The Rampage of Poetry
Anuj Mahadik for The Mumbai Art Collective
Since time immemorial, our land has been blessed with poetry written by seers who meditated intensely for realizing the universal truths and eternal knowledge. Poetry has traveled through several media like the bark of birch, palm leaves, cloth, wood, paper and so on until we’re finally reading it on a digital screen today.
Poetry has survived the pain of being engraved on copper plates, carved on ivory and earthenware and inscribed on tablets of rock before it has finally reached you. It has preserved itself on cave walls. It has challenged erosion. It has survived the disasters of the nature. If nothing more, it has guarded wisdom for you over millennia in the form of manuscripts, architecture, artifacts, seals, coins and perhaps every excavated article.
It has travelled through eras and dynasties to reach us. It has translated itself into countless languages so that your mind isn’t left malnourished. It has braved storms in the sea and sand alike so it could travel to every possible corner of the world. It has retained its beauty despite the warfare, calamities, diseases and so much more that we have put it through.
What have we done for poetry?
I don’t remember tattooing it on my skin for the world to see. I haven’t written it on the walls of my living room for the guests to read and receive intellectual hospitality. I don’t see poems and quotes painted with spray cans on the countless blank walls of my city that are otherwise littered with advertising bills. I haven’t told my neighborhood kid that poetry is anything but boring and has a far different purpose than being memorized for oral examinations. I’ve almost forgotten the art of writing on the surface of paper, let alone sending poetry by letters.
Well I could sync and save it to one of my virtual cloud services, but what good is my insight if not made accessible to those seeking help? What’s the point in writing a poem at the back of my journal, if it can’t be the compass to those who’ve lost their way? Perhaps, I constantly need better ways to navigate myself through these everyday hurdles too. Your observations and experiences are unique and most definitely belong to you. I second that, believe me. However, must you be too selfish to share a piece of your wisdom with your friend? You just might have the corner of my map that’s been missing all this while and who knows, vice versa.
How could we bring a rampage of poetry?
I am quite sure we have similar concerns; otherwise you wouldn’t have read thus far. So allow me to make you familiar with Hugo Weaving’s words that keep ringing in my ears time and again:
“..While the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?”
Poetry is an inseparable organ of our culture, but also the one that’s been least taken care of in recent times. Therefore, our primary concern must be to ensure that it’s constantly cultivated and nurtured before being assimilated by the generations to come. The wounds left by exploitation, plagiarism and censorship must be constantly cleaned, bandaged and cured. Indeed, it must be strengthened and guarded in a world too cruel to preserve the health of a living man.
Most importantly, it must be kept unbiased and free from all the shackles of discrimination like race, religion, gender, creed, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. which most of our civilization is fond of today. We must constantly strive to expose the masses to the might of poetry, for it’s a phenomenon in itself — as essential as the stars and the sea. And we all deserve to be thoroughly impacted by it on a consistent basis.
Poetry is the very niche of literature that has separated the men from the mannequins and laid the foundation to revolutions throughout history. If we aren’t capable of replacing the kerosene in a molotov and lighting it up with a pen rather than a matchstick, we do not deserve to be recognized as poets. If we aren’t setting a wild fire that’d swallow injustice, inequality, greed, poverty, atrocity and violence in its literary flames, we aren’t giving back to this enlightening tradition of poetry. If our words aren’t backed by intentions and actions to create opportunities for healing the damaged areas of the society, we’re merely second grade scribblers and not poets.
My intention is to make you realize that our poems, no matter how naïve or profound, are only different jigsaw pieces. They could be of different lengths, meters, genres and languages; but have a remarkable potential to fit with each other. And I’m not done here, unless I’ve made you climb the ladder to see the bigger picture from the floor above.
This is a guest column by Anuj Mahadik for The Mumbai Meter.