Thursday, August 07, 2008

Towards the utterance of the spirit in its natural and native tongue

Devotion: An Anthology of Spiritual Poems The Aspiring Soul of Poetry and the New Birth--A Review by RY Deshpande on Wed 06 Aug 2008 05:03 PM PDT Permanent Link

If there is an impressive mass of Aurobindonian poetry written during the past seven or eight decades, then it is time to have a proper compilation of this contribution to take stock of the situation and to assess its impact on our creative writing, its worthwhileness in the broader context of what is expected of it, of the Aurobindonian poetry. During those fruitful and awe-inspiring 1930s not only did Sri Aurobindo write a new kind of mystic-spiritual poetry drawing inspiration from the higher planes of expression; he also actively and extensively encouraged his poet-disciples to find the true poetic word in their utterances...

We have in this anthology entries of 111 poet-authors, the main text of the book spanning over a little more than 300 pages, plus notes and an index, with a total tally of 271 poems, a work that has been brought out exquisitely, in hard cover, designed by Auroville Prose Editors (Avipro) and published by Integral Enterprise of Auroville. We must say that, for its fine quality, it has been very reasonably priced, just at Rs 400 (approximately $10), something which a poetry lover and bibliophile can easily afford to own for himself. There is no doubt that over a couple of years the editors have patiently and meticulously gone through thousands of poems belonging to this genre of poetry before making their final compilation; a huge pile of Xerox sheets made by them is a witness to this colossal effort that has gone into it. But then they should have also done a couple of more things. We do not know what was the criterion employed by them in making this difficult selection, although it could be their personal taste which is always understood. In other words, the anthology does not seem to celebrate a landmark event in the arrival of the future poetry in any distinctive or specific way, if what Sri Aurobindo wrote in his critical essays and letters has been in some manner or other fulfilled, that we are assuredly moving towards the utterance of the spirit in its natural and native tongue, of the seeing speech that is paśyanti vāc...

When Maggi Lidchi speaks of “hums and glows in great and littlest things but for which the tongue no words can ever find”, we feel behind it “a power that emanates a thousand rays”. And it is there everywhere, all-pervasively: “It chimes at root of rock and sea/ Of earth and sky/ It sings in flower, fern and fire.” When Narad (Richard Eggenberger) sees behind this world of forms a beauty breaking upon the subtle sight, there certainly is the assuring possibility that this world is not an illusion, that it’s not a dream through which we wander, but is for the habitation of the supreme Lord himself, īśāvāvasyam idam sarvam. The divine glory bursting everywhere, in every name and form, nāma and rūpa—that’s a spiritual experience. Georgette Coty’s bird of blue sings on the bough and strange sound of strings cross the sphere—and she tells us to listen to it, asks why really is it calling us. And the call goes so deep, deep that her soul becomes her eyes in this most magical night. That’s wonderful indeed. And the wonder, having wondered, moves on.

The lawyers may know the law of the land but, says Nani Palkhivala the jurist-poet, they cannot tell what’s that law which makes honey the food of the bees, why the winter comes when freeze the rivers. How can they understand that, if hope and charity and faith are unknown to them? But for Vikas Bamba there’s no fall from the peaks when is seen the One in the depths of all. Sailen Roy is enamoured with a golden dream and in it gigantic grows his faith; he wouldn’t then care if there aren’t hearers even when he talks aloud. For Ashalata Dash words leap and, though lame, already is composed a poem; soon in her hot deserts flowers bloom even as poetry starts humming. And for Damodar Reddy it is the breaking forth of the dance the timeless Ancient had ordained long ago; now the celestials are here,—even as the Master steps alive to embrace this earth. But look at what Themis has—an incredible experience: within her night is a hidden sun and there is moon-nectar in her breast; no wonder, the star-eye within her inward sight goes to make all her quest. Chandresh Patel has weathered tempests, and ridden strong waves in a storm; indeed, he has passed the test in flying colours and the reward is the surprise, the disclosure of the form that is behind them all. Akash Deshpande tells us of the hushed miracle of silver light bestowing sight on vaster sight, and there’s the enormous peace with a fulfilling joy. Suresh Thadani saw, with “other eyes”, Vishnu of antiquity pervading the air and transcending time and stone, the stone that enshrined him and time that bound him in its movement, as if born again among people who worshipfully aspired and who themselves had another birth in him.

Yes, there is the aspiring soul of poetry and the new birth must take place. What we have in the present anthology is a believable promise and it seems that we have to go a long way in carrying out that promise. There are often wonderful snippets, with authentic inspiration and expression but they do not generally constitute the totality of a poetic experience. Hardly is there a poem which can be said to be a whole ‘success’, with the power of vision, and the nuanced rhythm and movement, and the firmness of substance, all going together and breathing the presence of the poetic spirit in its full authenticity. Very often we seem to be in a rush to write out the poem without allowing it to express itself with its native inspiration. A kind of calm, a spiritual calm, a luminous spiritual poise with its receptive silence has to be the support for it to happen, and seldom is it present. Yet the aspiring soul of poetry must aspire, and the new birth of poetry must take place. But how is this going to be?

The anthology itself has a few perceptive excerpts on poetry from Sri Aurobindo and these could provide the needed guidance. In poetry that aims at perfection, there has to be the eternal true substance which is not a product of mental manufacture but which comes with the “eternal spirit of Truth and Beauty through some of the infinite variations of beauty, with the word for its instrument.” Then speaks, through the personality of the poet, the impersonal spirit of Truth and Beauty; following it comes the inspired and inevitable word, the gleaming poetic word with the rhythm that reveals the creative secret that is behind all. “The essential power of the poetic word is,” writes Sri Aurobindo, “to make us see, not to make us think or feel; thought and feeling must arise out of the sight or be included in it, but sight is the primary consequence and the power of poetic speech… There must be a deeper and more subtle music, a rhythmical soul-movement entering into the metrical form and often over-flooding it before the real poetic achievement begins.” There has to be the “direct call of three powers, inspiration, beauty, and delight”, and when it is there and when it has done all that has to be done, then the essential work of poetry is done. If the anthology can urge us towards it then it shall have served the purpose well, fulfilling genuinely the condition of what the “spiritual poems” should be, the Word expressing itself under the five suns of poetic Truth and Beauty and Delight and Life and the Spirit. Keywords: SriAurobindo, Spirituality, Review, Poetry, Mysticism, Literature Posted to: Main Page CULTURE LITERATURE .. Book reviews .. Poetry

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