Poetry was born out of the basic human desire to communicate; not only meaning but feelings. The reading of poetry is a matter of both: pleasure as well as enlightenment. It serves as one’s escape from the dullness, drudgery, and oppressive influences of life. Poetry appeals to our sense of beauty, thus giving us aesthetic pleasure. Thus, it is capable of evoking a range of different emotions; laughter, tears, sighs, nostalgia, etc. , in its audience. At the general and universal level, poetry recollects the actual experiences of mankind – joys, sorrows, misfortunes, love, hatred, etc.
It is hard usually to distinguish among these complex emotions. However, poetic interpretation helps us distil these complex emotions. When it comes to interpretation, a poem can be seen in many ways: simply as an aesthetic object, a work of art to look at and be entertained by, or a new way of looking at the ordinary things. Or we may consider the poem to be a ‘new experience’. Poetry is all this and more. What I personally like about poetry is how it liberates the mind, opening my eyes to newer possibilities and meanings.
It gives a broadness and richness to my life, perceptions, and imagination. Its study and appreciation is important because it enlarges one’s vision of life and broadens one’s sympathies and spectrum. Initially, a poem may look hard to crack through, but I have learnt that understanding a poem is a matter of time, and it requires patience, a certain frame of mind, and perspective. As I continue to read and re-read it, different layers of meanings begin to unravel. Thus, there is something new to be discovered every time I read a poem: a new revelation, a new insight, a new appreciation.
I cannot help but awe and wonder how poets are able to convey the most extensive, in-depth meaning and images through the fewest words, and weave a web of the most intricate images and symbols. It is this brevity what makes poetry distinct from other genres of literature and forms of knowledge. It is not uncommon for students of Science to look down upon poetry or at least feel baffled by it. I, however, don’t share their sentiments. Poetry definitely stands out in terms of its merit when compared with Science and Prose.
It can be said that if prose is the language of reason, poetry is the language of emotions. Similarly, the imaginative and emotional appeal of poetry distinguishes it from Science. Science teaches us knowledge and appeals to our minds. The aim of both is the same i. e. , to arrive at truth. While Science derives from facts and owes nothing to the extra mundane forces; in contrast, poetry seeks to express truth in the most concrete and pictorial form possible – in the form of images or pictures in which meaning can be seen with the mind’s eye.
In Science and Mathematics, generality, abstraction, and impartiality are appreciated. But in poetry, particularity and novelty are marvelled at. Unlike Science, poetry operates in the sensory dimension, and thus acts as the third eye. A poet helps us see deeper into the truths of nature and life; and thus, poetry relies a lot on intuition and imagination. It teaches us the knowledge of the human heart, by appealing to our senses. However, in distinguishing poetry’s importance among other disciplines, we must understand that one cannot be substituted for the other.
We should remember that although the Romantic Movement was a reaction against Science and reason and propagated the need for emotional intensity, yet others like the Victorians sought for a compromise, a balanced approach. Indeed, poetry seeks to coexist in harmony with other disciplines. I understand that life is complex, and one needs to approach it from all realms of knowledge in order to understand it. Thus, a wholesome approach to life contains a balance between both faculties: the rational as well as the emotional.
One major criticism against poetry is that it is art for art’s sake. It is believed that poetry is divorced from real life and the poet is living in an ivory tower in isolation from real life. Some of this criticism is valid when it refers to the escapist form of poetry that it provides an escape to the reader by transporting him/her to an imaginary and seemingly perfect world. However, the appeal of this sort of poetry is momentary and very transient. The enduring form of poetry is one which talks about the universal issues and themes, relevant to all times.
This why Shakespeare and others’ poetry have endured the test of time and continue to be revered. When we read poems, we not only have our emotions aroused as we are entrained by the poems, but we also have a chance to have an insight into the poets’ perceptions. A poet doesn’t merely use the poem as a vehicle for expressing his philosophy. He, above all, wants to help us experience things in the way he has experienced them. Hence, we are able to connect with the poet and his vision and the larger microcosm of the universe through that vision.
We can also say that poetry is the result of divine inspiration, which doesn’t come easy and to just about every one. Therefore, a poet is a seer, and his method is insight, intuition, and a vision, which enables us to see what we may generally miss. A poet has a rich and vivid imagination; it travels far and wide and gathers exotic images, whether he is describing something farfetched or mundane. The poet chooses to describe the ordinary into the most extraordinary way. Poetry’s novelty lies in giving a new meaning to common place words, thus giving them new associations.
Let me elaborate my point of view through examples. For instance, a poet may see the sun sinking and the shadows growing larger. This might remind him of the passage of time and the approaching of death. This common place observance may give him an idea for a poem. As he puts pen to paper, the product of this process would become a poem. Through his unique ideas, experiences, and opinions to a common observance, he gives a fresh perception of the world around us, relates it to and make it part of a larger whole. Thus, the poem begins to have larger and universal implications.
Similarly, poetry lets us appreciate the beauty in woods on a snowy evening, and helps us resonate with the common sentiment of finding a moment of peace in an otherwise busy life. Likewise, a mathematician would tell you that one tablespoon equates to near about 25 grams, but only a poet like Eliot would use ‘coffee spoon’ as an appropriate device for measuring Prufrock’s life in his poem ‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’. While other disciplines inform us about facts; it’s only the poets who can seek the connection between two unlikely things and situations.
The poet thus makes connections between two unlikely things. For me, lyrical poetry is the most enjoyable form because of its intense emotional and richly imaginative appeal. Literature’s primary purpose is to give us pleasure, and poetry is an embodiment of this sentiment. It is a source of keen delight for me to read the lyrical poetry of Shelly, the sensuous ideas of Keats, the narrative poems of Coleridge and Byron, the sweet and musical verse of Tennyson, the Nature poetry of Wordsworth, and the melancholy mood of Mathew Arnold.
All this is a source of solace and peace, wonderment and bafflement. In a volume of poetry, there is something to be read every day, something to suit the pensive mood and vexed mind. The technical elements in a poetic piece, like the syntax, meter, rhyme, rhythm, etc. , make its structure, but ultimately, the metaphors, the imagery, the depth and range of emotions, the expression, the novelty of the subject and the poet’s ingenuity are what give the poetic piece its appeal.
Wordsworth (as cited in Davie, 1972) has rightly said: “Poetry is the first and last of al knowledge – it is as immortal as the heart of man” (p. 9). Hence, one may argue that the best of the poetry is created out of life, belongs to life, and exists for life. A poet constantly ponders on ways to live and live well: in a beautiful and natural way, which happens to be my goal in life too. Work Cited Davie, D. (1973). Thomas Hardy and British poetry. Great Britain: Taylor & Francis.
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