Writing, Theory and the Making of Verse.
I prefer using simpler words like writing for literature, making for creating, verse for poetry and thinking for theory.
I need to start by briefly recapitulating that in all the columns written in this series so far I have quoted critics or poets and their works who fall for me into two categories; of those already validated and those I am fighting for, for their validation, to be introduced into the canon of good writing, based not on where they come from, what they believe in, their class, their age or gender or sexual preference, their caste or creed/ideology or religion, their politics or culture, or even whether they are alive or dead, but on whether they understand the codes of writing, of making and of theorizing, and whether they understand the semiotic and hermeneutic codes of the times they live in and are able to break open or use or manipulate those codes in such a way as to speak for the less fortunate ones in their midst, of whom preferably but not necessarily they are a part and against the majority in their particular context, who are usually the oppressors. The writers I have quoted or mentioned anew as significant include Santosh Bakaya, Prathap Kamath, Reena Prasad, Bina Biswas, Panjami Anand, myself, Ravi Shankar, Atindriyo Chakraborty, Pramila Khadun, Barma Paramoz from Turkey and Jawed Akhtar, not to mention Madan Gandhi (traditionalist), Rukhaya MK and Anilkumar Payyapilly Vijayan. This does not mean they are the only ones who matter but I find them better than many others and significant enough to be spoken of. The others already known whom I quoted include Arun Kolatkar, Namdeo Dhasal, Jim Morrison and Jayanta Mahapatra to name but a few. All this perhaps labels me as a conscious dissenter who is careful in how he goes about it, against the mainstream trends of today. It may seem to some that my approach is still very formalist and structuralist, or post-structural and deconstructionist, and modernist or post-modernist, and not leaning more towards cultural studies, gender studies, new historicism, Marxist criticism, feminism etc., and their developments, being more form oriented and reader loving, more towards aesthetic enjoyment than content centred. This is not entirely true, however, as a closer look will reveal.
The real approach here is that in the first place I start by not wanting to use the words literature, poetry, art or even theory or criticism/critique, literary or otherwise, or philosophy as these words seem to be loaded with too much historical, economic, political, social and cultural, not to mention nationalist baggage. I prefer using simpler words like writing for literature, making for creating, verse for poetry and thinking for theory. In the process of this denuding or stripping away or off of so many years of education, unlearning first to relearn as I am no nihilist but reconstructionist I came across works of art or writers who are part of subcultures and micro-narratives who seem to me to matter as much as or more than canonized ones, being definitely among the better, if not the very best, and have no fear in failing at whatever it is I am trying to do by upholding their writing and mine as worth reading or thinking of and writing about. This failure is worth it.
This attempt at daring failure led me to discover, for example, a poem like “Gujarat,2002,”by Ashley Tellis:
This powerful poem impresses me with its purity of purpose. The poet is able to distance himself from what others or he himself perceives himself as and write a poem where he uses binary opposition, true, of Hindu/Muslim – the majority filling the canvas of the concept of nation so the minority is erased – but moves beyond it into startling inversions of the inner becoming the outer ( the skull becoming visible, so that the mask of society and one’s own culpability in being only a writer is not allowed to succeed) and of the other becoming the question mark that cannot be silenced as it cannot be answered, underlined by the empathy of the observer who is neither the one nor its abrasive parallel, being a Christian by birth and a gay activist, but clearly able to identify the revolutionary impulse of who to stand/identify with or for or against in the flux and time of history in the morass of identity politics which is the gift a writer of the present really needs, if he or she is to be relevant in the real sense of the word beyond questions of whether he learned in Cambridge or taught in USA or learned in Thiruvananthapuram or teaches in Saudi Arabia. While in this revolutionary impulse, tomorrow one may stand for something entirely different as the oppressed of today may be tomorrow’s oppressor and then one would have to react accordingly and not according to one’s own many perceptions till then of what one was or that of others’. These changes or stances and subject positions or strategies adopted are not however impulsive but logical and even rational, as far as possible, brought about by the exigencies, pressing and chilling, of the modern situations one finds oneself in, and not random though a certain element of randomness cannot be entirely forfeited if it will give the underserved and underprivileged any advantage in the pitched fights and battles going on in the streets of humanity, of struggle, for mere survival every day, let or leave alone improvement.
I have seen this electrifying nature in the works of some other writers like Molefi Kete Asante from USA and Maurice Higgs (Black Chalk) , one known and one yet unknown, and Prasant Misra from Orissa, not to mention another writer called Radha Debroy Raai who is from UP but Bengali , even as I have seen it in my own work and the many writers I mentioned earlier though the shortness of the pieces I am forced to write makes it difficult for me to go into as much detail or depth as I want to to explain all this. By electrifying nature I mean the ability to create micro-narratives that touch a raw nerve in contemporary reality by going “against the grain,” in their immediate surrounding, making for seemingly small mutinies and rebellions as ripples that are adding up to a global paradigm shift towards a better understanding of ourselves, rooted very much in specificities and yet able to look at gaps in that clouded-ness, a better understanding that may lead to a better future too, or so one must always hope as life is of no meaning without, at the least and at the last hope, and ceases to be human and purely robotic and mechanistic with no trace of a mix of human, natural, divine and artificial or genetically recoded intelligence to make it better for us.
I hope to give more examples from the others just mentioned in the coming weeks as I continue this exploration of what good writing or making or verse is, its lovely smell when crushed on the palm and applied on the pulse and temples and between the breasts of the woman you desire, its reek, its colourfulness, its mesmerizing addictiveness, its camphor and frankincense like quality…
The series of columns so far in reverse order. (Other insets on the L & C site include two reviews of my books and two poems)
7. Curating Micro-narratives: The New Creativity
6. Reading, the Reader and Readers. ( http://www.destinypoets.co.uk/?p=16842 )
5. Indian English Literature, Literary Criticism and Theory
4. Keralite Writing in English – II
3. Poetry and Keralite Writing in English – 1
2. How To Enjoy a Poem: Taking the example of Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” or “A Dream Deferred .”
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