Of poetry

I adore poetry. I try writing poetry, too, from time to time, but I fail almost every time. I still try, though. It’s such a disciplined and sensual form of art that I know I want to get it right some time or the other. How much command over the language a poet must have to express limitless vision in limited words.

It all started when I read Tennyson’s Charge of the Light Brigade. From there, my craze only magnified as I read Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth and Dulce et decorum est. Those three war poems changed the way I see words and respond to their lure—it’s weird how war is always the starting point of enlightenment.

Once I understood the underlined meaning in these poems, I wanted more. I was addicted, and was desperate to quench the dryness that these poems left in my throat.

I had read poetry before, of course. I had read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and yet, these poems were different. Reading Shakespeare requires effort sincere effort and interest. These poems, though, thrust themselves at me. I didn’t have to know the details of war to understand its effects as told by Tennyson and Owen. They inflamed a strong passion in me for simple, yet well-articulated words.

For instance, this one in particular:

“Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”

Which translates to: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.” Ah, the intensity of those words—coming from a soldier nonetheless, who knows what he’s talking about better than anyone else ever would. But what makes it even better is the placement of the phrase: “The Old Lie:”

“The Old Lie: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.”

The entire poem walks us through a vivid description of the war zone, and then, we get to the end where the poet claims that all the bullshit stories we tell young soldiers are empty words; lies. Poor Owen, he must’ve believed them all, like the rest of the lot. What a great poet he turned out at the hospital, before recovering and heading to the battleground again.

But that’s the power in good poetry: When said “write”, a writer writes, but a writer who said it right, writhes the emotion out of readers.

Wilfred Owen was one such writer. He made me, the reader, feel what he felt. The pain, the anguish, the heartbreak, and the loss of hope—I felt them all because the poet put them in such an artistic narrative. And that’s why we should read good poems, because like John Keating says, we need science and business to sustain, but we need poetry to live.

And what would we do if not live?

My love of war

I just don’t know why, but ‘war’ has always been a topic of great interest to me. Particularly war poetry. Soul sucking words detailing gut wrenching moments – I could dwell all day in it.

Here in this blog, I’ve already registered my thoughts about the futility of war as told in one of my favourite war poems “Dulce et decorum est” by Wilfred Owen.

When I wonder why I enjoy war poetry so much, I can only draw the conclusion that I adore warriors. I have always thought of the idea of fighting for one’s country as an honour and pleasure. I guess these poems are repeatedly proving me false. Maybe that’s why I like them so; because they have opened my eyes to reality. ‘Opened my eyes’ in the sense, not in a gentle way as teaching an over-excited toddler, but ruthlessly bringing out how much of wrong doing the process of war includes.

I still remember those days when I was just another girl, stuffed with glorious fancies about soldiers and the concept of war. I looked up to it as a holy sacrifice; something soldiers take up on themselves and still not brag about it. I held that sacrifice as holiness, because that’s how movies portrayed it. We are bound only to pity soldiers and not to stand up to the injustice they’ve been thrust into. I realized, in the hard way, that it’s nothing more than a mass suicidal charge.

One of the first war poems that affected me greatly was “Charge of the Light Brigade”; thoughts of Lord Tennyson. It was the truth and the matter-of-fact tone that got to me. It hit me hard on the head saying, “Here’s the truth, fool!”. It gave me a whole new perspective. Indeed truth it was, I learnt later from Wilfred Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.

Knowing all these, have changed my conventional view of Army and soldiers. I still respect the Armed Forces for all they do and for the courage to wear that uniform despite knowing well that it’s sure and ugly death. But, that I do not approve of war is still intact in my heart growing steadily and it’s largely due to the understanding of the destruction war brings on families of soldiers; understanding gained from a soldier was passionate with words and died in the First World War.