In the wake of diurnal duties and the lethargy of living, art provides great respite. Literature is one such creative activity that has immortalized the irony of times through eons of its evolution. Humanity has dwelt in countless centuries, and the artists of every age have left behind a legacy of their own. With poetry, the story is not any different.
Poetry, the most dynamic branch of literature, has diversified in its meaning and content, language and construct, over its trailblazing history. And it still continues this journey of powerful provocation, and emotional responses, in readers who relish this art form.
With the advent of social media and various accessible platforms, we have witnessed a new breed of poets emerging. Though we can argue on what defines poetry, and the prosaic, experimental, and minimalist verses, shared on Instagram/Tumblr, diverting from the original tradition, of form and structure, yet poetry is being kept alive. There were chances of poems being forgotten beyond the academic curriculum, with ignored poetry publications in sparsely populated libraries. It is undeniable that instant gratification has led to a metamorphosis of poetry into this completely different genre, but at least it is attracting readership. We have more people reading for pleasure now, for relatability and comfort.
In high school, the English teacher would take an entire week to extensively decode one poem. Fret with ambiguity, several derivations, and open-ended conclusions, the full circle drawn by every poem challenged our intellect, imagination, and comprehensive skills. Those writers were prodigious craftsmen, and not everybody had the talent to weave such masterpieces of poetic storytelling. Quite the contrary, and progressively, we also have more and more people writing now. Almost every other person has a story to tell, and this anonymity of social media, the ease of publishing, the reach, and popularity perks, have encouraged them to come forth with the same.
The inception of poetry from folk songs to Chinese Shijings, epics to dramatic rhetorics, traditional to modernism, post-modern culture to popular culture, has expanded to experience a vast variety of exclusions and inclusions. From formal recitation of lyrical verses by minstrels, to quick thumb attacks on a QWERTY keyboard, and templated posts on the world wide web, we have come a long way. From Plato’s philosophy to Poe’s melancholy, Shakespeare’s sonnets to Shelley’s romance, Wordsworth’s ballads to Whitman’s uplifting free verse, Basho’s haikus to Frost’s narrations, confessional poetry by Plath to candor by Kaur, it has been a joyride of socio-cultural expressions. The environment of each era is poetically captured in words, and their work is heavily influenced by, and reflective of, the prevailing circumstances.
Traditional poetry is technical, almost mathematical. It strictly adheres to a specific structure of rhythm, and meter, and sometimes, a rhyme scheme. It would not be presumptuous to state that one cannot write a good form poem without having read enough form poetry. This artistry requires perseverance and practice. Some poetic forms include sonnets, villanelles, limericks, haikus, tankas, odes, and ghazals. On the other hand, contemporary poetry does not have a format or rules. In recent times, free verse is the most common type of poetry written. Traditional poetry used more flowery eloquence, while conversational poetry is what we read now. Free verse is often, quote-like, or broken down into stanzas, or a sentence is enjambed into one word per line. Capitalization and punctuations are played with. Illustrations are used to complement the words, and word artists also collaborate with other visual artists (painters, photographers, graphic designers) to animate their work with a multi-media effect. Performance art in the form of spoken word poetry is flourishing.
Poetry was originally an oral utterance, long before written word started getting published. Hip-hop, jazz poetry, poetry slams, and theatre-based monologues, still honor this art.
We do not need to be a poet to enjoy a good poem. Sometimes, they are direct, yet deep. The new age poets focus on such relatability, and resonance, to express common emotions with an uncommon beauty, and managing to hit right home. This simplicity is what makes quotable one-liners of popular Instagram poets, worth being remembered. They speak the language of the masses, with poetic precision. Conversely, literary devices like alliteration, internal or end rhymes, repetition, metaphor, imagery, simile, symbolism, irony or satire, can be used to impact the reader with more engagement and analysis.
These days, there are several online communities which actively bring worldwide poets together. They provide challenges, competitions, prompts, and a supportive network for interactive feedback. Organically innovative talents can be found in these social media platforms. They color outside the lines with unconventional creativity. Impressive thought processes, both lateral and vertical, personify a true artist. There is a sheer genius in actualizing an intact event or emotion, through wordplay, in the images a poem can create in our minds. Poetry takes us on an adventure, from its first word to the very last.
Dr Priya Dolma Tamang is a medical graduate from the Himalayan terrain of Sikkim, a north-east Indian state. In love with words, she shares her passion at her Instagram handle @poetryandprosebyk.