The poetry I like best is the kind that happens when theres a synthesis of smells and tastes of life (or lives) with a realistic, close look at life (or lives, again!) topped with beautiful crafting of words. Empty craft sounds just that- empty. I also like to understand the process behind creation- creation of art, learning… Its interesting when poets write about poetry- their own or other poets’. In this act they also create what we may call “meta-poetry’. Such poems give us an opportunity for a deeper look into the poet him/herself. They serve many other purposes too. For example through these, poets may claim lineage with poets of another time. Like Ibn-e-Insha who prays for a house in heaven for Mir- every word uttered by whom, Insha claims is his own!

Allah karey Mir ka jannat mein makan ho,
Marhoom ne har baat hamari hi bayan ki.

Muktibodh discredits a lot of poetry and tells us about his version of credible thought process in his poem “vichar aatey hein” (“Thoughts arrive”- which incidentally is one of his very few short poems)

vichar aatey hein-
likhte samay nahin
Bojha dhotey waqt peeth par
sir par utthatey samay bhaar
parishram kartey samay
chaand ugta hai va
paani mein jhalmalaney lagta hai
hriday ke paani mein.

vichar aatey hein
likhte samay nahin,
…patthar dhotey waqt
peeth par utthate waqt bojh
saanp martey samay pichhwarey
bachchey ki nekar phacheette waqt!!
patthar pahad ban jate hein
naqshe bante hein bhogolik
peeth kachhap ban jate hein
samay prithvi ban jata hai…

(My translation of “vichar aatey hein“)

thoughts arrive
not while writing
while carrying load on back
while hauling weight over head
while toiling
moon rises and
shimmers on water
water of the heart

thoughts arrive
not while writing
…while carrying stone
while hauling load over back
while killing snake in the backyard
while washing a child’s knickers
stones become mountains
maps turn physical
backs turn into turtles
time becomes the earth…

Nazim Hikmet calls his poetry his “pot of honey” in his poem About My Poetry. Using the honey metaphor for his poetry that is at once not like material riches but still priceless.

I have no silver saddled horse to ride,
no inheritence to live on,
neither riches no real estate…
a pot of honey is all i own.
A pot of honey
red as fire!

My honey is my everything.
I guard my riches and my real estate
… my honey pot, I mean…
from pests of every species,
Brother, just wait…
As long as I’ve got
honey in my pot,
bees will come to it
from Timbuktu…

(Translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing)
Ernest Hemingway, in his poem The Age Demand talks of relationship of time-age with poetry and poets

The age demanded that we sing
And cut away our tongue.

The age demanded that we flow
And hammered in the bung.

The age demanded that we dance
And jammed us into iron pants.

And in the end the age was handed
The sort of shit that it demanded.
Pablo Neruda in his poem simply titled Poetry talks of the illusive-to-define source and nature of poetry.

And it was at that age… Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don’t know, I don’t know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don’t know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
deciphering
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
nonsense,
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
unfastened
and open,
planets,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
riddled with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
void
likeness, image of
mystery,
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

And my favourite Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Lauh-o-Qalam contains his need to express himself no matter what.

hum parvarish-e-lauh-o-qalam karte rahain ge
jo dil pe guzarati hai raqam karte rahain ge
asbaab-e-gham-e-ishq baham karte rahain ge
virani-e-dauraan pe karam karte rahain ge
haan talkhi-e-ayaam abhi aur barhe gi
haan ehal-e-sitam mashq-e-sitam karte rahain ge
manzoor ye talkhi ye sitam hum ko gavara
dam hai to madavaa-e-alam karte raheain ge
maikhana salamat hai to hum surkhi-e-mai se
tazeen-e-dar-o-baam-e-haram karte rahain ge
baaqi hai lahu dil main tou har ashk se paida
rang-e-lab-o-rukhsaar-e-sanam karte rahain ge
ek tarz-e-tagaaful hai so vo un ko mubaarak
ek arz-e-tamana hai so hum karte rahain ge

 

Forever will I nurture pen and paper,
forever express in words whatever my heart undergoes,
forever proffer ingredients of the sorrows of love
and quicken into life the wasteland of time.
Yes, the bitterness of time will keep on spawning,
just as the tyrants will persist in their cruelty.
Cheerfully I’ll give in to bitterness, this tyranny too I’ll endure
so long as there’s breath, I’ll seek ever new cures for torments.
If the tavern still remains, I shall embellish every door
and balcony of the haram with the redness of wine.
If the heart is not drained of all the blood, I’ll colour every tear
with the redness of the beloved’s lips and cheeks
This posture of indifference, let it be her prerogative-
For me it will always be my desire’s entreaty.

(translated by Shiv K. Kumar)