Is poetry written or revealed?

23 July 2013 Kerala Commentary

Is poetry written or revealed? 

Posted in Poetry & Literature. Link
Also shared in Language, Literature and Criticism. Link 

Is Poetry Written Or Revealed?
P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum  

Poetry is not written, but revealed. A poet cannot be said to have written a poem, he just reveals it. Suppose a white ray of light is passing through a prism. It is split up into seven beautiful colours- violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, the vibgyor. Nobody will say that the prism is the creator of those colours, it just reveals them. After a rain tiny particles of water drops are retained in the sky through which passes the white ray of light from the Sun when it is split up into its component seven colours writing the beautiful rainbow there stretched across the sky. And nobody can say that the water particles are the creators of the rainbow, they just reveal it through their presence.

Rainbows do not make their appearance everyday. It needs certain climatic conditions to be fulfilled, including the proper saturation of water particles in the sky after a rain, along with many other factors. Now, the white ray of life is passing through a poet when it is split up into not seven, but a multitude of colours, such that one will wonder whether a simple life is such full of colours, passions, emotions, sacrifice, chivalry and ardence. Just as a beautiful rainbow does not appear as often as we desire, so are a perfect poem and a poet too. It takes several social conditions to be fulfilled to make the appearance of a perfect poem or a poet in human society. Sometimes it happens only once in a generation and sometimes only once in a century.

Thus it is only just fair to say that poetry is not written but revealed. It is always there in the Universe, to be discovered by some lofty mind among us. A poet's mind at times elevates to supercharged bands and wavelengths to be exulted and exhilarated by the Universe's songs and poems stored in those particular bands and wavelengths, and successfully returns with a few of them for us.

Regarding the argument that a scientific phenomenon like a rainbow is not right to be used here and that the comparison between poetry and the prism is not quite appropriate:

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum  

To denote the infrequency of real poets in a society is the metaphor of the rainbow in the sky used. Just like appearance of a rainbow needs climatic conditions met, social conditions create poets. If we are interested, we can see that wars going on have been the most favourable social condition to create the greatest number of poets at any given time. And the greatest epics of the world, in all languages, oral and written, have been follow ups of great wars human society fought in those times. We will wonder whether there aren't any other social conditions which created epic poets. Every poet is a need and creation of his times. If there was no need for one in a society at a time, even if one tried to become a poet, his name is forgotten because he was not in a condition to reflect anything considerable. Relation between beauty and poetry is relevant. It stems from imagination. It originates only from human imagination. Nature and the cosmic world has no beauty unless and until man's imagination finds beauty in them. Where is natural beauty in a hostile condition such as nature created around man? Mountains, rivers, deserts, volcanoes and jungles have no beauty in them until a human imagination accuses them of beauty. Earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, hail storms, ice ages, meteor rains, fire balls, comets, lightning, thunder strikes, everything makes man's life hell and force him to live in a very hostile surrounding because he has nowhere else to go, leaving the world. They do not love us but our imagination loves them and finds beauty in them. Beauty in this world is pure creation of man's imagination.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum 

In human life there are many instances when we are forced to believe that we are parts and parcels of another greater being. We know that at times we make observations which we are not intelligent enough to make. We would not be having any history of making such intelligent and wise observations in the past. In such moments, we are forced to wonder who is speaking through us. We feel a universal being holding us like children in those moments, breathing, laughing, speaking. Even if we have not ever thought about a universal being of nature being out there and behaving to us like a father, mother, brother or sister do, we will for the first time desire for such a being to be there actually around us, recognizing how lonely human soul has become lately. Just as our senses and faculties are not added or created by us but inborn and derived, we will feel, when this universal being wants to speak, it has to speak through us. At last, when we speak we will wonder who is actually speaking. It is a heavy experience, tiring to our psyche, akin to hallucination. Only brave and experienced poets can land safely with poems. A few go to the other side of consciousness for ever. Suppose in one such experiences we are induced with the power to speak in poetry whatever we think. Whenever we are engaged in one work or the other, we will constantly hear our thoughts echoing in our brain in the form of fine songs. We will think about catching them down and publishing epics. But because of the rapidity of the flow, the flow of diction and music, we will be unable to catch them in writing because we will be too absorbed in listening to its sweetness. With time, it will become a burden to us and we will wish this faculty go away from us for ever. However, we will for the first time be convinced as to what kind of data transfer is happening in other bands of existence.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum  

One who sings songs can easily learn to write poems. It helps mastering the technique of arranging sounds as words in a poem. Singing as many songs as one can will create an appetite, voraciousness and lust for creating more songs our own way. It is true that if we observe children at their ages from three years to five, they can be found to be making up their own songs and singing them to themselves melodiously. All of us have done it at that age. That is a gift from Nature and the Universe to those who are come new to this world. We will wonder whether singing would be the main pastime in the Creator's land. As we become conscious of ourselves and more and more haughty and capricious in the course of our lives, this godly faculty fades away, leaving us alone in the middle of a desert of selfishness.

Poetry is a benediction of the Muses. To make it possible, the writer should be simple in mind and consider him as a nonentity. In the Hindu philosophy, the goddess of learning and music, Saraswathi Devi, is seen sitting on a lotus flower in the water, holding the musical instrument Veena. A frequently asked question is, in spite of the weight of her learning, why does not the lotus submerge. Philosophy explains that She is simple, and so her learning has not any weight at all. Therefore the first step to learn to write poems is to shed all pride, haughtiness and capriciousness from our person, and to sing as many songs as possible. Whoever sings will feel the breathe of God on his back. It is said that He is standing just behind a person who is singing. Actually it is he who is singing; we are just the medium for his expression.

The next prerequisite to learn to write poems is to reattain the once-lost innocence. Remember that tiny little infant making songs for herself and singing all by herself. Without offending anyone, it may here be said that such tender and ardent scenes from human life can be observed and modelled upon only in communities where children are slept with parents in their room instead of in a separate baby room, and the infants are looked after by their own mothers and not by ayahs, nurses or caretakers. Anyway, imitating those infants in instant song- making is a giant step towards learning to create poetry.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum 

Michael Spangle described here the architectonics of poetry, the building up of a theme over a foundation. We do join in the process of the divine act of creation as he put it, to the extent of materializing in poetic form what is going on in our minds as impositioned by the universal mind of which we are a part. By expanding what Justin W. Price said, a poem may be written down in alphabets, but a good poem is revealed to the poet, from the universal mind. When and how is known almost to all poets as Bryon Richard Smith and Bonnie Jean Flach notes. Actually all our passing thoughts are revelations from the universal mind which we cannot but capture in words and record in time due to their perpetuity and rapidity. If we could do it, we all could have authored hundreds of books each and been world poets far earlier. Margie Vieira wondered are not even our imaginations our own. They are not, it is the method of incessant communion to human beings from the universal mind. It is exactly like we picking up a conch shell from the sea shore and listening to the eternal voice of the ocean inside it, the voice of the home settings where it came from. We human beings have been imagining things since the time we split up into two from a single amoeba, emerged from the ocean and set out to live in the shore in our primitive forms, climbed into tree tops and travelled through canopied highways on all our fours, descended to live in caves without fire and then sat on our mountain cave, watching sunset and wrote the first poem on our minds. Imagination is not ours but the only way of our communion with the whole mind of the universe, leading us victorious through this march of life from the single-celled unit of protoplasm to the five-sensed man. It does not originate in us, it comes to us, a manifestation of a grand scheme of which we are a product and a guarantee that we are being looked after. We know, Einstein talked about it, in closed rooms, only with the poet Tagore. Tolstoy contradicted many things he wrote, after he experienced it, and wrote Back To Methuselah. It has been the universal experience of the universal writers, to meet with the universal mind in us, and be humbled.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum 

Before a musician conducts a symphony in public, he would have done it many times in his mind. Some times he would also have listened to and wondered at fine concerts in his mind. I once conducted a one hour orchestra in the middle of an isolated and lonely rubber plantation with no one to hear. I do not even know the a b c d of how to conduct an orchestra. While sitting there in my leisure after a late meal, enjoying the evening Sun through the foliages of a jungly growth, I got a thread of a music and climbing and ascending which, I rose higher and higher, reaching new levels and getting new threads left and right and up and down each time, and quite forgot the appropriateness of conducting an one man orchestra in a lonely place which was not my native place but where I was a too often visitor in my uncle’s house and estate, long considered as a native by people there. My cousin brother who was of my age and far better than me in singing, after a long time came in search of me and found me doing this solo in frantic enjoyment. He questioned me on where I learned to sing that way which was quite unexpected of me, for whenever I or he sang a song, it was in each other’s company, enjoying each other, singing together. Each of us knew what songs the other knew. He had never in his life heard me singing that way any time before and had not heard anyone else ascending such strains easily before; and he had heard quite a lot of Karnatic, Hindustani and classical music too. I told him I was making it, and that I did not know how I made it. The truth is, he believed me. He told me it was extra ordinarily sweet and beautiful to hear and that he had been standing there and listening to it for the entire duration and dared to appear only when it ended. He asked me to sing it again which I never could again, then or later. I still wonder who was singing through me. It happens to people like me once or twice in their life time, for they will not withstand the uncanniness of such experiences but to divinely inspired musicians, strong in psyche, I think it can happen regularly. I think I got entangled and ascended into some open bands in nature due to synchronization of wave lengths accidentally like Alice fell into the hollow and enjoyed ascending higher and higher. What would have happened if I could not descend also that way, trimming down the music-charged bands one by one and finally nullifying it, is something I still wonder. My cousin still tells me, had he not known me for my love of music and as a sturdy person in psyche, he would have arrived at wrong decisions. Such experiences are not uncommon in the world of poetry and music. Because such experiences are considered sacred and untellable taboo by those who happen to have such experiences, and considered as medical by those who happen to hear about such experiences, it is no wonder the least is mentioned about them in our literature.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum 

A strange thing about life is the vividness of dreams which accompany life. They can be black and white or in full colour. They can be silent movies or with sounds which even Dolby systems will pull back from in shame. Most often they can last the full length of films, at the end of which we humans will be exhausted and run for water to drink, when we wake up. It is one of the mysterious things accompanying life. We do not know for certain whether the dead also undergo this kind of experience; if they do not, it will have to be admitted that dreams are unique to life. Healthy and weak, rich and poor, young and old, all dream. Dreams do not leave even a clue as to if it is really happening in our lives or not. Scientific explanations in words and pictures have never surpassed the beauty and horror of man's dreams. Wherever we cannot go, we go in our dreams; whatever we cannot do, we do in our dreams. We run, drive, swim, fly and fight in our dreams. Why this question of dreams is raised here is to ask a simple logical question, after reading a comment in this discussion as to life being not an illusion but a real thing because we do experience pain, even while admitting the fact that life is but a real challenge which we have to face head on. Isn't there a possibility of us living in some other planet in some other age right now and lying there, dreaming about living a life on distant planet earth? Can we be certain as to whether we are actually living here or lying somewhere else and dreaming about living here?

Regarding the comment: P.S. Remesh Chandran, you're doing it again. You ask a question but don't actually want to know the answer -- you've already decided what the answer is. That's an odd way to 'discuss' anything. In addition to that, I have to strongly disagree with you. Writing poetry is a process that involves innumerable decisions on the part of the poet, some instinctive, some conscious, and so poetry is actively produced by the person writing it. I can say this with authority because I am a poet and I have studied poetry and poetic technique for a long time. No offense, but it is easy to make generalizations about things you have little or no hands-on experience with. Reading poetry is very different from writing it. How much poetry have you actually written (or tried to write)?

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum  

Today I had a strange experience,
Not in this group but in another group.

‘Poetry and Lit′rature’ it is not,
In ‘Written or Revealed Poetry’ thread.

Asked, have I written poems in my life?
I found it fit to answer it this way:

I’m writing this in reply to a miss,
I have never written poems in my life.

Have wondered where these poems all come from,
From human intellect or nature’s store,

To be picked up at moments of revelation;
Or synthesized in rotten human brain!

I was inspired to write these wicked lines,
By those whose verses written were in sand:

‘Myself when young did eagerly frequent,
Doctor and saint and heard great argument,

About it and about but ever more,
Came out by the same door as in I went.’

Let us debate poetry in poems,
I hope she’ll someday answer me in kind.

I ′am not doing anything again,
But asking questions all have answers for.

I have my answers, you can have yours,
This not an illiterate arena,

Where someone asks questions and another from,
Some academic circle answers them.

Some anxious are, to questions throw around,
Some eagerly waits there to answer them;

This not such school or college where one can,
En′tertain answers not from others too.

I know I’m Alexander Pope’s close kin,
I stop here, to read Temple of Fame again.

Regarding the comment, ‘I suggest that you skim Nietzsche's "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.’

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum  

I do not read Nietzsche; I sing it. I sang 'On Truth And Lies In A Non-moral Sense' as Mr. Bernard Gallagher suggested, and here is the part I sang:

Ages there are in which the ration’l man
And th’intuitive stand side by side, the one

In fear of intuition, or scorn for abstraction;
Irrational one, the other inartistic.

They both desire to rule over their life,
Unreal or real, counting life to be.

Prudence, foresight and regularity,
The means with which one meets needs principal.

One o’erjoyed hero disregards these needs,
Counts life as beauty and an illusion.

As in the ′case in ancient Greece, th’intuitive,
Handles his weapons authoritatively,

Victoriously than his opponent, and
Establishes art’s mastery over life.

All utensils we use in daily life,
Were made from art, not from our pressing needs.

Houses, our clothes, our clay jugs, all them were
Intended to express exalted joy.

Guided by abstractions and concepts, we
Succeeds in warding off our misfortunes,

Without ever gaining any happiness;
So that’s the case the ration’l man’s life is.

Th’intuitive man, aim freedom from his pain,
Standing a-firm amidst his culture’s frame,

Reaps cheer, illumination and redemption.
Defense against misfortunes, he obtains.

I am sad to observe that Nietzsche did not write it this way but in his eloquent flowing prose. Unfortunately, when I look at such prose and skim content, lines appear this way to me.

P S Remesh Chandran Trivandrum

A few people who create poems will think that their thoughts are their own and that they are the actual creators of their poems. It is a hard thing to recognize and admit that there is a continuity of nature's induction sweeping into a person and progressing as thoughts. If we scrutinize and zoom our thoughts we can see that we cannot put a clear boundary mark on when and where it originated and when and where it ended. If we are the actual creators of a thing, we ought to have been able to distinguish when one of our thoughts originated and ended. But we cannot say that definitely or define that process exactly. We must admit that our thoughts, and therefore our intellectual creations are continuity and culminations of the collected knowledge and thought of our society; and our society is nothing but nurtured by nature. If there is one poem created anywhere, following this logic, we can say that it was needed by society and mankind and that was why it was created by the most inducted person of that time. Not one poem created in this world is unnecessary, in this sense. As Margie Vieira asked, one question remains: can a person trained to become a poet and create poems? It certainly can be done, even though the world has seen hundred thousands of gifted poets who have not had any kind of training in verse creation. Will anyone be startled to hear that many lofty poets even did not have an education, including that Sanskrit epic poet Kalidasa? Poets can certainly be trained, because it is only a matter of thinking in poetic form, in addition to thinking with poetic beauty. The first can be achieved through training by skilled masters in person or by indirect distant influence. And the second can be attained by lifting human mind and giving it momentum, i.e. by moving it from inert state to kinetic; singing a lofty work or seeing a grand sunset may do it. One not having born with natural talent is not a handicap to become a poet, nor one does have poetic beauty in writing is an excuse for not keeping form.

[Updated as on 23 July 2013]


Who contributed to this discussion:

Michael Spangle,
John David Lionel Brooke, Justin W. Price, Shobha Pawar,
Bryon Richard Smith, Margie Vieira, Marie Israel, Bernard Gallagher, Annette C. Boehm, and your editor, P S Remesh Chandran, Trivandrum. 

This discussion is posted in Poetry & Literature 
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It is also shared in Language, Literature and Criticism
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The contributors come from both groups.


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. 

23 July 2013 Kerala Commentary