For The Love Of Literature: Of Poems And Beyond

Posted on January 14, 2012 in Specials

By Mayank Sharma:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
– Robert Frost (The road not taken)


Seldom do people stop and think about the road that they had taken at that crucial juncture in past. Watching the scenery passing by is out of the question, the only thing that matters is to keep on running on that road, as fast as possible. Struggling to reach the destination, being oblivious to the fact that there isn’t one. Seldom do people realize that the journey is what’s there to life. But once in a while, they come across something and they stop, look around, breath and feel alive. Rummaging through the long lost stuff, I came across a battered diary, with the words above scribbled across its yellowing pages. Those pages lost their bleach quite some time back but those words are as momentous now as they were when some random guy put it down on that diary or at the time when they were first materialized in ink on that parchment by Robert frost.

Words. Words affect life in unusual ways. No, the ones in a batman comic don’t. Or in a chetan bhagat novel for that matter. Literature, prose and poetry, whim of a genius, they do. “Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Suddenly, they become the bleached bones of a story.” ― Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things). These are the ordinary things which people pass by and don’t even give a second look to. The things that are just a part of the blur that their memory is, the memory which they have garnered over the running spree, the running spree that their life has become. But the same things on paper, when expressed by someone so beautifully that one can feel the emotions flowing through the story in veins, distant from everything, from the qualms that plagued the mind till the moment he or she started reading, from the verbal clobber that he or she had to endure, makes one realize the worth of literature.

A poem should palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,

As old medallions to the thumb,

Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown–

A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.
– Archibald MacLeish (Ars Poetica)

Poems are not just an arrangement of rhyming words. Poetry is like a delicate concoction enthused by the mental centrifugation of emotions. It is the breeze that wakes one up from the stupor. When one comes across one of those pieces which are intricately carved out of the humdrum life, one is just not able to fathom the reason behind the parched throat and the blurred vision of welled up eyes. On those nights where one is sitting alone staring out of the window into the dark oblivion, these words make more sense than anything anybody else tries to tell.

All you who sleep tonight Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right And emptiness above.

Know that you aren’t alone, The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one, And some for all their years.
– Vikram Seth (All you who sleep tonight)

“And what holds good of verse, holds infinitely better in prose” — James Payn. Excellent prose takes one to a deeper, darker, tranquil state where dwell the innate demons, and teaches how to confront them. The state where everything that matters is more lucid than ever. It makes one think upon the lines which at some point of time were obscured because of the fogginess. Somehow, it articulates something complex in a manner that thoughts seem juxtaposed just ready to be processed. It leaves no knots of doubts. In words of John Cheever, “a page of good prose is where one hears the rain and the noise of battle. It has the power to give grief or universality that lends it a youthful beauty.” It makes one appreciate the wonder that’s life and makes one see that there exists something else to it except the perpetual running and lusting to reach the destination that’s not there. It shows a different manner to complete this journey where every memory is not marred by a blur.

Looking back at the time when mom meant world and the stars given by teacher on notebook brought that perky smile on face, this apprehension sets down slowly that lately how much we have been missing out on, in life. The twinkling stars which we wondered about and the black sheep can still be found if one is ready to walk a bit down the memory lane. May be when the mind was not bothered about the differential equations and microprocessors, it was easier to appreciate the underlying beauty of things. Now the petty competition and the skewed concept of success are the things that one cares about. It’s not as if these things are not worth fussing over. The journey will surely be a bit more comfortable on wheels rather than on feet, and the graduation certificate will ensure those wheels. So, ones got to worry about the assignment deadlines and the impending exams. It’s just that it is important to revel in the journey as well. Because eventually, we will still be travelling at the moment the journey will end.

So we should give ourselves a chance to dip into the beautiful expression of someone else’s thoughts while it’s still time. God forbid we do that at the end of the journey and wonder, “wish life would have been like that”.