Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Poet's Eye.


The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to Earth, from Earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,

-          William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A poet's work is to reduce his universe to human terms.



Our life is the result of our experiences, human life might be thought of as the collective of its human experiences. The quality of our life might be imagined as the quality of our total experiences, moving, deep, multi-coloured and much-faceted. These experiences immerse the person into a variety of mental and emotional states, depending on the outlook and emotional makeup of the person involved. The quality and the kind of experience we find ourselves in, is a synergistic blend of our 'objective' and 'subjective' realities. External situations, the behavior of others, situations and incidents are a part of the objective side of reality. This objective reality is perceived and felt through a highly personal, mental prism - its emotional makeup, its tendencies, its desires, its fears, its color and tone - the subjective. Thus what the individual considers to be his or her life is not only a set of things that happen to him or her, but how those incidents are personally interpreted by his or her mind. Therefore what constitutes as life is a highly customized, a very personal, and, a most unique emotional roller-coaster ride for the individual concerned!

Not only do the reflections of life-events cast their own images in the unquiet puddle of the mind, the mind retains a part of these numerous experiences - their emotional essence. This extract becomes a part of the long term inventory of the mind; these experiences also permanently alter the individuals’ ontological and epistemological models - their methods of organizing their universe and drawing meaning from it. Basically each new experience seems out of place with the person's current 'inventory' and the inventory must be altered to allow this new experience to fit in. Radical experiences can cause the inventory to undergo radical changes or risk collapse; we call such events 'life-changing'.

As previously mentioned, each person undergoes a unique set of circumstances and feels the flow of life in his or her own way, and thus gathers a very unique set of impressions from life. Though personal and unique, these impressions often echo universal truths, and universally common feelings. All of us encounter such moments wherein we face something majestic, beautiful, awesome, or frightening - and are filled with the common human emotions of wonder, awe, fear and excitement. Then our experience is largely an emotional one, the rational aspect of our mind is concerned with survival, the emotional side is concerned with life itself. Our interpretation of life can be considered to be an emotionally dominated, rather than a rationally-dominated act.

Emotions and feelings are largely abstract and unspeakable. We are filled with certain apoeia - a lack of being able to convey our feelings in a way that would do justice their vitality. Uncountable experiences come and pass and fill our heart with a flood of emotions and thoughts and we often are a loss of proper words and phrases to describe the richness and depth of our current state.

Poets, faced by the same kinds of events as every other person, draw 'inspiration' and reduce their emotional experience to a set of metaphorical phrases and sentences, bound by a meter and rhythm. Their creativity, whether of its own volition or by some 'mystic' force I cannot definitely say, produces poetry which conveys via metaphor - very human images, the emotional color of the poets mind. This is act of breaking a barrier, an escape; the formerly unspeakable is now in the realm of words and phrases. A push of the pen has rendered meaningful and conveyable the mind and heart of the poet. The reader can now, in absentia, participate in the mental kaleidoscope of the poet, and see and feel the poet's life from his or her perspective. There is now a window in this apoeia, a sudden possibility that we can feel and touch each others' unreachable minds; and a poetic attempt which honestly depicts a poet's own mind, is a door and an invitation to walk the world in the shoes of that person - certainly a most magical proposition.

Thus, the poets work is to reduce his universe to human terms, terms which are meaningful to other humans; terms - which might not be mathematically precise and very accurate; however which succeed to convey the sense and an idea of the human condition. Consider the following -


"Castles and bridges fall,
Into the yawning mouth of disrepair."

The poet could have chosen to write it plainly as “Castles and bridges fall into disrepair", however the phrase "yawning mouth of disrepair" paints a very definite and poignant picture in our mind. 'Yawning' conveys both 'open' and 'disinterested', a 'mouth' indicates consumption. The next line in the same verse -

"Towers and palaces crumble and
are swallowed by neglect;"

- displays a certain continuity of tone, the poet works up images that say the same thing in a more vivid and lucid way, a more humane manner. The lines aptly convey the poet’s helplessness against the inherent decay of the earth, worsening up with time.


Sometimes metaphor is used in an interesting way -

"Darkness,
Now covers the lamp like a shroud.
The smoke rises,
Like a silent memory of the dead past."


In the first line, one can almost 'see' the darkness, enveloping the lamp. The shroud conveys an end, finality to the darkness, a death. There is no possibility of revision, or resurrection. Darkness is explained in terms of metaphor, in this case a shroud. In the next line however, smoke is thought to rise like "a silent memory of the dead past". This comparison is inverted, as no one has seen 'a silent memory' of the past rising. In fact the image of the smoke is conjured and compared with memories of the past, so that the 'silent memories' may be understood in human terms. Metaphor therefore, is not a one-sided phenomenon.

A poet’s eloquence derives from his ability to humanize his or her ‘universe’, to universal human terms – terms which materialize his or her emotions and provide a semantic circumference to their experiences. Their lives suddenly become objects of communication, a magic which by the poet weaves – a tapestry of metaphor and meaning, of phrases and ideas that construct a personal reflection of the poet’s own reality. We appreciate poetry because we taste and feel a poets impressions and recollections; in a way that strikes a chord with our own sensibilities. A poet bridges the gap, and transforms his interpretation of life and its experiences into art that has universal appeal, where the reader can both participate with the poet, and relate the poet’s words and symbolism with his own personal world. This leap of faith and metaphor that the poet makes poet makes possible is the core of the special place of poetry in our lives and worlds.

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