Last night one of my friends asked me an interesting question. He asked me how I, as an author, felt when people found a very different meaning to my poem than I had originally intentioned it to have.
A few years ago, another one of my friends asked me the difference between poetry and prose, especially in the case of poems that did not rhyme. His question arose from my sending him this poem written by me:
The novel begins with the smiling faces,
characters are carefully selected,
all the relative qualities are portrayed,
the good and the evil are balanced and ready,
sympathies have to be poured in and hence
the good suffers, the evil triumphs, scales on hatred
just went up, there's love and failure,
uncertainty as though life was represented in its entirety,
words have been the best players in this game,
where the mind was supposed to be the gainer,
opened to millions of emotions, life was it's only
competitor, the ability of manipulating the mind
of the reader, to look at what the author thought was real,
if books were the reflections of our life,
and imagination was its oxygen, there's just one
place where the reader could choke, all the best players
of the author fail at the last chapter, he has to kill his
characters, make some live forever, hatred has to be perpetual
for some, whereas failure has to earn pity, and at this juncture,
this portrayal of life hands over the trophy to its lone competition,
it fails when it comes to choices, for life in itself is not a gift,
but an opportunity that knocks on our soul, and there begins the journey
of choices, for we choose to live, we choose to let go,
our choice is the world, and the author can bring on his best team,
inherent with everything, capable of manipulation,
but in the end we choose to see the flaw.
This was my response. Kindly excuse the internet lingo I have used here.
“As far as the rhyming pattern goes, I think if you were to think along parallel lines of song writing(lyrics) I suppose rhyming is the best way...'cause it gives it a continuity, making it much more easy to sing along...But as far as poetry is concerned, you can bring in the narrative style to it as well..I suppose, the difference that I see between poetry and prose is that while writing a prose, the writer gets a chance to explain himself and the analogies that he puts forward...whereas in poetry, the analogy is assumed to be self- explanatory and the interpretation is entirely upto the reader...To a certain extent, prose can be said to have the same attribute as regards to interpretation, but, generally it is perceived as how the writer did...Well this is just my take on it...I believe that poetry has this quality that makes it very open...Someone who reads it might get a completely different idea and that kinda enhances the poem itself...A story or prose on the other side makes us think, but I don't think it lets people relate as freely as a poem can and hence a narrative style of writing is acceptable, as long as the poet doesn't try to explain too much...” (24 June, 2004)
Coming to the question I started with, I think I have always maintained that my fascination towards poetry grew because of its open-endedness. I was proud of the fact that I could write something within my own context and yet feel a wave of generosity stir in me when someone else enhanced the poem with his/her own meaning and interpretations. Words have an amazing quality – flexibility. This contextual characteristic of the words wield their maximum power when in the hands of a poet. So would I really be ok with people looking at my poem from a completely different perspective than the one I chose? So far, I have been absolutely fine with such an idea. But last night I was curious to know whether I had changed my opinion since the 24th of June, 2004. I recalled all of the poems I have in my book. How would I reply to comments about my poems that differed in varied ways from my own? The response I gave to my friend was this. “As an amateur, I appreciate any feedback. It will introduce me to different perspectives and hence underscore my reason for writing as given in my book.
“Perceptions. Opinions. Feelings. Judgments. Ideas. Emotions. Qualities.
Subjectivity underlies almost everything in life. With the poems in Breeding Lucidity, the author hopes to achieve just the same. To carve out her slice of lucidity – within herself through words and outside her through the spoken words, on her poems, of others. In Vivo. In Vitro.”
When I write a poem, it can either be to convey a feeling as in the poem “Until the music stops” or to raise awareness about an issue/real life problem as in the poem “Children of a Lesser God”. It comes to whether I want to convey a feeling or a meaning. At the end of the day, I suppose I would really want my readers to discern these main ideas. Maybe you can have a different take on them, but let us remain on the same plane.”
After the conversation, I thought some more and I realised why I enjoyed writing poems. We go through the motions of life and we live through myriad experiences. Each triggers a hitherto unknown emotion, a feeling that we never knew could be felt, a whiff of sentiment that was elusive until then. For me writers create that imaginary world which opens you to the playground of these feelings. Each turn you take, there is a trigger; there is an open door to that unexplored emotion. I am sure we will never ever be able to outperform life itself. But, we try. I can only hope that we help people empathise.