Sunday, August 1, 2021





Plato fiercely criticises poetry as a whole and professes to banish the tribe of poets from his Commonwealth. As a moralist, he disapproves of poetry because it is immoral, as a philosopher he disapproves of it because it is based in falsehood. He is of the view that philosophy is better than poetry because philosopher deals with idea/ truth, whereas poet deals with what appears to him/ illusion. But to quote Louisa Schaefer, poetry is one of the oldest cultural forms of humankind. It can affect all generations and make people feel and consider anything from love to loss. One of the fascinating things about poetry is also the experimental nature of it: from the range of poetic devices-- from alliteration to rhyme and rhythm-- to the many different forms that it could take-- from prose poetry to Shakespearean sonnets, and many more.


The essence of true poetry is that it comes from within-- a voice that is alive and roaring in the spirit of its wilderness untamed by society. Social media often influence you to view your work through the reader's mind by basing your success on likes and comments. But poetry is a sincere, honest calling of the heart and it has an infinite appeal. Culturally poetry is used in various ways and it has a power to inspire change like no other art form.


In the past poetry used to be an ambitious affair. Who can forget the timeless Iliad or Odyssey, or the magnificent poetry of the Romantic poets who were not afraid to take on larger- than- life projects. The life and works of Shelley exemplify English Romanticism in both its extremes of joyous ecstasy and brooding despair. Romanticism's major themes-- restlessness and brooding, rebellion against authority, interchange with nature, the power of visionary imagination and of poetry, the pursuit of ideal love and the untamed spirit ever in search of freedom -- all of these Shelley exemplified in the way he lived his life and live on in the substantial body of work that he left  the world after his legendary death by drowning.


The digital development of the past two decades have brought a revolution in the concept, form and writing of poetry. Earlier poetry was written with a pen or a pencil on paper. But these days almost every poet writes on their laptops or phones-- poetry is read and written more by the glow of smartphones than the flicker of candlelight. Majority of the people prefer to read poetry online than buy paperbacks or hardcover versions. I feel there is a sensual quality to print books that e- books lack. Whenever we hold a book in our hands, we feel its size, its weight and the quality of paper that is used. The smell of books blesses our olfactory bulb: if I make a sweeping generalization, I can say that books are one of the best- smelling things in the world, because they appeal  to explicit and implicit memory.


Digital poetry is born from the combination of technology and poetry with writers using all multi- media elements as critical text. Sounds, images, movement, video, interface/ interactivity and words are combined to create new poetic forms and experiences. It intends to communicate the extraordinary perception of the ordinary. Here the potentials expand beyond form-- letters, words, phrases, lines, line breaks, stanzas, enjambment and so on-- to incorporate colour, reader interaction, art and a third dimension of space.


There is a growing public interest in Insta Poetry. They are quite easy to grasp and question established norms of poetry as a literary form and lack the complexity and literariness of the established genre. Instagram poets, however, have been claimed as the driving force behind the a resurgence in U S. poetry readership. But other accounts have taken a dimmer view of this success. The world of Instagram poets have been called a "huckster's paradise" of self- promotion and media manipulation. These poets have been labelled as "bad" poets  because what they write is not really poetry. Writing in the venerable British journal P. N .Review, Rebecca  Watts decries the" open denigration of intellectual engagement and rejection of craft" evident in the " artless poetry" of Instagram poets.


 Poetry as a literary genre has undergone a noticeable change in the 21st century-- its frontiers have been extended and so many new dimensions have been added. Should we call it a 'renaissance'? For staunch traditionalists digital poetry likely challenges their definitions of what poetry should be, looking more like a maddening interactive website or irreverent game than the spontaneous emptying of Wordsworth's soul. But certainly, new approaches are required to analyse today's multimodal and intermedial forms of poetry.


The page and the printed book no longer constitute the sole focus of a poem's presentation and reception. In many countries, the poetry slam-- poetry in its most popular form-- fills large theaters. Culturally, poetry slams are a break with the past image of poetry as a rigid art form. It is because poems can be performed on the stage, spoken by professional speakers. They are available on you tubes or other social media platforms. There is a wide range of new experimental media poetry that employs kinetic script or natural or manipulated human voices, thus translating visual and sound poetry into the digital realm.


Bob Dylan-- an American musician and visual artist-- received the Noble Prize in Literature for having created new poetic expressions with the great American song tradition in the year 2016. It sparked a heated debate in academia and in feature pages as well. All of us are surprised-- what counts poetry and what does not!


In the present scenario poets either affirm and adopt media technologies and new event formats, or they remain in their established domain and present their work in old exquisite language. But even such poets who continue to publish their poetry in print are inevitably reacting to the pluralization of the genre in one way or the other. So we can't confine ourselves to closed containers of rigidity.


The most celebrated genre of literature -- poetry-evolved and attained maturity through a gradual process. In its earliest form it was oral recitation and it preceded writing. Theological and religious scriptures like Sanskrit Vedas are basically called 'Shruti' meaning what is heard  and this sets them apart from other texts which are called 'smriti' meaning what is remembered. Since then it has been constantly evolving adopting new forms, techniques and languages with a myriad of manifestations. We can compare the highly structured and formal old style poems with modern ones that use blank verse and free verse and are informal. I wish to conclude with these words, "... Just as words change, idioms fall in and out of custom, and language pools shrink and grow, so too does poetry." In this digital age the form and content of poetry has witnessed a sea change -- a boon or a bane?



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