The Soul of Poetry

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Published on January 10, 2009

Author: avygravy

Source: slideshare.net

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Presentation made at the Kabir Project workshop at Visthaar, Bangalore.

THE SOUL OF POETRY

AWESOME GOD – MICHAEL W SMITH When He rolls up His sleeves He ain't just puttin' on the ritz (our God is an awesome God) There is thunder in His footsteps And lightning in His fist (our God is an awesome God) Well, the Lord wasn't joking When He kicked 'em out of Eden It wasn't for no reason that He shed his blood His return is very close and so you better be believing that our God is an awesome God Our God(our God) is an awesome God He reigns(He reigns) from heaven above With wisdom(with wisdom) pow'r and love our God is an awesome God And when the sky was starless in the void of the night (our God is an awesome God) He spoke into the darkness and created the light (our God is an awesome God) Judgment and wrath he poured out on to Sodom Mercy and grace He gave us at the cross I hope that we have not too quickly forgotten that our God is an awesome God POETRY FROM THE SOUL THAT IS IN AWE OF GOD – THAT’S ONLY 1 POSSIBILITY

What is this SOUL we depend on and discuss in poetry ? In Hebrew, nephesh is the word for soul. It means “the complete life of a being”. Nephesh applies to humans, lower animals, corpses and to God Almighty and in some Jewish traditions - such as Chabad-Lubavitch - plants also have souls . The concept of an immaterial soul separate from and surviving the body was not fully founded in ancient Hebrew beliefs. In other words, human beings do not possess souls, THEY LIVE AS SOULS. The word also comes to mean “desire” - that needy, physical life which includes all spiritual experiences and which comes from God and needs refreshing. This “desire” or “life” or “vitality” of the individual “breathing creature” is SOUL and it cannot be satisfied by just the things of creation, it needs more. From this soul, poetry emerges as expressions of all experiences. I SING THE BODY ELECTRIC

In Christian thought, which reinterprets the Hebraic tradition, soul or psyche is one aspect among seven that mark out the human being as a unique creature – spirit (pneuma), flesh (sarx), body (soma), heart (kardia), mind (nous) and conscience (syneidesis). Soul indicates a “man’s life” or “self” or “desire” – it refers to the “whole man” including sin or ignorance. The unregenerate soul is used as anti-thesis to the spiritual (pneumatikos) while the regenerate soul is capable of being transformed through a close relationship with God. SOUL = SUFFERS ANGUISH My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me,  so far from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,  by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them.   They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him." Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother's breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother's womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax;  it has melted away within me.   SOUL = SUFFERS DILEMMA the road not taken – robert frost Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. 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. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me,  they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them  and cast lots for my clothing. But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs.  Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. - Psalm 22

More often than not, the soul is in search of what Mathew Arnold calls THE BURIED LIFE - the life we do not want to engage with but which lies within each one of us as seeks expression. But often, in the world's most crowded streets, But often, in the din of strife, There arises an unspeakable desire After the knowledge of our buried life: A thirst to spend our fire and restless force In tracking out our true, original course; A longing to inquire into the mystery of this heart which beats, So wild, so deep in us - to know Whence our lives come and where they go.

Since we are investigating THE SOUL OF POETRY in the context of Kabir, there are certain observations that I will make and leave the rest of it up to you. The soul of poetry lies in God? The Poet Joseph Brodsky was arrested in 1963 and charged with parasitism by the Soviet authorities. A famous excerpt from the transcript of his trial made by journalist Frida Vigdorova was smuggled to the West: Judge: And what is your profession, in general? Brodsky: I am a poet and a literary translator. Judge: Who recognizes you as a poet? Who enrolled you in the ranks of poets? Brodsky: No one. Who enrolled me in the ranks of humankind? Judge: Did you study this? Brodsky: This? Judge: How to become a poet. You did not even try to finish high school where they prepare, where they teach? Brodsky: I didn’t think you could get this from school. Judge: How then? Brodsky: I think that it ... comes from God.

In this context, it is easy to understand why many poets waxed mystical, including Kabir, and wrote of the pleasures and trials of the souls that wanted to be united with God or the Supreme Reality. There is a great tradition of poetry in most cultures that reflects the soul’s concern over communion with God or knowing Truth. I came into the unknown and stayed there unknowing rising beyond all science. I did not know the door but when I found the way, unknowing where I was, I learned enormous things, but what I felt I cannot say, for I remained unknowing, rising beyond all science. - St John of the Cross (Spain) My body is temple, my soul is the sanctum and the divine in the core of my heart is lingam The rich raise temples but poor as I am, This I shall do, my legs for pillars, My body for sanctum, My head, the golden Kalas complete, O Lord Kudala Sangama ,matter possesses, but spirit abides. - Basavanna (Karnataka) There are thousands of wines that can take over our minds. Don't think all ecstasies are the same! Jesus was lost in his love for God. His donkey was drunk with barley.  -Jalaluddin Rumi

SOUL= IMAGINATION Or can one say that the soul of poetry lies in the imagination? One can be lonely and isolated, and yet one can travel in the imagination and tell in words the vistas seen. This was the soul in the poetry of Emily Dickinson. SOUL = SENSUAL IMAGERY All the while they were talking the new morality Her eyes explored me. And when I rose to go Her fingers were like the tissue Of a Japanese paper napkin. - Ezra Pound, "The Encounter" SOUL = THE VOICE OF THE DEVIL All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors. 1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul. 2. That Energy, call'd Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call'd Good, is alone from the Soul. 3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies. But the following Contraries to these are True Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy. Energy is Eternal Delight. - William Blake – The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

SOUL = THE VOICE OF THE DEVIL

All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors.

1. That Man has two real existing principles Viz: a Body & a Soul. 2. That Energy, call'd Evil, is alone from the Body, & that Reason, call'd Good, is alone from the Soul. 3. That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.

But the following Contraries to these are True

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call'd Body is a portion of Soul discern'd by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age

Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.

Energy is Eternal Delight.

- William Blake – The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

SOUL = SPECTRUM Inventive Traditionalism The coming of Wisdom with Time w. b. yeats Though leaves are many, the root is one; Through all the lying days of my youth I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun; Now I may wither into the truth. Experimentalism Robert Creeley, "I Know a Man" As I sd to my friend, because I am always talking.—John, I sd, which was not his name, the darkness sur- rounds us, what can we do against it, or else, shall we & why not, buy a goddamn big car, drive, he sd, for christ's sake, look out where yr going. L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poems Poet-William Jay Smith After,each,word,he,places,a,comma, A,remarkable,effect,indeed, It,gives,you,jitters,when,you,look, It,gives,you,hiccoughs,when,you,read. Concrete Poems SOUL = -ve to +ve Poetry by Marianne Moore I ,too, dislike it. Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one discovers in It after all, a place for the genuine. VERY VALENTINE Very fine is my valentine. Very fine and very mine. Very mine is my valentine very mine and very fine. Very fine is my valentine and mine, very fine very mine and mine is my valentine. –Gertrude Stein

SOUL = REACTION , CONTRADICTION, COMMENT RICHARD CORY by EDWARD ARLINGTON ROBINSON (1897) Whenever Richard Cory went down town, We people on the pavement looked at him: He was a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored, and imperially slim. And he was always quietly arrayed, And he was always human when he talked; But still he fluttered pulses when he said, "Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked. And he was rich — yes, richer than a king — And admirably schooled in every grace: In fine, we thought that he was everything To make us wish that we were in his place. So on we worked, and waited for the light, And went without the meat, and cursed the bread; And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, Went home and put a bullet through his head.

RICHARD CORY LYRICS – SIMON & GARFUNKEL They say that Richard Cory owns one half of this whole town, With political connections to spread his wealth around. Born into society, a bankers only child, He had everything a man could want: power, grace, and style. But I work in his factory And I curse the life I’m living And I curse my poverty And I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be Richard Cory. The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes: Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show. And the rumor of his parties, and the orgies on his yacht! Oh, he surely must be happy with everything he’s got. But I work in his factory And I curse the life I’m living And I curse my poverty And I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be Richard Cory. He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch, And they were grateful for his patronage and thanked him very much, So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read: Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head. But I work in his factory And I curse the life I’m living And I curse my poverty And I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be, Oh, I wish that I could be Richard Cory.

SOUL = RHYTHM, TONE, THE SPOKEN WORD, AGAINST THE NORM I’m in a rogue state, honey Getting unpredictable & strange Just a rogue state itching to Test my harridan ballistic range National Missile Defense System Got nothing on me I can pierce thru the genome project With a cyborg’s vitality I’m in a rogue state, Mr. President Don’t tell me what to do Your rules aren’t my rules Cause I’m the Lady of Misrule. - Anne Waldeman Howl Howl Howl Howl Howl Howl

SOUL = IRREVERENCE-REBELLION-REVERENCE CYCLE Kabir discovered and stylized and put his personal stamp on what many others had discovered and expressed before him : That the notion of God could be re-interpreted and re-used through poetry and song to raise the flag of rebellion against those who had used the very same notion to establish a hegemonic power structure that marginalized large sections of the society and denied them open and free access to Truth and the Supreme Reality in whatever form of expression they might choose. Such a rebel discourse has included prophets, seers, yippies, hippies, Moses, David, Buddha, Bahaiullah, Jesus, the Beats, Dada, Fluxus …and Kabir. That sensibility of revolt against that which is traditionally conservative, unjust and oppressive and illusory is too THE SOUL OF POETRY.

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