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Not All, A Few Are Poets

by Sayeed Abubakar

In ancient Greece, tragedy, comedy, epic, song etc-- all were considered poetry. Those who wriote these things were called poets. Aristotle in his Poetics defined poetry as the mimetic or immitative use of language, rhythm and harmony, separately or in combination. 'Poetry' is derived from the Greek word 'poiesis' which means 'making'. In this sense, poet means maker or a person who writes poetry. In Wikipedia, poetry is defined as " a form of literature that uses aesthetic and often rhythmic qualities of language--such as phonaesthetics, sound symbolism, and metre, to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, a prosaic ostensible meaning.'  A poet is he who writes such a literary piece using all these principles.

Once medical science, even histrory, were written in verse, in other words, in rhythm. They resembled poetry but they were not called poetry, of course. So, despite having rhythm, rhyme or linguistic beauty, poetry is something which denotes a particular content quite different from everything. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to define it or explain it but it gets obvious to us when we cite examples in its favour. 'Venus and Adonis' is a famous narrative poem by William Shakespeare. In this poem Shakespeare has potryaed the eyes of Venus in this way when she rushed to the spot where Adonis was killed by the wild boar and watched his dead body:

O! how her eyes and tears did lend and borrow;/                                                                  Her eyes seen in the tears, tears in her eye;/                                                                     Both crystals, where they view’d each other’s sorrow,/                                                    Sorrow that friendly sighs sought still to dry;/                                                                         But like a stormy day, now wind, now rain,/                                                                      Sighs dry her cheeks, tears make them wet again./

All these lines all together are poetry of course, but there is poetry within poetry which is so deep, so innovative, so thought-provoking and mind-blowing that it mesmerizes the readers for a moment and makes him stunned with pleasure for discovering the whole truth of life. This very line here is "Her eyes seen in the tears, tears in her eye". Which observation by the narrator or Shakespeare is true here, "eyes in the tears" or "tears in her eye"? Both are true. Actually, poetry means such a thing which makes us see the real truth of our life and makes us contemplate. Shakespeare is one of those few poets who are born as poets as lions are born as lions, not as domestic cats. Simile, metaphor, imagery etc are important ingredients of poetry, no doubt, all are required in poetry; but which is more required in poetry is the keen observation of life. The utterance of the poet indicates what type of poet he or she is. 

Meer Taqi Meer is another poet who was born as only a poet, nothing else. Each line of his poems sounds poetic that touches our heart, makes us see and contemplate. When he says: 

"O! That people like Meer are wondering helplessly in such a poor condition,/                         In love many nobles and elite have lost their dignity."/

we cannot help agreeing with his view because he has made us seen the whole truth hidden in our lives. Another poem we can mention here written by Meer Taqi Meer to make the readers recognize the real poetry. It is 'Empty Handed'---

The head that's held high today because it wears a crown,/                                      Tomorrow, here itself, will in lamentation drown./                                                                Your face puts the beauty of the angels all to shame,/                                                           To your graceful gait compared, appears the partridge lame./                                           From worlds of these horizons who did ever safe depart?/                                                  Way - laid and empty handed each traveller did part./                                                          Even while imprisoned, did my craziness endure,/                                                             Seems now for my insanity, stoning is the cure./                                                                    My heart's each wound, on judgement day, to God submits a plea,/                                Seeking justice, recompense against your cruelty./                                                      Whoever did enchant my eye there only did I stare,/                                                    Whereas the mirror's eye is prone to darting here and there./                                              With head tucked under arm, a hundred springs I stayed/                                                      To power of my winglessness I never have assayed./                                                            To my eyelashes such a gleam, you say, it does impart /                                                       My tear drop is a fragment of my ruby coloured heart. /                                               Yesterday to view the ocean too I had gone near it,/                                                   Longingly, eyeing my teary lashes did appear./                                                              Breathe here softly as with fragility here all is fraught,/                                                            In this workshop of the word where wares of glass are wrought./                                        After Miir of burning heart, you should quickly enquire                                                         For who can say how long the morning lamp will be afire?/

One thing I want to mention here that the poems I have cited above are just translations in English from Urdu, so rhythm  has not been maintained here perfectly. It is not the fault of Meer Taqi Meer. I just draw the attention of the readers to the message of the poem and to the poet's utterance.

Robert Frost is another real poet who knew how to write good poems, how to make a poem original. A spontaneous and conscious poet like Frost is very rare in the whole world. He had the eyes of discovering the whole truth of life which he presented in his poems one after one. 'Birches' is such a poem by Frost, in which he has declared his love for earth, that means, every one's love for earth because the speaker of the poem is the representative of all men. In the poet's words: 

"Earth's the right place for love;/                                                                                                 I don't know where it's likely to go better."/

Poetry is not so easy a thing that we often imagine. Now-a-days thousands of poems are being composed each day and posted on Facebook or on other websites. Readers are getting confused. They are unable to find out the original poems and poets because million million so-called poets are roaming in front of them. What will the readers do then?The only thing the readers can do is to learn the characteristics of good poetry first before exploring the world poetry.We have to keep in our mind that not all, only a few are poets.