Sunday, January 09, 2005

The meaning of a poem

Have you ever read a poem? If you did, wondered if it ever made sense to spend time to figure the "supposed meaning" out? felt out of place and remembered the torture you had to go through when you were to memorize the poems for school exams? well. you were not the only one.

I was one of those too who realized that many of us can't paint or dance or sing including myself. Poetry then was not even an option to think of. That would make me look even more ridiculous, I thought. But then I happened to watch a Satyajit Ray movie and it had Tagore's poem recited in the background. The poem recital, its meaning, images on the screen, the sound stirred something in me.

It was a revelation to me- that you could express yourself with words - as the vehicle to communicate an image, metaphor or a simile that can transport to extraordinary from a seemingly ordinary jumble of words and phrases. Poetry belongs to everyone. It builds a bridge between you and the unknown (not the poet who wrote) - That poetry should not mean but be.

It is like a shimmering lantern for you to look inwards as much as it shows the landscape outside. So an aesthete or a poetry reader like you and I should stop worrying if we ever understood what we just read, instead let the words lead us to the inevitable. In defence I am going to quote Archibald MacLiesh's Arts Poetica here:
Arts Poetica
A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit
DumbAs old medallions to the thumb
Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown -
A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs
Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,
Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind -
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs
A poem should be equal to:Not true
For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf
For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea -
A poem should not mean
But be

-- Archibald MacLeish

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