many new trends to poetry. Today Poetry can be anything; it is everything; all the events in the life of man from cradle to grave can be the subject of poetry. The quality of poems are not decided by poets and critics but the readers; who behave more like a consumer in a rush. Rap songs, slam poetry, graphic poetry, sonnets, haiku, and some other forms of poems are liked by this new audience and a large section of this audience are youth. The ‘I’ has become a prominent voice of contemporary poems. Self-publication, self-promotion, and commercialization have changed the scenario for poets in a drastic and dynamic way.
In the emerging world scenario, Poetry is global yet plural, we need good translators for facilitating the reach of strong regional poetic voices on an international plane. Poetry has no gender; the poetic voice is ambivalent and in continuous search of its identity. In upcoming years social media will dominate poetry more and more. There is a fair possibility that a poet as a writer will not be professionally successful, but a poet in performer personae will continue to be a star. Carol Ann Duffy, the first woman poet laureate, comments that true poetry is in the hands of youth, as they reject materialism; they can channel their thoughts and ideas, especially on green issues, into poetry. She also opined that poetry should be sincerely taught in school. Poetry can help children deal with the other subjects on the curriculum by enabling them to see a subject in a new way.
Poet Mary Oliver, perhaps even more than her poems, it is her introduction to her collection, Wild Geese: Selected Poems, that has stayed with me. Titled “Introduction,” it is really a personal essay, a sad and fortifying one, on why she became a writer, and why she was drawn to the natural world. “Children are powerless,” she began, “…they are the victims of every sorrow and mischance and rage around them…without any of the ability that adults have to change them.” Interspersed with memories of walking her dog and running into foxes on the ice are paragraphs on how one moulds a life, on how, as a child, writing and the natural world became the two “gates” she vanished through to escape what she describes, without much elaboration, as “a difficult place”.
We must go on the flow of contemporary verses, reading and appreciating them. The poetry of our time is a virtual image of our postmodern society.
- PRESENT WORLD SCENARIO
At present we are living in a dangerous time. If you open up your eyes and put your ears to the ground, you can feel the pain of the time. Yes, people are suffering everywhere. Yes, too many people are also enjoying their life according to their personal dreams or individual or even collective whims. If we widen up our senses we can understand the disparities between these two extremes. The number of people who are not living well is much greater than the ones who are really having a merry time. Even if we do consider the quality of life, the disparity between these two extremes is astronomically high. But why? Why should the largest number of people have to suffer enormously? This is the ultimate question humanity should have to answer.
If we tune ourselves with the news every day, we know what it looks like. What are the ground realities around the world? The current affairs that cause the sufferings of common people, and the very few who gain substantially from these scenarios. Now if we analyze ourselves properly, we have to confess that we are not compassionate enough to respond humanely to these situations at all. We tend to believe that politics is not our cup of tea. We the common people generally believe that society as a whole and the political powers, in particular, are the right institutions to respond to the sufferings of the common people. We as the individual can do nothing about it. As we have no power with us. So how can we respond to situations which are beyond our reach?
Considering all this we remain indifferent to the political situations in general. Gradually as we get accustomed to this type of mental acceptance of our feeble powers, we become less and less worried about our fellow beings and their everyday situations, sufferings, and the actual ground realities of our surroundings around the world. Sadly enough all these end up alienating us from humanism. We become less and less human each day and more and more individuals day by day. Our creative minds thus also become devoid of human compassion, which becomes literary and more academic.
This should not be the poet’s religion at all. As we have already discussed, a poet should always be in unity of his being with all existence. It is so essential in the poet’s life that without this union of individual beings and the entire existence one can never be creative enough to produce anything substantial which can air the voice of his time meaningfully authentically and humanly.
Our troubled times over the whole world pose a severe challenge to our humanity, to our mind’s power of abstraction and critical thinking in quest of truth at the very heart of freedom and democracy. When we speak today of “human rights,” what meaning or vision, what truth about our humanity, dwells in that phrase? Ubuntu, says Nelson Mandela: “I am because we are.” What Mandela says is at the core of human dignity. We need the imagination to grasp the spirit of what he says.
The world today is in crisis. The word “crisis” is from Greek krinein, meaning “to divide or discriminate and judge.” A time of crisis then is a time of division and judgment. The Greek word krinein also gives the English words “criticism” and “criterion.” The poets as leaders must listen well, not play deaf, and be sensitive to, and not resent, criticism; and there are criteria for a right judgment which presupposes integrity of character and a sound, discerning mind.
We might think that the readers are very much limited but have we ever thought that even in history, not only poetry but every form of discourse had only a handful of readers, that is the elite and the gentry class. The majority of the mass was illiterate or semi-literate. So, in truth, access to poetry as art was always limited. Now, it depends more on personal interest than being literate.
Is poetry the supreme expression of the noblest human emotions: of love and sympathy; of awareness of the infinite value of life; of the realizations of the eternal truth through the strokes of individual talents of creative genius? Yes, poetry is all these together in a single volume of human brilliance! And a poet’s life is the extension of human consciousness into the eternal essence of life and sympathy! His soul belongs to the future as well as to the present of his own time with the cultural heritage of his predecessors. So a true poet lives not only in his contemporary time but also in the future with his cultural heritage projecting the eternal essence of human sympathy and consciousness.
Mind and imagination are one. Without imagination, there is no thinking nor intuition beyond concept. “Concepts without intuitions are empty,” says Immanuel Kant; “intuitions without concepts are blind.” It is the imagination that makes real to the mind what the mind abstracts from our experience, what it perceives or intuits in the world. Thus, what is most imagined is what is most real. All great poets, thinkers and scholars, scientists, artists, inventors have a lively imagination.
From lives lived or imagined, we draw our worldview, moral compass, ideals, faiths — all abstract, but alive in our mind’s imagination. Our truth is where love, goodness, beauty are one. These words — “love, beauty, goodness” — are all abstract, but their meaning lights up in our imagination, and thence, in our speech and deed. In the end, the genius or tutelary spirit in Imagination shall save our Earth and humanity. Language is the Muse and Imagination the spirit guide. Since Imagination opens up infinite possibilities of expression, there are various kinds of creative work in all the arts, and each kind over time secretes its own criteria of excellence. Consequently, there are many theories and approaches to creativity and Poetry is definitely not an exception.
The great poet Robert Frost says: “The greatest adventure of man is science, the adventure of penetrating into the matter, into the material universe. Adventure is our property, a human property that is, our imaginative construct of the material universe, the best description of us is the humanities.”
There is turmoil in our world. Hatred, racism, poverty, terrorism, extremism, fanaticism, and grave injustice. Ultimately, we have war. The poets observe, sense, and are moved into action. Through their words, they create an alternative order. In that alternative order comes transformation. The transformation, first, occurs at the personal level and, from there, expands into social transformation. Poets are teachers, historically, the conscience of communities. They now work on a global scale. Modern technology has given them new tools, whereby communication is immediate. This would be a good thing for humankind in the emerging world scenario.
To speak from the heart is to touch the heart, and to speak from the
soul is to touch the soul.
Poetry is holistic, it addresses the social ills and inadequacies that will result in conflict.
Poetry is creative, innovative, connecting all the dots. The poet is the pivot, the fulcrum, the point of balance, the sensible and sensitive in an often insensible and insensitive world. In poetry, it’s never winners-take-all, it’s about sharing, caring, and making peace within ourselves and with the universe. Poetry has the power of words and of peaceful revolution leading to a renaissance in history.
Nothing is more volatile than an art form, so it is natural for thinkers, critics, and scholars to worry about the future of poetry. While thinking about the future of poetry one must look towards the wise words Matthew Arnold, who wrote in ‘The study of poetry’ in 1880, “The future of poetry is immense, because in poetry, where it is worthy of its high destinies, our race, as time goes on, will find an ever and surer stay.”
1. Arnold Essay on ‘Future of Poetry’, the key source of the debate. Below is the link:
3.From Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
4.Galeano, The Book of Embraces, tr. Cedric Belfrage with Mark Schafer (W.W.Norton, 1992): 18.
5.From Richard Poirier’s interview of Robert Frost in Writers at Work / The Paris Review, Second Series (Viking Press, 1963; Penguin Books, 1977): 23.
6.Camus, The Rebel: an Essay on Man in Revolt (N.Y.: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1951): 271.
7.http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Albert_Camus. Camus, “Create Dangerously,” in Resistance, Rebellion, Death, op. cit.: 269.
8.Galeano’s own epigraph to his The Book of Embraces,tr. Cedric Belfrage with Mark Schorer (N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 1992): 18.
9.The Rebirth of Poetry Is Here: First SCP Symposium in New York (Press Release)- 27th June 2019.
Article by Jyotimaya Thakur
Jyotirmaya Thakur( retired Principal) is the author of forty books with many waiting to be published. Her work has been published in many global anthologies, magazines, tabloids, digital news-media, internationally and translated into many languages. Multi-genre award-winning poet of many accolades from literary and humanitarian organizations. She is an Indian living in the UK, reviewer, translator, promoter of International poetry, social and environmental activist. She is the first Indian origin woman as Vice-President of the parliament of the World Union of Writers and Poets, Italy. She serves on various prestigious Committees as International Ambassador and chief advisor in many literary and humanitarian organizations. She is the first Indian poet to be published by RVAW Publications, UK, and her poems are showcased by the Wolf International Poetry Exhibition group of the UK. She is invited to prestigious Literary festivals as a special guest. She has been featured as “A Woman of Essence ” by Dotism Journal, Australia. “Woman of Excellence ” and in the ‘Gems’ series by the World Pictorial Poetry forum, Daman. She has been featured in -‘ The World Contemporary English Poets’ anthology by Paschim Bangla English Academy.