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Poetry – an extension of life

By Reena Prasad.

As a child, a handwritten diary had been a tolerant, reliable friend
and secret companion in whom I confided my deepest fears and feelings
as also my dreams of an alien world of my creation. Poetry to me
continues to be that diary-an extension of myself. I try to enter a
poem as unobtrusively as possible and let it lead me on diverse paths
because a regular, studied effort is beyond me and because I want to
remain open to novel ideas and refrain from judging or comparing it.
Poems with staying power attract me more. I have a book of poems by
Thomas Hardy filched from my brother when he left the nest and to this
day I continue to read many of those poems that I loved around twenty
years ago.

A good poem has an ability to cause a sudden change or to enhance the
feelings or mood I have at the time of reading. I know poems that make
me sadder when I am sad and happier when I am happy but the ones that
stand out are those that can make me smile through my tears or weep
when there is nothing really to be sad about.

I am an emotional reader—the shape, the form, the genre is less
important for me than the content of the poem and its ability to flip
me over. But having said so, let me also confess that my love for
words, their resonant sounds, their extraordinary ability to contain
emotions, their beauty when arranged in an original turn of phrase so
that they soothe, tease, provoke and dance on the tongue and in the
heart while reading is also a great factor.

I love it when “a poem is the thing it states, it is the love, it is
the history, it is the rose, it is the battlefield, the experience,
the action, the landscape, the loves, the lives and is lived in the
poem, not otherwise.” ( Kathleen Raine)

A poem must bring something new, some gift that I can cherish, some
longing , some “ Sehnsucht “- a word I discovered recently and awaken
memories that are not really mine but that seem familiar and create
new exhilarant worlds within, making me want to explore them on my
own. Tall orders perhaps yet there are innumerable great poems being
written and each one carries a secret little nugget of truth and
wisdom within it that causes wonder and awe and makes the present
moment a little more special and says something more than what it
seems on the surface.

Let me share a translated poem by a Gujarati poet Chandrakant Sheth.

 

Selling the sky

I once had been to a narrow lane
to sell the sky.
The residents of the narrow lane
took me for a lunatic.
I was made fun of,
I was manhandled,
I was pelted with stones.
My clothes were torn off.
They tried to make me unclench my fist.
But could the sky ever be in one’s fist?

Poor people of the narrow lane!
They don’t know
that the sky could never be kept
in one’s pocket, in a carpet bag, or a trunk, or a fist.
I was merely going to lift their drooping eyelids
and show them the sky!
They were going to get the sky free!
The selling of the sky was but a ruse!
But the residents of the narrow lane—
they drove me away
and went to sleep,
burrowing their faces deep in their pillows.

Once again I dragged myself
and kept hoping that the sky will be sold
tomorrow, if not today,
and kept breathing deeply, with determination.
Well to begin with
these residents of the narrow lane
and, what’s more, the selling of the sky—
the transaction
couldn’t possibly have been over that soon.

(*This one has an Indian/Gujarati context and refers to the people in
the narrow lane who have no idea of the vast blue sky and who
understand life only in terms of doing business i.e. buying and
selling.)

All of us who are here reading this are blessed. We have the ability
to see a bit of the sky.

This article was written for and published in Niamh Clune’s Plum Tree Books Blog : The Wednesday Column Featuring Reena Prasad.

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