Sunday, October 12, 2008

TS Eliot and Neo Ravi Kiran Mandal

On Friday, 10th Oct., yours faithfully was invited to deliver a lecture on `Contemporary Marathi Poetry' in the Dept of Marathi. The thing is I am not a very good speaker when it comes to delivering a lecture in Marathi. I spoke about what we mean by contemporary poetry in the first place. I said that the term `contemporary' is theoretically a problematicterm, especially after Einstein’s theory of relativity. Time no longer can be considered as something absolute and homogeneous. Therefore, idea of some `standard' time which can be treated as an absolute frame of reference is no longer meaningful. Hence, the term `contemporary' (`contemporary to whom’) looses its force. Times flows with different speed in say for instance a village and a city. The recent quarrel in contemporary Marathi scenario can be traced to different perception of time ( in a village, a town and a city) and in attempts to prove that one's own sense of time is absolute and other's sense of time is `inauthentic'.
I added that by contemporary poetry I mean poetry written in contemporary language, from a contemporary perspective, taking one's own life and society as the context and as a frame of reference. Even if one is dealing with `timeless' subjects like God or Death, the poet is writing in the context of his society and life. I gave the example of Varjesh Solanki's poem `Icon' which is addressed to God as an example of a contemporary poetry. I read Hemant's ` Shopping at a Mega Mall' and Saleel's ` Dharan' ( The Dam) as examples of contemporary Marathi poetry.
The question and answer sessions had the usual questions ( obviously from the teachers) regarding the poetry of Abhidhanantar circle ( if at all there is something like it) being by and for the elite, being insensitive and all that. I responded saying that poetry, at least creative and serious poetry, is not written ` for' or by keeping a particular class in mind. Then this poetry was labeled as ` new Ravi Kiran Mandal' Wink. The questioners had absolutely no idea of the creative process involved in writing poetry. If teachers of literature and some of the so called poet-critics themselves are so abysmally ignorant of this basic process, what can you expect from others?
When you are doing something new and groundbreaking you have to prepare yourself for all sorts of idiotic responses. Unfortunately in Maharashtra as probably in other places, you are also supposed to educate your readers about what you are doing. This is not plain illiteracy. In fact, it is ignorance of people who are supposed to know and the ignorance of those people whom society thinks they know.
So a caveat from TS Eliot is useful here: take no critic seriously who has not written a significant work himself. The reason he knows nothing about how poems are written. Besides, it is not the duty of the writer to educate the uneducated literates. A writer cannot afford to go around curing people of their stupidity. Let us leave these `honourable men and women' to their fates. Pound said that even if you get thirty readers for your poems, you have done your job. He meant the real readers of course and even if your poetry is read by more than three hundred people, expecting thirty intelligent readers seems to be too much to expect.

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