Monday, February 28, 2011


“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry”
(from “Eating Poetry”, Mark Strand)

Some of my favorite lines ever written are from Mark Strand’s “Eating Poetry”. I remember doing imaginary cartwheels in ecstasy the first time I read the first stanza of this poem. The vivid imagery, the endless possibilities, the sheer beauty of the words… I stopped reading the poem for a whole five hours, for fear that if I went any further the rest of the poem may somehow spoil my rapturous worship of the mind that could have conjured up such perfection by merely stringing words together. Hours later, I feverishly picked up my anthology and reverently thumbed through the rest of the poem which, I must mention, completely lived up to that first stanza.

A poet today is confined to fewer words than a pure prose writer, employs fewer colours than a painter, has none of the sculptor’s clay but must produce art as moving, as authentic and as unmistakably beautiful as any of these artists. Gone are the days when “Aristotle’s Poetics” sought to define poetry and dwelt extensively on a common practice of the classical and neo-classical age which was the use of poetry in other literary art forms – poetic drama, prose-poetry etc. However these days, poetry is a bit more restricted by the assumption that brevity characterizes poetry as lengthiness does prose. Poetry has nothing to do with length it has everything to do with language being used just for its sheer beauty to evoke emotions or deep feelings. Sadly, this genre today ostensibly belongs almost to an exclusive club.

Often times, I am told the words “I do not understand poetry” accompanied by a dismissive wave of the hand while my darling poetry is scorned for other art forms. As devastating as that may be to a poetry lover, it is nothing compared to a deep-seated anger felt towards pretentious charlatans who spew out dribble in print and have the repugnant audacity to christen the incomprehensible, incoherent or even downright childish slobber “poetry”. Apparently, claiming a love for poetry is like being in a school fraternity, you can look down your nose on the uninitiated even if you have never read a word of Wordsworth’s genius, been Shaken up by Shakespeare’s ingenuity or been left stranded trying to make sense of a Mark Strand poem.

You know you are authentic when you think in poetry, when you look around you and poetry stares at you, when life to you is one long poem. It was Gracie Harmon who said the immortal words “I even shower with my pen, in case any ideas drip out of the waterhead”.

It saddens me when I read profiles of literary agents and publishers who emphatically state “Does Not Accept Poetry Submissions” like “Don’t even think about it”. I understand it though. Nobody wants to read poetry. Poetry does not make money and (this may come as a surprise to some writers) publishing is money making business too. I have two thoughts about this. What then has happened to the whole so-called community of poets and poetry lovers out there? Are they too busy writing “poems” but not reading any? (Insert wry smile). Secondly, isn’t this reluctance to publish poetry an evil cycle or isn't it having a ricocheting effect if you wish, thereby even further driving the nail into the coffin of this finest of arts? Where will poetry be a hundred years from now? I shudder to imagine. There probably will be no need for the disclaimer “Does Not Accept Poetry Submissions” for no one would be submitting them anyways.

Poetry is my life. It means more to me than cleverly put together words. It is my outlet. An expression of the world I see. It is with wide-eyed wonder I study poetry to learn more of this vast place of possibilities called the human mind. Trying to make sense of beautifully strung words even where sense isn’t intended is so stimulating you have to feel it to know it. I am sorry if you do not understand it, or are too lazy to task your sleeping mind any further than to figure out how to open and shut your eyelids. I’m sorry if poetry is too deep or too boring or too whatever your excuse could be for not venturing. The point is for as long as I have a blog, for as long as I have a mouth, for as long as I own a computer, have a functioning brain, can read and write there will always be extensive fodder to feed the poetry gobbling monster in me. I will chomp on all the poetry I can find on print, in prose, in paintings and all other art forms, as well as, in life around me.

Do not be shocked if you came across me and you saw thick glistening ink running down the corners of my mouth – I most definitely have been eating poetry.

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