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In The Sandbox With Dr. Ampat Koshy

The Death of Poetry: Uncovering its meta-structure, unpacking its discontents. About a hundred years ago a book was written that shook the Northern or Western world. It was Thus Spake Zarathsutra by Nietzsche. People who haven’t read it remember only the main sentence in it – “God is dead.” Nietzsche’s powerful, poetic voice carried enough weight as philosophy to make it the post- God era in the minds of many people across the world. A god – shaped hole existed thereafter in the minds of many human beings, according to Eliot, and he suggested that poetry could give a form to this void.

Earlier itself, Arnold had suggested the importance of poetry as a means of keeping men civilized, an idea that had and still has both disastrous and amusing consequences when it is applied by the colonizer to the colonized, with the civilizing agent being, supposedly, English poetry. Fast forward to Barthes and his significant essay “The Death of the Author.” “ The Death of the author is the birth of the reader.” And yet once again, if one goes back to Saussure and forward to Derrida we come to the vita nuova of context, author/narrator, text (signifiers), world (referents) and reader/s and critics who tell each other what it all signifies, what is being signified endlessly so that we understand finally that writing, media, reading, and literature is a game, except when one transgresses the context, which generally happens only in politically stressful times.

POETRY TOO IS DEAD. The power of poetry as a discourse fled in the West a long time ago, and all over the world there are only a handful of significant poets or poems left in the public consciousness starting probably from the seventies. But just as God has not died, being kept alive by the contexts in which the concept of God is still celebrated as being worthy of continuity, and the author has not died, still being harassed by the millions of readers who forget his/her works but don’t forget to say it is only about him/her and that man/woman – the naïve reader’s autobiographic approach of reading a text, as Eco would put it – poetry and art too continues to live if it strikes a note that disturbs people.

The sexual, the religious, the political, the violent, the technological, the scientific, the perverse, the aberrant and the deviant are the only disturbing presences in today’s world that people want to get rid of – thus it is only in these contexts that poetry has a half-life anymore, despite its being palpably dead. This is not to say that its ghost or skeleton is not imbued with love by its adherents and does not have its own aesthetics or ethics. We know what happens when something/someone dies, there is an extreme reaction to it from people who loved/love it, who will do anything in retaliation to prove that it is still alive, to keep it alive somehow.

robertkroetsch

Robert Kroetsch

But let me first deal with the announcement of the death itself. For me, the formal significant announcement of poetry’s death came when I read Robert Kroetsch’s poems. He is a Canadian novelist and poet, and a friend of mine was doing research on him so I had the good fortune to read some of his poems. http://.ca/ What occurred to me then was the simple fact that Kroetsch, like Beckett in a different sense, knew that poetry had to be broken down even further into its basic elements which are purely graphic, graphemic, phonemic and phonic initially, and only then addresses the void of meaning caused by the absence or death of God, the author and now after my article, of poetry itself. As Beckett said elsewhere: “my work is a matter of fundamental sounds, let those who want to get lost in the overtones and provide their own aspirin.” In short, we practise a dead art but can get a response now only if one writes in the “words/language/voices of the dead, which are/is tongued by fire, far beyond the tongues of the living” – to paraphrase T.S.Eliot. I search to invent that language. Dr A.V. Koshy

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About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books. www.drniamh.co.uk

38 comments on “In The Sandbox With Dr. Ampat Koshy

  1. terrestrian (@terrestrian)
    August 29, 2013

    Thanks a lot Niamh Clune – hope the sparks fly upwards fierily and the ghosts walk

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      August 29, 2013

      I also hope this provokes responses and debates from others. The soul vs deconstruction!

      Like

  2. terrestrian (@terrestrian)
    August 29, 2013

    and talk – provoked by the topic 🙂

    Like

  3. Pingback: In The Sandbox With Dr. Ampat Koshy: The death of poetry | BUTTERFLIES OF TIME

    • ontheplumtree
      August 29, 2013

      Many thanks, Butterflies…crunching indeed! Chewing provocatively!

      Like

  4. terrestrian (@terrestrian)
    August 29, 2013

    thanks butterflies and all who are sharing on fb, gplus, linked in, twitter and click like etc…

    Like

  5. BUTTERFLIES OF TIME
    August 29, 2013

    Should we be discussing if poetry is dead
    or is it enough to bring down a flower from a tree
    and stare at it till it relents
    to become strands of squeezed colour
    stacked horizontally or failing that
    vertically till the column
    resembles
    a free fall of gravity ?
    Poetry hooks us when we are weak
    and chokes us when we think we are strong
    so is it dead
    Is it only a ghost that drags us into its annals?
    How powerful it is in death!
    How much more if it breathes ?
    -Reena

    Like

  6. always provocative here in the sandbox…great commentary –

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      August 29, 2013

      Clever indeed. But deconstruction is academic. Poets and poetry will always be here. Poetry will never be dead. Even in a holocaust, we write poetry as the only balm for the soul. And in death, the soul is transcendent and still finds expression. Neither can poetry be a weapon of civilisation. People respond to a poem only because it makes them feel something in common with others. If it were the case that poetry was a weapon of civilisation rather than a civilising presence, people would have to be told that a poem was good rather than know it intimately within their own hearts. An academic appraisal of poetry has always seemed to me to be counter-intuitive and bizarre! It is not possible to enter the world of feeling and meaning armed with the dissecting sword of intellect. Intellect must serve poetry rather than dismember its significance. Poetry is a unifying force that transcends boundaries, religion, politics or dogma. Long live poetry and the poet!

      I have posted this in various places, as this is my personal opinion.

      Like

      • Uncle Tree
        August 29, 2013

        Dr. Clune,

        Your quick and sharp essay wins you an “A” today! 🙂
        I agree with you – wholeheartedly! ♥ Helluva speech, my friend!

        One sentence…well, I’m iffy on it. “People respond to a poem only
        because it makes them feel something in common with others.”

        If I may? I think people respond to poems because a certain chord
        was struck; a note, perhaps, a string, and they found themselves
        in tune with the rhythm, and the rhyme, and the words cut through
        the mustard and the chard and struck a nerve, and they FELT it!
        And for a moment, they’ll have to deal with it; the good, the bad,
        the goosebumps, and yes, needling on that almost forgotten thorn.

        Thank you! Deacon Struck

        Like

      • ontheplumtree
        August 30, 2013

        Yes! Uncle Tree! That something in common is the feeling response. Feelings are common to all. Feelings that arise from shared and known experiences such as loss, loneliness, despair, joy, exaltation, fervour, beatitude, hunger, lust, love, anger, jealousy, rage, impotence, admiration, sorrow…the list goes on. If a poem encapsulates any of these feelings and speaks to the many, then it touches something inherent within the soul. The soul is also, in essence, a spark of the collective soul. Such feelings are; therefore, archetypes ~ patterns that underlie human consciousness and experience. And that’s what a poem, or any art form should do: speak directly to the transpersonal.

        Like

      • Juliette
        August 30, 2013

        Yes indeed! Well said Niamh!

        Like

      • ontheplumtree
        August 30, 2013

        🙂 Sometimes, even though I post other people and am happy to do so, I do feel I also have a right to an opinion. Many thanks, Juliette for your interaction.

        Like

  7. terrestrian (@terrestrian)
    August 29, 2013

    How powerful it is in its death. How much more if its ghost still walks.

    Like

  8. terrestrian (@terrestrian)
    August 29, 2013

    thanks jenean 🙂

    Like

  9. brava, niamh! for having said so eloquently that which i was thinking but did not elaborate in my first comment – many thanks to you – and yes, long live poetry and the poet!

    Like

  10. terrestrian (@terrestrian)
    August 29, 2013

    Similar to the reactions Nietszche got 🙂

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      August 29, 2013

      I don’t think this equates with Nietszche!!! Far too short a space to build an Epistemology to make the argument you have made, which is based more on personal opinion. 🙂

      Like

  11. Uncle Tree
    August 29, 2013

    Kudos to Dr. Koshy for going out on a limb
    that’s on fire. We have buckets at the ready.

    Death is not an option. 😉

    Like

  12. Ampat Koshy
    August 30, 2013

    Thanks, Uncle Tree.

    Like

  13. the secret keeper
    August 30, 2013

    Poetry will never die until all humans are wiped from the planet. From my perspective, I feel poetry is growing. It expands as the population. Many find their voice in poetry when nothing else works. Art is alive and well. Commercialism needs to be deconstructed and destroyed. Which brings me to the thought that the poet speaks the words and feelings no one else can. When I am driving, I have urges to stop in order to take down words echoing in my mind, being fed by the muse. Let’s look at the muse, she is very much alive and objects vehemently to being represented as dead. Far from that place. An immortal, as art, and poetry being art is also immortal. It is not a ghost. That which a poet may write about can come from the hauntings from deep memories. I agree with Niamh and Brava for speaking out the truth and representing all of us out here who are artist/poets very much alive and pursuing the constant awakening of our soul. Certain poems resonate in different ways for different people. We are individuals after all, connected to a collective unconscious. We do express a multitude of emotions and thoughts and the ailments of life. If you are dead inside and have no life for poetry, do not cast that off on others, Dr. Koshy. It is an insult to judge by your standards what others feel and believe. For one, I feel the spirit alive coursing through my being with a fiery energy feeding me inspiration with great speed and an urgent need to have it expressed immediately. The muse is not patient when something needs a voice. The doorways open and they also slam shut. If your doorways have been slammed shut then just say that, do not insult the poets of the world by saying our world and major form of expression is dead. That is a blatant lie. Poetry has never been more alive. And those who have passed from their mortal coils, their poetry is alive. If something is given life through our soul, it takes on that which is immortal. If others find that it effects them, it will cause a ripple effect of awakening. You are wrong. I know many many poets whose words vibrant with energy that glow in the words the soul transmits its feeling and thoughts through. Do not deny other peoples existence’s life’s blood. Poetry feeds my being with a nurturing nothing else can touch as much as writing and reading poetry of my own and others. Jk the secret keeper

    Like

  14. Juliette
    August 30, 2013

    My humble opinion: Poetry in the most pure of forms will live as long as there is language and a human soul. It is the innocent eye that sees and hears and creates those words and feeling. It is the heart break and the love and the wonder of life that keeps it from being dead, even when writing of death and negativity.

    And, crap, while I’m spouting off…forget all of the highbrow stuff – poetry is FUN. Plain and simple FUN.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      August 30, 2013

      My feelings exactly, Juliette, which is why I felt I had to post the comment I posted below.

      Like

  15. Shawn MacKENZIE
    August 30, 2013

    In the sad umbra of Seamus Heaney’s death, I am reminded that, from the beginning of time, Poets have been the chosen of the Gods. They’re seers and sages, intermediaries between the mundane and the divine. They walk the Earth singing paeans to marvels both explained and mysterious, and inspire the rest of us to raise our heads, to look about – outside ourselves – with wonder. They’re the voice of the Gods, both clear and obscure. And whether you believe in Gods or not, whether you need them or not, Poets stand apart, speaking to and for the finest aspects of our souls. Personally, I can live in a universe without Gods, but a world without Poets would be too much to bear.
    The world without Seamus Heaney is diminished to its core.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      August 30, 2013

      And I reiterate his qualities as a man with a huge soul, wit, generosity and humour – qualities often found in the truly great.

      Like

  16. Ampat Koshy
    August 31, 2013

    Lol – quite a storm in a teacup this – thanks everyone for your comments – i think a lack of understanding what theory is about is creating the outcry but as Niamh said I need more space to build the espitemlogy so will do it elsewhere.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      August 31, 2013

      I don’t think it is a storm in a teacup, Ampat. I think when you set out to be provocative, you must be prepared to take the responses. Isn’t that what you want – response?And I don’t think this is due to a lack of understanding about Theory on the part of your readers or commentators. Theory needs to be backed up and supported with well-made developed argument. Don’t you think that statement is rather undermining to your readers? And isn’t that one of your “pet” theories that it is all about getting the response?

      Like

  17. Ampat Koshy
    August 31, 2013

    * I..

    Like

  18. thiskidreviewsbooks
    August 31, 2013

    Interesting premise that poetry is 95% dead. I never thought of it like that!

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      August 31, 2013

      Well! Erik. The premise hasn’t been proven. It is based on conjecture and personal opinion. Personally, I do not agree.

      Like

  19. Poetry dies,
    usually to rekindle a life,
    dying,
    somewhere nearby,
    to give
    regenerating new eyes,

    So she is not dead,
    she has many lives,
    she feigns to die
    by and by
    in the lines
    only if unread,
    but like a seed, dry,
    it sprouts alive
    after eons,
    sprouting out of her death bed,
    to be a flower again!

    Like

  20. Sujatha Menon
    March 23, 2014

    On the one hand, I agree with you partially. I wouldn’t say Poetry is dead. It is dying at the hands of “glitter” poets who wish to steal the limelight and pen trash in the form of poetry; it is dying in the hands of teachers who handle it merely as a piece of writing thereby destroying the very soul of the poet and of poetry in general; it is dying in the hands of students who fail to read between the lines and who really don’t know what appreciating a poem actually means. But on the other hand, there is always the silver lining. I would say that poetry lives and will continue to live as long as there are poets who wish to preserve the soul and essence of poetry, teachers who wish to bring poetry alive in their classrooms and relive poetic moments and learners who wish to delve deep into the fathomless oceans of poesy to hunt for pearls of pleasure and poetic wisdom.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      March 23, 2014

      Thank you Sujatha for your thoughtful and well expressed comments. I agree with you. It is only dead in the minds of those who believe it to be so.

      Like

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