When a poet is the guardian of language
Poetry is a matter of feeling. It is not a commodity on the market. It does not care about consumers' or expert or authority opinion. It is totally up to the poet. A poet is always keen on reaching his readership.
What I would like to read as a reader is poetry. As a reader, I do not need to have any logic on this. My choice is enough. The texts tell my mind what is poetry to me. It may be written by a master poet or by an unknown one. If you don't know that, you haven't read poetry. Poetry is to tell a poet's mind.
1. Knowledge cannot resolve your poetic problem if you do not have a poetic mind. As far as I know, many great poets dropped out, or did not care about their academic record. Rabindranath Tagore is an example. It does not mean that he was ignorant. He knew a lot and at the same time had a poetic mind. What is a poetic mind? That is another question. Many professors of poetry or literary scholars have a vast knowledge of poetry. Their knowledge does not resolve their poetic problems. They lack a poetic mind.
2. The task of thinking is over, that is why one sits down to write. Everything starts from zero and it is the same in the case of writing. Try to be empty.
Something will be created from the surge of emotion and flow of feeling. Just do it. Thinking is for an academic scholar. Scholars should think. Let them think how to quote and make excellent use of the technique of cut-and-paste and how to construct long lists of reference sources at the end of the text. You have a vital source of energy in you. Just make use of it. Sit at your desk every day. Have paper and pencil ready. Never stop reading.
3. To be a poet is to be foolish, stupid. A stupid person cannot do anything good. A stupid person is not expected to achieve anything. Poetry is not necessary for the family, for society and state. Poetry has no place in the job market, in the capital market, in an election campaign, in policy making, or in a government agenda. Rather poetry-writing by any member of the family causes huge suffering in terms of finance, social status and future security.
When a family faces trouble because of a poet, the society or state concerned is not free from that either. In this context poetry is stupid work. That is why this stupid species of mankind has been sent to prison in many countries.
4. What is poetic mind? A mind that is desperate to lose anything but poetry. Plato excluded poets from his imaginary state. Why was he afraid of poets?
Plato knew that poets do not believe in class discrimination among human beings. A poet finds human beings are equals. On the other hand, to run a state, as per Plato's ideas and my observation, discrimination is a must. A poetic mind never accepts such discrimination. A poetic mind is ready to tell the truth about the beauty of life. A literary scholar runs for office at universities without such beauty in mind. His knowledge can solve problems by writing dozens of Ph.D's. His mind is not a poetic one. A poet's mind is ready to say goodbye to everything for the sake of poetry. A literary scholar cannot do that.
5. To fall in love with your own writing is simply suicidal for a poet. That is why a great columnist cannot be a great poet. Writing is a habit. A columnist has the habit of writing columns. Addressing many day to day issues, he earns a name and fame for himself. So he gets a lot of feedback everyday. It makes him fall in love with his own columns. It encourages him to be more serious about writing. An individual who could be a great poet gets lost in writing columns. Journalism makes talented people fall in love with their own writing. In this way, journalism kills poets.
6. To be a great poet is to be very stupid. I envy such stupidity. It is a pity I have not yet achieved such stupidity. Such stupidity entails to ignoring much lucrative works over a lifetime. What lucrative work is this? Reading advertisements for jobs every morning, doing courses in management, business administration, languages, technical work or trying to obtain some training that can help to earn money. Without doing any of those, when one begins the day by reading or writing poetry or smokes sitting on a bench or kills countless pains or pleasures in life, or passes the evening playing piano; what should I say to such a person? A great poet is truly stupid. I envy the poets. I envy stupid people. I do not think I am the poet that I always want to be. I am not stupid either.
7. It is important to be an individual talent so as to create a tradition. Bengali poet Jibananda Das made a point by saying a country gets hardly one poet in a decade. Optimism does no harm. On the contrary, we see hundreds of people are writing poems.
What are they? They are poets but fail to create something new. What is something new? This means emerge as a new voice with a new approach, a bold stand as to the existing tradition of poetry in a country. From this same point of view, we see brands change their shape, label and pattern of marketing-to attract consumers. In poetry, a great poet does the same with hard work, true devotion, and serious attainment in the mastery of language, getting the images, creating a new way of having metaphors but without endangering spontaneity.
8. Poetry is to see, to be and to feel. Poetry is to present images in words. Poetry is to express feelings in language. Poetry is a matter of being. It is not something that one can do. Henrik Ibsen says: "Poetry is to see". Wordsworth stresses that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings. I would say that poetry is inner dialogue. Thus poetry is also theatrical text. This spontaneity, this seeing and this being will create such a linguistic expression that a reader's ears will get the feeling of getting the sounds in music and seeing the images in paintings and the feeling of powerful surge in expressions. Poetry is not a matter of understanding. However, a poet has a responsibility, as poets are considered to be the guardians of language. What you are writing must be clear to yourself better than to anyone else. Otherwise, you have no moral right to write about it. This is the confidence and feeling you have to attain. This is the condition one must know.
Anisur Rahman shares his time between Bangladesh and Sweden and conducts literary writing programmes in Scandinavia.