Today is World Poetry Day. The decision to observe the occasion was taken in the 30th session of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation held in Paris in 1999. The social media is also abuzz with the hashtag of World Poetry Day. From individuals to politicians - thoughts were found to be pouring for poetry, one of the most refined forms of human expression that history has seen.
But there is also another aspect to the story of poetry. Is poetry only about expressions and metaphors - something that rejuvenates us at times of tiredness and despair? Or maybe something that gives us a creative satisfaction? Poetry is not just about the feel-good. It has a bigger role - something more political, social and above all, relevant to the harsh reality of human civilisation.
Poetry - an innocuous but hard-hitting weapon in all ages
The great philosopher Plato did not appreciate poetry for he thought it did not conform to reasoning and made people more passionate and hence misled them. But there have been enough instances in modern history where poets have played as significant a role as a rebel against oppression. It might be the most innocuous form of resistance against an exploitative state - a bridge-builder for the apolitical to become political without actually entering it - but yet its significance as a weapon was always big. On this International Poetry Day, can we ask ourselves this honest question: How much are we serving poetry as a socio-political tool to serve us better?
Theodor Adorno, the famous German philosopher and composer who is known for his critical theory of society, had once said that poetry is dead after the horror of Auswitz. In India, too, poets were seen surrendering before the onslaught of the times and their negative politics because they thought the planet we live in no more values human rights and if human life, the most precious of all on this earth, loses its importance, then there is no point in writing rekindling thoughts on a piece of paper. Poetry is dead, they felt.
Poetry is not dead; we think it is
But can poetry be dead so easily even if some talented individuals think it is? When Donald Trump was about to become the president of the United States - the most powerful man on this planet who wanted to build a wall on the Mexican border to punish his southern neighbours - young Mexican poets used their thought-provoking skills to erect a counter wall against him. For the hard forces like the police, administration and media, poetries mean nothing but for a huge section of thinking human beings, they mean.
It was man's creative faculty called poetry which had ignited universal solidarity in times of the Vietnam War. Controversies and the state's anger did not deter people from penning poetries that looked apparently harmless but could fuel a thousand minds.
Are these hostile times for fired up poets?
Today, we don't see that happening much. Even as jackboots run over Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria or the underprivileged get crushed at home under the ruthless means of the neoliberal economy or the youngsters' dreams get shattered because of inadequate economic policies the world over, not much hard-hitting poetry is being written.
Or even if they are being written, they don't get promoted much. Maybe these times are too hostile and unfavourable for indulging in 'amateurish' creativity but the power of poetry is not something to be looked upon. If a pen is mightier than a sword, the soft flow of words can make overthrowing even the biggest of tyrannies possible.