Monday, September 22, 2008

Dual Personality of the Poet

When I was in Phaltan, a small ex-princely state near Pune in Maharashtra, one of my poet-friends Santosh Pawar, kindly decided to stay overnight with me and give me company. He lives in a small nearby town called Dahiwadi and has written a very good long poem ` Bhramistacha Jahirnama' which won him Abhidhanantar prize for Rs. 10,000/- some years back. Commenting my works, he said that there was strange duality about me. As a person I am loving, warm and affectionate but my poems are more arid and devoid of feelings. He pointed out that you love kids, family and friends but your poems are so dry and unfeeling. Well, well I was too tired to respond to it and said that I really don't know the reason for this. A similar view was expressed by some other friends in Valsad. They remarked that the person in my poetry is not the person they know. Not that this duality is something very profound or something. A famous and classic statement about this problem would obviously be TS Eliot's and his so called `theory of impersonality'. He makes the distinction between `the man who suffers' and `the man who writes'. The man who suffers has to take a backseat if he wants to transfer and communicate his feelings effectively. The feelings have to be `depersonalized' so that the reader can make them his own. So much so about the classical Eliotian/symbolist theory of communication of feelings in art. Then you have all those French neo-Symbolists ( so called structuralists and poststructuralists) with their notion of writing as `ecriture', as a practice of exploring symbols for their own sake rather than for the sake of communication. In ecriture the duality between the `man who suffers' and the `man who writes' vanishes because `man' vanishes. Man becomes yet one more symbol in the game of symbolic exploration. But obviously Santosh was not referring to the problem of artistic communication but to the duality within me as a human being. I asked myself: does the poet Sachin Ketkar want to avoid Sachin Ketkar the person? Is my writing, a yet another way of escaping the fact that I was constantly being threatened by my emotional self which seeks to submerge me? Poetry as a means to evade my self? The poet says you cannot allow yourself to be submerged and yet be a poet. There is a deeper split in my poetic self , probably, because the poetry becomes at once two contradictory things: means of articulating feelings and at the same time means of avoiding them. One forays into dangerous zones when one faces oneself. Yes I am in some way a sentimentalist : ` a man of feelings', but at the same time my poetry becomes my survival strategy, a coping device. My poems are unfeeling because I have too much of it in my life! I try to transmute my pain, emptiness and suffering into images, metaphors and symbols. This alchemical faculty is a gift. Probably like Derridian take on Plato's `pharmakon', a toxin that cures, a cure that kills. Interestingly, I find myself reading Eliot often and wonder at his relevance today for me. His meditations on art, craft and passion of poetry are probably the most profound ones I have ever read.

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