Friday, October 4, 2013

What’s in a poem?

Recently, I participated in a Literary Festival. Among other things, I also moderated a poetry session during the festival. The panelists were acclaimed poets from different parts of the country. As a young poet myself I was excited and wanted to make the most of the session. I had several questions in my mind about the art and craft of poetry and felt the platform was apt to clear my doubts.

But to tell you frankly, I did not get the answers I was seeking. I also felt they were less flexible in their views and approach towards modern poetry.

In fact, I was quite disappointed by one of the remarks made during the discussion that if readers can understand a poem then it is an example of a bad poetry. Now, how strange is that? So, basically what the esteemed panelist was trying to suggest was that a good poetry must not be understood. But if one does not understand it, how can they enjoy it?  In my opinion, that may be one of the main problems with traditional poems: they are perfect in their craft but are not easily understood and thus have very few takers. Merely getting the basic elements like the rhyme and rhythm  of a poem right may not necessarily ensure that the easily distracted readers of today will be attracted to it. If it is not understood it will not find many takers. It may even be considered a waste of time by many.

When I came out with my first collection, (Poetry Out and Loud), and even before that, I was surprised (and happy) with the response I'd received for my poems which I had shared on a few online poetry groups. Initially, I was skeptical and had shied away from sharing them with others. But gradually I realized many people; especially youngsters could not only relate to them but enjoyed them. Almost all my poems are in free verse and most are written in a direct style. And as opposite to what the eminent panelist opined, my poems are easily understood. In fact, I was really not expecting my first poetry book to sell more than 300 copies. But it comfortably crossed that figure  within a few months. That was heartening.

I felt happy because my poems were whetting the appetite of those people who earlier did not like reading poetry at all. Maybe, one day these very readers will turn to poems by other great Indian and Western poets just because my “easily understood,” poems stimulated them enough to appreciate the beauty of other eloquent yet not so perfectly understood poems. 

But then, this is my blog and I have a free run here. Besides, those panelists are not here to give their counter viewpoints. You, my dear readers, will have to do with a one sided version and form your own opinions. I am happy as long as you don't stop reading my blogs and my poems.

I would like to end with a haiku which was read out by one of the panelists, Prof R. Raj Rao from his collection, the CANADA ALBUM, and which I had enjoyed (more importantly understood):

He asks: what is Love?
Love is a four – letter word.
Grapes are sour, he says.

Cheers! :-)

Poetry Out and Loud II (Infibeam link) -

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