I am not a fan of poetry, as I am of elegant prose. Maybe one of the reasons is that I dont understand poetry and it just flies miles above my head, effecting no change in my brain neuron structure. Even the famous, “and miles to go before I sleep” poetry was just a common thing for me. The thing about that poetry by Robert frost is that, since it was part of school curriculum, we were asked to write meaning of that poetry.

Well, to me it sounded like that Robert Frost just came up with this poetry, with no special meaning attached to it. For me it was like, he was going somewhere, looked at the forest, and he had to go, and he thought up a poem to say that. Well, now that wouldnt have scored me much marks, so I went all the way detailing, how in life, we dont have time to stop as we all have promises to keep. That male “cow dung” I put down on the exam paper, got me some marks indeed.

Maybe I also am not moved by poetry that much, because I too can come up with “standard” poems. I can create poetry, and that too rhyming. This is not just restricted to english, but I can make them in hindi too. For example, I was chatting with my wife today and we were discussing doha’s by some bhakti movement poets and also some koans. She said she had a doha written in a piece of paper in her purse, and warned me of the grave consequence, if I took any money from her purse, and I came up with this poem…

kaajal ko kyon chahiye aur kaalimaa
aur ambar ko kyon aur neelima
sooraj ko kyon chahiye aur laalimaaa
aur mujhe kyon tera paisa, meri ammaaa

Ok, maybe that was an awful poem, but you need to give me points for rhyming. But then again I can work on it and bring it upto the standard poetic level. Then the critics can write a lot of things about it and attach several meanings to it.

But then on the other hand there are some poems, not many of them, but which bowls me over. Thanks to Dakshin hindi prachaar sabha, I had an early exposure to Kabir das, sur das and other bhakti-movement poets. And their poetry were just leagues apart. For example Kabir das says,

Jaise til mein tael hai, Jyon chakmak mein aag
Tera saayee tujh mein hai, Tu jaag sakey to jaag

Soor das is not much behind the quality in dohas,

“Maati kahe kumhaar se, tu kyon rondhe mohey.
Ek din aisa aayega, mein rondhoongi tohey.”

After digging thorough the purse of my better half, I found some money (its mine, my dear) and this doha, again I believe from Kabir das…

Dheere dheere rey manah, dheere sub kuch hoye
Maali seenche sau ghara, ritu aaye phal hoye

Beautiful indeed.

13 thoughts on “Poetry”

  1. Dear Praveen,

    Don’t worry. It will take quite some time from the first reading to appreciating poetry (May be like alcohol). I could enjoy Malayalam poetry when I was 12, but took another six years to appreciate English poetry. Still I cannot appreciate modern poetry ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Do you like songs? Songs are kind of poetry. There is poetry in some good prose also.

    By the way, that “kaajal ko kyon chahiye…” is not doha. (doha is not just rhyme.) Dohas have a letter-pattern (meter/vr^ththam/chhandass) too. You’ll get that pattern from the other dohas quoted.

    I would say only this: If you cannot enjoy good poetry, you are missing a great thing.

    Good luck!

    – Umesh

  2. Praveen,

    I concur with Umesh. Reading, understanding and interpreting poetry takes time. And patience. Perhaps, poetry is no longer written. You can appreciate poetry only if you are a sensitive soul (help! I’m not telling you’re insensitive it’s just a casual remark). To me–call me prejudiced–the best poetry was, is, and will remain those written by the Masters in the league of Kalidasa.

  3. Umesh,

    Thanks for the comment. Not that I totally dont enjoy poetry. I enjoyed learning about vrittams in malayalam poetry, that came from sansrkit. It was like a puzzle, awaiting to be solved. I even remeber bits where we have to split the line into 3 syllables each, then assign them laghu and guru and find the vrittam. from the But maybe I havent got there yet, where I can enjoy the english poetry as much as I do old malayalam and sanskrit poems.

  4. Sandeep,

    The spam karma deleted your comment, but luckly I caught it in time. Yes, I agree, maybe I have to yet grow into poetry. Thanks for calling me insensitive in a diplomatic way ๐Ÿ˜‰ Well, couple of my to do list is to learn Tamil and Sanskrit and then discover what all I missed out.

  5. Praveen,

    I read some of your earlier posts, and I don’t think you don’t appreciate poetry. Perhaps you meant you don’t appreciate “verses”, which follows a rhythm and rhyme, as opposed to Prose, which doesn’t follow any such patterns. My earlier comment was thinking that you don’t appreciate “poetry”, the art by which a theme is expanded using imagination.

    For example, Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet” is poetry, but not verse. VaagbhaTan’s “ashTaangahr^dayam” is verse, but not poetry.

    Having said that, there is a charm in verses too. You mentioned about learning vr^ththams in school, and that appeared tough, boring and waste. You are right. These are taught very badly in schools. First of all, poetry evaluation should not be assessed. Students have tough time finding the “alankaarams” and “vr^ththams” of poems. If there is no exam questions from that, and if the teacher is a “sahr^dayan”, you’ll enjoy those. There is enjoyment in vr^ththams also. It is fun to recognise them without actually doing the “gaNams” etc., and compare different vr^ththams, and find the good and bad aspects of them. For example, “viyOgini” is good to express sorrow, “shikhariNi” is good express hard things like “veeram” or “raudram”, “SaarddoolavikreeDitham” is great for “mukthakams” etc.

    I was fortunate to get some good teachers like that for Malayalam, but English and Hindi were just horrible. I got some good English teachers while I was in pre-degree, and I never read Hindi after SSLC. But later I developed interest in poetry, and read poems in Hindi, Sanskrit and Russian. In my view, it is worth learning a language to read only the poetry. I haven’t read a single story in Russian (I think a translation is good enough), but have read more than 100 poems.

    I have a definition for poetry, to distinguish it from verse. “It is that quality which gets lost in translation”. I have one more definition : ” When I read something, if I want to translate it, that is poetry”. May be these are weird definitions. Following these, I have translated many poems, but without much success. If you read Malayalam, you can see them at http://umeshtranslations.blogspot.com/.

    With the right combination of words, with the right choice of representation, and if it has vr^ththam, with the right choice of vr^ththam, the poet creates an enjoyable piece of art, which its paraphrase doesn’t have.

    Let me quote one of my favorite ones. This was written by a girl named Sujatha, who died of some heart disease. I think she had holes in her heart. Her poems were recovered after her death. (Nobody knew she wrote poems until then.). Please read:

    The music of silence
    Entered my heart
    And made seven holes
    To make it a flute

    … and tell me whether you appreciate poetry ๐Ÿ˜‰


    – Umesh

  6. Sandeep,

    You said:

    To meโ€“call me prejudicedโ€“the best poetry was, is, and will remain those written by the Masters in the league of Kalidasa.

    I do not agree. Kalidasa is a great poet. But fortunately, poetry didn’t end there. Read Omar Khayyam. Read Khalil Gibran. Read Wordsworth. Read Rabindranatha Tagore. Read Changngampuzha. Read Kadammanitta. Read Sugathakumari. Read N. N. Kakkaad. Read Ayyappappanikkar. Are you saying poetry was dead with Kalidasa?

    Fortunately, it will not die.

    – Umesh

  7. Really good one that was, Umesh. And I dont think i disliked learning vrittams, rather I enjoyed it in retrospect. I do even remember some of the vrittam names.

    Sladhakaakali vriththaththil randaampaadathilandyamaam
    randaksharam kurchacheedukil athu manjariyaayidum

    chollam vasanthathilakam, tha bha jam ja gam gam.

    ๐Ÿ˜€ But yes, maybe I havent grown in understanding enough to appreciate most of the poetic works. And you have a nice blog too, though I still have troubles with malayalam unicode.

  8. da… ennalithum koodiyirikkatte…

    “vellam cherkkatheduthoramrithinu samamaam nallilam kallu chillin
    vellaglassil pakarnnangane ruchikaramam matsya mamsaadi kootti
    chellum thothil cheluthi cheru chiri kalithamaasothu melippathekkal
    swarlokathum labhikkillupariyoru sugham poka vedantame nee”

  9. Sanbtosh/Praveen,

    If you like such adipoLi slokams, check slokams 354 to 367 in the e-sadass at the following pages:



    One guy started a “madyaSlOkam”, and others continued it. 14 slokams were recited, and we stopped when there was too much booz…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Some slokams are against liquor, though…

    – Umesh

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