“Dawn came tiptoed today
As if complicit in some crime last night
Morning breeze reeked of guilt
As if it had ruined someone last night”
I write poetry because I really don’t know any better. It is an affliction, I suppose, whose cure is worse than the disease.
Having written the Hindi/Urdu form of poetry known as ghazals and haikus in Gujarati since the age of 15, it is fair to say that my literary machine is very well-oiled by now. There have been dry phases but they have invariably been followed by particularly fertile ones. Poetry, like life, is cyclical. Not being a perfect circle the wheel of poetry does wobble from time to time.
I am drawn to poetry because of its ability to distil ideas and present them with cadence and rhythm. What is particularly attractive about ghazals is that each verse has its own unique dénouement. Ghazals are mostly not a single theme stretched over several verses but disparate themes strung together. I try to write both forms. For instance, the one above that came this morning—poetry always comes when least expected—has an underlying theme to it. Not wanting to bore you with the whole piece, I have just cited a couple of verses. The translation below is just about adequate but it captures the essence of what I am saying in the original.
The one enduring stereotype about poets has them buttonhole random passersby to recite their latest is not entirely inaccurate. That’s why it is a stereotype. Poetry is as much about the poet as it is about the audience. It is in this context that I think of Facebook and how it has created a critical mass of an unsuspecting audience for someone like me. I have this terrible habit of uploading verses from my ghazals and haikus as my status updates. Hard as it may seem to believe but believe me when I tell you this. I do not do it for applause or response. I do not know about others of my ilk but I write things, anything really, to purge myself of what I think is a creative thought. The reaction, be it praise or castigation, is entirely incidental for me. It is not even expected because poetry is really a selfish and self-absorbed craft. More often than not the poet has already covered all kinds of reactions in his or her mind. The poet is really the audience. That’s how self-absorbed the craft of poetry is.
Notwithstanding that, all my Facebook friends indulge me with their generosity with some kind of response. It is mostly laudatory which is greatly heartening but not necessary. It is fair to challenge me when I contend that I do not post my creations because I want applause or, at the very least, response. There is some of that of course, but it is mostly about testing your writings outside of your own personal echo chamber. But that is such a small part of it that it is almost immaterial. The primary motivating factor is just to put it out there and that’s where it ends. All creative pursuit stems from conceit. There is nothing stopping me from locking up my poetry and never putting it out if prompting response is not one of my objectives. It clearly is but my point is that it is a nearly inconsequential part of it.
That I am going to such lengths to argue my point can also be construed as a dead giveaway that I am indeed propelled by a desire for vindication, applause, and even criticism. To the extent that I write much more than most people do, I admit to pursuing a profession of conceit. After all, journalism too is partly an exercise in conceit. As for my poetry, none of which has been formally published yet, it is entirely an exercise in conceit. Why else would I think that people would want to read what I have written? That’s the thing with the written word. It does get read somewhere by someone at some point. That is the purpose of the written word—to be read. Beyond that it is all, including praise or criticism, a matter of detail.