Skip to main content

Who Do We Write Poetry For?

Courtesy: Getty Images
I recently in The Paris Review came across an interesting quote by great poet, by Robert Graves (1895-985). He says, “Never use the word “audience.” The very idea of a public, unless a poet is writing for money, seems wrong to me. Poets don't have an “audience”: They're talking to a single person all the time…... All the so-called great artists were trying to talk to too many people. In a way, they were talking to nobody.

I posted it on Google+, seeking the views of people. I got responses, some usual +1, I’d take it that they liked and agreed with the statement. But a dear friend, and wonderful poet Sum James, wrote that the words which are written for audience and is not something of an ante-thesis of poetry, as is seemingly contended here. It runs along. I would however, agree that the term audience here could be misleading. Every poem, I would agree with Sum James, is intended to an audience. Therein lies the reason for disagreement.

Poems are not scalar. Poems are vector, they have a sense of direction inherent in them. They need to go somewhere. They carry emotions. Emotions which are pent up, held in the dark corner, as if they were dead, only they aren’t, ride on the arrows that we call poetry. As all arrows they are directed to some direction and audience sits there. And audience here is not the reader. Audience has no say and the Reader is incidental.

However, I think, I do understand, what Robert Graves meant when he wrote the quote. The poet writes for the audience, which may or may not be a wider audience. The audience might not exactly be the one which is obvious. When the poet writes to an oppressive government, he more often than not, is not writing to the government. He or she is writing to the citizens, empathizing with them, urging them to change things or merely offering them a shoulder to cry on. We fantasize the poet as an eccentric who is so ill at ease with the world in which he would rather not be.

Nothing can be farther from the truth. A poet, or a writer for that matter, is the one who is most impacted by the world around me. Things which other people are not much perturbed with and are easily able to deal with, are the things which trouble a poet to no end. He writes out of that discomfort and poetry is his way of reaching out to the world. He is seldom understood which seldom matters to him.

Thus, it is established that a poet writes to the audience. The audience can be non-human, human or divine. This is where the twist is, which explains what Robert Graves possibly meant. His small discussion is not dependent on the willingness of the audience to listen to him. He writes words directed towards the audience, but he doesn’t care about the readiness of the audience. In that sense, his words may wither down and end up on the ground like dry autumn leaves, but they are there for someone. They are written in hope, in happiness, in horrid sadness, for someone.


I believe, the poet meant that poem cannot be driven by the market. Audience is a passive thing for a poet. Poems are driven by the poet and no one else. He doesn’t care about the willingness, the want or the readiness of the world. His poems are force of nature and they are written because they need to be written, like a river or a flower, or the meadows or the mountains. The poet decides, when and how. Robert Graves was possibly referring to the commercialization which plagues writing today, when he said that poets should not write for the audience. After all, he is the poet who wrote “There is no money in poetry, but then there is no poetry in money” and also gave, what I would say is best advice to a poet, on how to handle commercial failures and even success, when he said that poetry is a condition rather than a profession. I totally agree with him and would further advise writers to write poems, if only as an exercise to prepare themselves for prose. It brings exactness and urgency to writing. Cheers to poetry, anyways, it is a condition and all it needs is love. 

Comments

Toshi J said…
Wonderful article
Anonymous said…
Enjoyed this thank you for sharing

Popular posts from this blog

बुद्धिजीवियों की बारात

बुद्धिजीवियों की बारात
शरद जी रिटायर हो चुके थे। आधार का भय आधारहीन मान कर आधार बनवा चुके थे, और पेंशन प्राप्त कर के भोपाल मे जीवनयापन कर रहे थे। एक बार बिहार जा कर शरद जी नरभसा चुके थे, पुन: नरभसाने का कोई इरादा था नहीं, सो मामाजी के राज में स्वयं को सीमित कर के रखे हुए थे। इस्लाम आज कल ख़तरे मे नही आता था, संभवत: इमर्जेंसी के बाद से, इस्लाम सबल हो चुका था, और कल निपचती जींस और लोकतंत्र के ख़तरे मे रहने का दौर चल रहा था। न्यू मार्केट के कॉफ़ी हाऊस मे चंद बुद्धिजीवी लोकतंत्र पर आए संकट पर चर्चा कर लेते थे, जोशी जी वहाँ भी नहीं जाते थे। एक दफे वहाँ के मलियाली वेटर्स को जोशी जी के हिंदी लेखक होने का पता चल गया और उन्होंने जोशीजी को यिंदी यिम्पोजीशन के विरोध मे कॉफ़ी देने से मना कर दिया था। कहाँ शरदजी सरस्वती से ब्रह्मप्रदेश तक लिखना चाहते थे और कहाँ उन्हे बड़े तालाब के उत्तर भाग का लेखक घोषित कर दिया गया था। इस से क्षुब्ध जोशी जी अपने बग़ीचे मे टमाटर उगा रहे थे। जानने वाले कहते हैं कि इसके पीछे उनकी मँशा महान किसान नेता बन कर उभरने की थी, किंतु उन्हे पता चला कि आधुनिक किसान नेता किसानों को …

दो जोड़ी नन्ही आँखें

अनदेखे ख़्वाबों की दो जोड़ी नन्हीआँखें, जिन्होंने स्वप्न देखने की आयु से पूर्व दु:स्वप्न देख आँखें मूँद लीं। जो क़दम अभी चलना ही सीखे थे, लड़खड़ा कर थम गए।
बचपन के घुटने पर लगी हर खरोंच, व्यस्कों के गाल पर एक तमाचा है।

धर्म के आडंबरों से अछूता बाल मन जो मंदिरों और मस्जिदों को अपनी आत्मा में रखता था, धर्म की दरारों पर अपना नन्हा शव छोड़ निकल पड़ा। कहीं दूर,दग्ध शरीर के ताप से दूर, जब यह अकलुषित हृदय पहुँचा तो एक और निष्पाप दूधिया आत्मा दिखी, जिसकी पलकों के कोरों में उसकी आँखों के जैसे ही अविश्वास से सहमा हुआ अश्रु रूका था।

एक दूसरे के गले लग कर दोनों बाल मन दरिया के टूटे बाँध की तरह बह निकले। घाव बाँटे, एक दूसरे के हृदय में चुभी धरती की किरचें निकाली और न देखे हुए स्वप्नों का श्राद्ध रचा।

उसने थमती हिचकियों में अपना नाम बताया - ‘आसिफा’।

और दुख के साथी की ठोड़ी थाम कर कहा - ‘मत रो, न्याय होगा।’

धरती की तरफ़ नन्ही गुलाबी उँगली दिखा कर कहा- “देख, भले लोग लड़ रहे है मेरे लिए, न्याय होगा। तेरे लिये भी लड़ रहे होंगे। तू मत रो”

फिर बोली, “मैं पश्चिम से हूँ, तू पूरब से, पर हैं तो दोनों बच्चे। …

About Mahakali- The Eternal Mother

The strongest aspect of a woman, uncontested, unwinnable for a man is motherhood. Kali is the eternal, divine mother. She represents the silent darkness of the time when nothing was there, and from there, from darkness, from nothingness, she shaped life. She is every woman, every mother, which stands in darkness, so much so that she herself becomes darkness (Kali~ Darkness) and creates life, beholds life, births life and nourishes life. The light emerges from the darkness, and the colors rise from the lack of colors. She is the dark womb from where the feeble light of human life takes first breath. She is the consort of Mahakaal (Kaal-Death), Shiva- The lord of death, Mahakali. She is death. Hinduism celebrates life as well as death. Death being the moment, where we clean our slates and start afresh. Therefore, both death as well as life are intermingled, interconnected and interchangeable in their meaning. Death can be looked at as the end of life; can also be looked at as the beginn…