Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold

Indian character, the Indian mindset have haunted and disturbed me for long.  Unless we study and understand how the Indian character had evolved through the ages, how our character is shaped by our long history of oppression and suppression, we can’t understand ourselves fully.  We can’t in turn understand the world outside also fully! 

We are living in a world of great stirrings, everyone is aware of his or her self identity.  That is okay!  But then literature and poetry has to respond, respond to the great questions of the day.  I hope I have sufficiently explored the modern world, the external and the internal world of modern man, my own self in these poems.

The grand power of poetry, says Mathew Arnold.  There are others.  I needn’t name names.  Shelley is perhaps the most known name in this part of the world and he stands as an eloquent example of what a poet and poetry can achieve in the advancement of civilization.  His “A Defense of Poetry”, some 25 pages of sustained writing is still the last word on the beauty and power of poetry.  Even today it makes interesting reading and very much possesses a contemporary tone,   “the present state of cultivation of Poetry”.

It ends with the famous line: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.”  This line is also a rephrasing of Samuel Johnson’s “the legislator of mankind” (Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Major Works, OUP).

A poet is always a richer individual!  He leaves behind his language and literature richer!   One word, one phrase, one line is enough!  To lit the fire or sow the seed!  To be remembered by the generations!

A poet is a seer, “endowed with the premonitory power”, “poet-as-tribune”.

“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity” (W.B.Yeats) How prophetic, how enduring! A warning for us in Tamil Nadu too! I offer these poems for serious readers for their reading pleasure as well as for their reflection!

I am tempted to quote a few lines from the Penguin Book to characterize my own mood of writing.

Here they are!

“I write the headlines for a Daily Newspaper!
It’s just a knack one’s born with all-right-squire!
You do not have to be an educator,
Just bang the words down like they’re screaming fire!
Cheers. Thing is, you’ve got to grab attention
With just one phrase as punters rush on by!
I like to think that I’m a sort of poet
For our times. My shout. Know what I mean?
I’ve got a special talent and I show it”!
(Carol Ann Duffy, Poet for Our Time)

A poem is not words and lines!  A poem is power for our times!  A poet writes out of the impulses of our times, right?  For me poetry should sensitize the listeners; it should give the readers a new sensitivity. Poetry for me should touch, not the senses, it should touch the heart and the soul. I don’t know or I won’t say whether my poems do any of these things!  But I am so sure my poems are not like the poems written by my fellow Tamil poets.
So, what difference my poems would make for Tamil literature?  Would it break new ground? Open up a new path?  A new vision? Would it herald a new way of looking at the world?  I like to seek answers from poets and critics alike!  Often, I correct the drafts endlessly for days together till I get complete satisfaction of how the whole poem sounds!

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