7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018

The joy of grief...

The joy of grief... BY ANWAR ABDULRAHMAN ,  Posted on » 25 February 2010

What is the difference between literature and poetry?", the old man was asked by a coffee shop regular. "Literature is the mother and poetry the daughter," the guru answered.

He went on: " Literature abides by rules of prose, but poetry drifts with passion as a free spirit.

"Somerset Maugham described poetry as 'the crown of literature'. It is the highest activity of the human brain - an achievement of true beauty and delicacy.

"Literary man cannot say everything, but a poet can. Verse can make you laugh, cry, be silent, or simply think. It instils awareness that you are alone in an unknown world of happiness or grief. In fact the best poem is not composed by wisdom alone, but by feelings and mental inspiration - an inner mirror which reflects our yearnings and cravings from the depth of our being, stimulating and directing our intellect.

"Poetry usually flows naturally, but when some poets try to paint the colour of the wind, it becomes a counterfeit creation. Such 'poets' are merely plumbers of words."

The regular asked: "So you say that there are good and bad poems?"

"No", said the old man, "there is no such thing in poetry. A genuine poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a sound poem has been added to it, for a fine one helps extend everyone's knowledge of themselves and the world around them.

"Of course, poetry is sometimes like the night, it exaggerates happiness and sorrow, but even sorrowful lines entice a reader with an empathetic inclination to lovingly share the forlorn and lonely nature of a poet.

"It means that you can paradoxically find joy in unhappiness! You become poignantly glad even though the words are sad.

"Although poetry is translatable, much will be lost through linguistical and cultural distance. In other words, it will be understood but rarely felt.

"Literary men are proud, while poets are passionate!

"In essence," said the old man, "poetry is the shorthand of literature."

"My dear lad." He continued, "schools of poetry are as old as the history of reading and writing. Both the Chinese and Indians were writing verse as far back as 3000 BC, and so were the Arabs. But it was the 18th and 19th Century translations or the birth of new poets that popularised the genre.

"In this region," the old man said, "great giants were born. They included Eleya Abu Madhi, Rabindranath Tagore and Allama Iqbal to name just a few. They left a lasting influence on their readers, although all three belong to different schools. Abu Madhi was a philosopher in his own right, asking unanswerable questions. In Tagore's writings on the other hand, you hear the melody of music, and in Iqbal's the roar of thunder.

"But each of them reached the highest pinnacle of their master craft."

"Then where does the famous Omar Khayyam stand among those three?," another regular asked.

"Khayyam," the old man commented," lived almost eight centuries before them. Without a doubt he is the most famous and popular of all poets worldwide. One can see that Abu Madhi is almost a reincarnation of him"

"Can you recite to us the best of Khayyam?", was the question.

"Yes", said the old man, "the best which applied to his time, our time and times to come was when he said;

'Ah, make the most of what we may yet spend,

Before we too into the Dust descend ;

Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie,

Sans wine, Sans song, Sans singer, and - Sans End!'

The old man stood, sighed, bade them all goodnight, and walked out alone into the dark...

click on image to view the digital edition