Who is on the plum tree?
By Ampat Koshy
In the humorous film ‘Music and Lyrics’ (2007), a discussion comes up between Hugh Grant (Alex, former pop music idol, now middle aged) and Drew Barrymore (young Sophie Fisher, once upon a time aspiring writer forced to turn lyricist by Alex) about the importance of a (song) lyric in comparison with a supposedly literary novel. Alex points out that lines like Smokey Robinson’s “I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day/When it’s cold outside I’ve got the month of May” in ‘My Girl’ leave more of a long lasting impact on the minds of people all over the world, and that too for generations to come, than many difficult literary works like ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ by James Joyce. The deduction is worth thinking of: While popular need not be great, popular when simple, deep and profound has reach and greatness and becomes classic, living longer than many ‘great’ literary works in reality. The latter are kept alive only by esoteric readers, academicians, researchers and intellectuals or fan cliques; the former by everyone.
A present day example of this, paralleling the popularity of great poets like Ghalib and Rumi, is the simple fact that putting up the lyrics of a popular song in any language which is also great poetry/a lyric will get one, on youtube, millions of hits whereas a poem on a social network won’t. The roots of poetry as something meant to be sung, chanted or recited is also touched on here. A song lyricist fetches more money than a poet in the market. The neo-classical writers and readers who are ‘purists’ in love with classics hate these facts and also the younger generation’s bold use of language, including their use of words like f***. Lana del Rey’s “Ride”is a typical example of lyrics/poetry that are/is simple and powerful, igniting a huge fire as a response, also drawing on Whitman and the Beats as precursors with a large reach, though oldies hate it. They would prefer a Dylan or a Cohen refusing to acknowledge the fact that along with a Rumi or Ghaib such poets/bards too were also popular and not just considered profound and deep and only later labelled as classic.
Please read the lyrics of, listen to, and look at the number of hits on the Lana del Rey video to understand that the movement in poetry may presently be towards the firswords of my three pairs in the title, that is; towards the young, simple and popular – a fact driven by new media’s forms and not literary or alternative schools.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Py_-3di1yx0 Warning!!! (Niamh Clune) Young people visiting this blog ~ please be aware of adult content here.
The thrust is, as a young Malayali poet said recently in a poetry reading in Urban Solace, Bangalore, – I paraphrase – towards not being offended by swear words but in presenting much deeper ills that are there in today’s life. In other words, dear writers, simplicity can make our writing both deep and profound if we let the latter pair emerge from the gaps in between and from the writer’s or reader’s intelligence which we should not insult, and the result can be popular, great and become a classic despite using a bold new young
people’s language that may seem inappropriate to some but perhaps is merely their … language.