Necrophiliacs of the written word

25 Mar
The sacred cow of poetry

The sacred cow of poetry

 

So what is poetry anyway? A rather perplexing question put about more than strictly necessary at the Sabad World Poetry Festival, which I have been attending in Delhi. On the first day, after a long haul from the airport through the dense traffic, noise, onslaught of colour and intense odour that is India, I arrived at the festival site, hosted by Sahitya Akademi and the Indian Ministry of Culture, and sat in the festival hall listening to a man sing. After he had sung his poem, or his song, they gave him a lovely bunch of yellow flowers. In fact, as I discovered, they give everyone a nice bunch of flowers (mine, on Sunday, were peach roses, which almost went with my shirt). Everyone was in a jolly good mood, what with the abundance of flowers and all. There were poets from all over the world, and especially from the subcontinent. I met up with George Szirtes from the UK, and Moya Cannon and Lorna Shaughnessy from Ireland, both of whom I have met before, and various other poets I have encountered over the past few years at festivals of this kind, including Sudeep Sen and (for the first time) the fine Indian poet Ranjit Hoskoté.  There is a dancer on the second night and a sublime group of musicians from Rajasthan on the third. But I am perplexed throughout by the recurring question of ‘what is poetry?’ I mean, who really cares? One rather cool suggestion in the opening speeches (which I missed, en route from the airport) was “witnessing, wandering and wonder”. Another, which I prefer, offered to me by Moya Cannon, in a slightly different context (but which still rings true) was the opportunity to indulge our negative capability. Someone raised the point that a recent article in the Washington Post – which cites a poet who shares Blanco’s name – had pronounced poetry dead, for once and for all. Bravo, I say. That makes us so-called poets the ghouls of literature. Don’t you love that idea? Or am I merely misquoting Don DeLillo, writing of the novel, another allegedly ‘dead’ form? Either way, poet or novelist, we are obviously the necrophiliacs of the written word.

 

 

 

 

3 Responses to “Necrophiliacs of the written word”

  1. Jorge Fondebrider March 25, 2014 at 16:50 #

    Every now and then somebody declares the end of poetry, the end of jazz, the end of painting, etc. This is the kind of statement that lazy journalists need (and cherish) to try a little turmoil in order to do sell copies of a little something to little people who need a subject to talk as in the Woody Allen movies. So, with all due respect, fuck off to all them.
    And to end without another outburst, let me ask since when The Washington Post became a reference for poetry matters.

  2. richardgwyn March 26, 2014 at 04:30 #

    Bravo Jorge – your usual eloquent self! Un abrazo desde el aeropuerto de Delhi.

    • Jorge Fondebrider March 26, 2014 at 14:42 #

      Do excuse me, Richard. Yesterday I was a little shy.

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