Does a poem need to follow rules?

23 July 2013 Kerala Commentary

Does a poem need to follow rules?

In Poetry & Literature

Does a poem need to follow rules?
Started by Ms. Sonia Sicat.

Does a poem need to follow rules? Do we box in our feelings, insights, dreams and aspirations that need expression? Can not we write poignantly from the depths of our souls and just let flow? 

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • A glass of water given to us in a glass is very convenient to be drunk. But what if it is poured down on a table top and we asked to drink? That is what, form is there for. The more a work of literature deviates from form and symmetry, the more difficult the path becomes for the walker to tread. A stone absent from where it must be, and a stone present where it never shall be; what will happen to us? Form and symmetry are there to ensure that the reader, viewer, listener, understands and enjoys the work of art at least as much as its creator does easily. It is not a rule but a directive. We can keep it or we may break it; either of it will decide the acceptability of our work. It is the same with poetry or painting or sculpture. We may note that, since the time of the oral epics, not a piece of poetry with no symmetry or form has survived. In painting also, none has survived. We can say Picasso, Elliot, such and such but one or two centuries are not what judge a work of art, poetry or painting. We are labouring on a poem, then why shall not labour a little more to make it fit and qualified for passing not decades but centuries, like our ancestors did?

Regarding John David Lionel Brooke’s comment: P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum, wonderful poetic points from a person with a poetic name.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • Dear John David Lionel Brooke, you might not be knowing how that name was derived and came into being. P is my mother's initial and S my father's. Remesh in Sanskrit means Lord of the Lotus or The Sun. Chandran in Sanskrit means The Moon. Trivandrum is the name of my place, the capital city of Kerala. So the name P.S.Remesh Chandran, Trivandrum means the Sun and Moon of Trivandrum, a Son of P and S. I cannot change it. But my friends have conveniently shortened it to the two initials.

John David Lionel Brooke • P. S. Thank you for your poetic comment about your full name and where you are in the universe. Sun and Moon in Trivandrum sounds just right for you.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • Think about the magnificent and streamlined shape of human beings distorted or their form becoming full of abrupt projections. Then who will not blame god for bad design and bad taste? Wherever we look, whatever we see, they are all in perfect form, which cannot be altered further, without compromising integrity or beauty. Why can't poets adopt the same principle, of refining their works to the finish? Who will be there to polish and finish it for society once it is released into public circulation? In everything else, every one wants perfection, but only in poetry, why should it be not there? Russian communist writers and intellectuals were the most accused in bringing this formlessness in poetry to the front and making it acceptable among writers. Not that there were not others equally responsible for spreading this kind of disintegration in the west. We know, Kerala State in India was the first place in the world where a communist government came into rule in 1957 through public ballot instead of bullet. This wave of formlessness in literature was their main contribution to the literature and poetic aesthetics of South India. A famous literary critic and playwright, Late Prof. M.P.Paul, ridiculed this tendency once by asking them: 'The hammer in the red flag should always have an accurate shape and perfect right angular joints. The sickle should be a perfectly arched thing with a very straight line joined to it at exactly ninety degrees. The star in the flag should be drawn with perfectly equal sides and isoselous angles. Will they tolerate if the hammer, sickle and star is drawn formless or in a loose shape? Why do they insist literature alone shall be shapeless, formless and amorphous?

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • Sonia Sicat earlier wrote that poems with symmetry are wonderfully, magically, incredibly written and she is awed by them. It is simple: they not only pour out their heart and soul like almost all others but edit them too to the finish, the prime responsibility of a poet, before releasing them to public reading. Most of their poems do begin as freely flowing emotions and feelings, patternless and unsymmetrical like others but they write them down in their crude orderless form before those thoughts and emotions vanish for ever. Then they forget it and give it a few days' leave of absence from their minds. Then they take it again after a few days or weeks and begin editing, cutting and joining in their minds or on paper and give it the desired form, if they still like it, and if they don't, they throw it away. If one does not like one's work after a few days, how will people like it after years? This leave of absence for a few days when the original emotions fade away and the clarity of vision and impartiality of the editor living inside the poet takes charge, is what is important in transforming raw thoughts into finished products, in poetry. As Ms. Amber Royse here pointed out, without emotions and feelings, there can be no poetry. Poetry is anyway the involuntary outflow of feelings and emotions emanating from close and objective observations. But released unprocessed and raw, it is dreadful to read and will not pass the test of time.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • Form is a freshly bathed woman coming from a mountain stream. Rhyme is, she wearing a jungle flower also on her tresses. Why shall not we adorn our poetry? She is going away from us to people anyway.

Ms. …. • Can't agree with you more, Remesh Chandran! Yes, writing poetry is akin to decorating the lines for the readers to decorate their own lives in return. Thank you for your comment. Kind regards.

Regarding the comment: Poetry is a more concise form of literature than prose. It relies on feelings and the senses. It should not rely on rules which box in these expressions of feelings. As an art form poetry needs freedom to soar.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • The old Persian and Arabic poets faced this very problem of containing their voluptuously flowing emotions, within fixed metrical forms and what they did to solve this problem was to expand the metrical form to contain all their thoughts, or devise new ones. Thus, we have got a set of exotic poems which originated primarily from deserts. Poets like Hafiz, Rumi and many others thrilled the world with the finished products of such bold experiments in poetry. Later English translators who were excited by these exotic creations respected the boldness of these experiments, continued this in their own laguage which they soon found to be lacking in suitable metrical forms to accommodate the guests, and did justice to these old poets by adhering to their unusual metres and rendering those translations beautifully. These poets, who were mostly contemporaries of Omar Khayyam, did not feel any difficulty in containing their extraordinarily frantic poetic emotions within the poetic metres they elaborated, and their translators like Edward Fitzgerald also did not feel much difficulty in translating them and introducing them to the English-speaking world.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • Listen to these lines which came to English from Spanish, evolving from loose verse into a more desirable poetic form. I am sure someone among this international assemblage will post the Spanish original here.

You may ask me why I do not
Sing about the beautiful
Flowers, rivers, volcanoes and
Mountains of my native land;

You come to the street, and see the blood of,
Children flowing, through the streets.

From Third Residence On Earth. Spanish poet Pablo Neruda wrote Canto General in loose verse. Translated as such into English by unknown. Recast in the true poetic form by me for my singing. Anything can be done in poetry; we can break rhythm and metre or keep it. There is no rule but there is taste.

Ms. ….P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum, I do like the poem from Pablo Neruda very much. This is so true how you say it, I do completely agree with you. Greetings. M.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • Most skilled poets do the editing and rewriting of their poems in their own minds. What is most important is, not to write them down before doing this and send them to a publisher or printer. Poets like William Wordsworth created so many inferior poems this way, making access and entry into the few good poems in the middle of this jungle hard and impractical, to put it in the words of the famous poet and critic Matthew Arnold. Practically, these innumerable inferior poems made his good poems inaccessible for the reader. If we closely inspect all the poems of Wordsworth with a determination to leave not a single one of them uninspected, what we will wonder at would be, not why Arnold condemned that much large a number of his poems but what Arnold would have said about those countless poems we read everyday now, online and in print, had he lived today.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • When wise persons engage in a discussion, all points and views on a particular issue will be dissected and discussed and new information will be brought out. A discussion which serves its purpose, like the one here on whether poetry should follow metrics and form or not, sheds more light on the issue and is expected to help participants in the discussion and others who read it better their views on the subject debated. The normal consequence of this in an educated person would be shedding the theories of logic and embracing the new knowledge added. Persons with a right and healthy sense would do it, which is fairly better than clinging to one's old arguments. That is what education and refinement is, refinement of knowledge and refinement of person. Even though no one is expected to win in a discussion, everyone is expected to modify their view points in time. Adamant adherence to old and incomplete presentations is not expected here; here it is not an argument but a discussion. We know what rules of logic are and how people argue to the end. All chairs have four legs and all tables have four legs; therefore all chairs are tables! Such rul-o-matic arguments are not possible here nor are they illuminating. People gradually modifying their views is what is normal and logical here, in a discussion by the interested and the refined, not accusing others of changing their arguments.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • No rules can be imposed on human mind that wants to express itself. Rules are not laws but directive principles to guide an artist to make his expressions understandable to others easily and well. If there are rules, and artists mind these rules, it will make it better and easier for the reader or viewer to stand within a common frame of rules and understand the work of different artists coming from different places and different ages without much intellectual tiring. You know, even while wavering dramatically from conventional themes and going after frantic conceptions of imagery, Salvador Dali did not waver much from the rules of his medium, when he painted that melting clock. But Picasso wavered much from the rules of his medium when he drew the lesser frantic image of condemnation of war in his Guernica which made his work more difficult to understand for people who are trained and accustomed to standing within familiar frames of rules. It is no use, claiming a new set of rules or no rules or special rules made to understand and enjoy each artist’s works as he or she comes. In this wide world, there cannot be that many sets of rules or the anarchy of a total absence of any rules to make it easy to understand and enjoy each writer and painter. It is not feasible or practical. But it is not to be denied that too much number of works in a particular rulelessness coming into circulation, like an abundance of free verse poems and abstract paintings, will also bring along new sets of its own rules into being, to help the world’s people to evaluate and typify them. You know what a common man said after looking closely at Picasso’s Guernica for a long time? ‘The artist loves his father but does not know who he is or how he looks like. He asked his mother and she told him that he had a great moustache. He attempts to draw his father on the canvass. He drew half of a great moustache but soon learns that he cannot draw something he has not actually seen and abandons it there. Then he thought about drawing a great ass instead but stopped after drawing parts of a great cow, understanding that he cannot draw something which he has not seen in full. Irritated, he angrily wiped his brush here and there on the canvass.’ When someone standing there and listening to this exclamation asked, ‘Then why did he write his name at the bottom of the painting?’ he retorted: ‘And how else will he know later which is the bottom and which is the top of the picture?’

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • Poets are a very lazy lot. They do not like to edit their poems and do not even consider those people who like to sing them rather than reading. I belong to the first category. To be plain, if I find a poem unable for me to be sung anyway, I throw it away and take another to work on. Sometimes, some poems will offer great scope for beautiful singing and dancing, even though they might not have been cared to be altered and released by their creators for this purpose. My journeyman profession and passion is to alter them in the least possible way to make me enable to sing them so that I can have my sweet daily digest. This discussion has several very good poems which I did not read but sang with pardonable alterations, in my own way. They are William Martin's Carnival Life, Sonia Sicat's Scents, Jonathan Robin's A Dog's Life and Gather Ye Kittens and J.P.Rao's The Power Within. Walter William Safar's My Little Card Board Home and The Captain, I did not attempt but I intend to. Janice T's Mr. Blake's Tomatoes and John David Lionel Brooke's Poetic Form Fool and There Is No Edifice In My Edification did not give me any trouble at all because they could be sung as such. The finest piece of creation which moved me emotionally but troubled me by challenging my craft was Margie Vieira’s untitled poem which I conveniently titled Little Children Leading. She is the laziest with the loftiest poetic sense, in my humble opinion. I am reintroducing herewith how I sang her song, with her permission of course. If she objects, which I do not expect, I will withdraw.

Little Children Leading

By Margie Vieira

I see them running/ and playing, the /laughter coming/
Re’maining thereafter.

The child approaches /me and saying, / "Would you like to/
Play?" Those simple words/

Of th’innocent has/ such a way, dis/playing their
Sim/plicity of life.

I strive to see and/ be as we all/ were once,
Running and skipping,

Laughing, enjoying /moments, leading/ one to believe this is
How it all should be.

I a/ttempt to flee, from the/ strife of life, ob/serving, learning
From the innocent.

Take time-out someday, /go to a park, and/ ponder on the/
Lark as he’s singing,

And conveying sen/timents to his /loved one,
No contempt, no attempt,

To lie or be sly, /only puri/ty and maturi/ty
Of a living essence,

Forging toward happiness.

I do not know what kind of a thing dear Margie Vieira's poem has now become.

margie vieira • P S Remesh I thank you with the most humble gratitude. You made it into a poem. To me they were words from my heart, but I do not know how to take them apart and been seen as a song.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • 

For in and out, above, about, below,
'Tis nothing but a magic shadow show,
Played in a box whose candle is the Sun,
Round which we phantom figures come and go.'

From Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam.

I was used to read famous writers' letters to other famous writers of their times in my boyhood days, and was thrilled to read about what extra ordinary things each of them wrote to and did to the others. So, as a writer, dear Margie Vieira, be prepared for anything extra ordinary and unusual from other writers in this world. Times have not changed much. It is still a world of many interesting people.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum • After reading dear Mr. John David Lionel Brooke's I CAN'T LOVE POEM, I was tempted to read again Rupert Brooke's poem THE GREAT LOVER and think I have the liberty to take it that John David Lionel Brooke is a great person who loves things cars houses boats guitars stereos clothes, abstracts sunrises sea lakes deserts skies sports chess, tasting chocolates cookies cakes smoothies kisses, smelling perfumes fresh baked breads, feeling healthy powerful sexy omnipotent , hearing compliments music jazz singing plain songs and people dogs cats. What a lovable person!

Who contributed to this discussion.

Sonia Sicat, William Martin, Mike Snider, John David Lionel Brooke, Amber Royse, Venkatesh Kangovi Narasimhamurthy, Madeline Coelho,
Barbara DeShane, Michelle Lommen, Margie Vieira, Edward Rodney Adcox and your editor, P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum.


There are several learned, informative and interesting comments in this discussion. To see the original discussion page in Linked In, this link can be used. Link: Due to Linked In policy of protection of privacy, only Linked In members can view the profiles pages of those writers, editors and publishers who contributed to this discussion. If you have a Linked In account you can use it or you can create one using this link. Thank you for reading through this discussion.

Posted In Language, Literature and Criticism
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23 July 2013 Kerala Commentary