How deeply does Eliot grieve passing away of all treasures civilization amassed, nursing the random fragments he has shored against ruins. The loss was felt by Arnold when he found that sea of faith had receded and it was no longer possible to find trust. The Bard himself had a lot to mourn, though none ever made him feel helpless.
Poetry had been identified as spanner in the works by Plato, “there is an old quarrel between philosophy and poetry”. (Republic, 607b5-6) And the writer of How to Read a Poem, Terry Eagleton finds that things are no different today:
Poetry is the most intimidating of all the literary arts. Even students of literature tends to give it a wide berth these days, preferring a rattling good Conradian yarn to the perils of Paradise Lost. Most could spot a sexist stereotype in a poem, but not many could pick out an example of bathos or understatement. This is not because they are obtuse. It is because a lot of their teachers, not least the younger generation of them, couldn’t either. Poetry is rapidly becoming the bad fairy at the literary ball. And good poetry criticism among students is becoming as rare as clog dancing.
Appears as the death-knell of this devious art has been sounded. It exists in pages of history, alone. Poetry has spoken volumes in a few syllables; has been unfurled in voluminous generational works; given new dimension to music; been invigorated through musicality; it has been counter-foil to prose and also been expresses in un-poetic prose. It is something that works in devious ways, something that doesn’t like a ‘wall’. It is a skylark of imagination; a cat o’ nine tails.
So in an age, burdened with grand observations of grand deaths (god, narratives, word) what chance does it hold. In a world full of visuality, would the invisible, intangible spirit of indomitable human expression survive?
Not long ago, while people were still not uncertain about literature turning a thing-of-past, they wanted to protect sanctity of its expression from the numbing, stifling cage of visual representation. Poetry can never be expressed on celluloid, even though ‘poetry of celluloid’ could well exist. Poetry films, today are a recognized film-genre; they may not be a genre of poetry though.
Scholars and critics have spent more time in defining poetry than giving some, like the lay man, to its enjoyment. Like the human form that has dressed itself in countless garbs, poetry too remains equally alive and vibrant. Words are greatest of human inventions and thus the sacred most one is God’s; but the inventive spirit still lives. It may often neglect the genius of past due its engagement with constructing a future, but neither imagination, nor innovation, nor romance has withered away.
While Joyce finds a new Avatar as twitter boils down Ullyses, a greater serious treatment is accorded to Eliot by Faber who launched a video app of Wasteland.
This is sacrilege to some, reassuring to others. The classics may just have got themselves a wedge that ‘book-marks’ them on ipv6. That poetry is another name to instinct of expression is well supported in Dougiedownunder’s comment on the Guardian post.
The i.tune of J Alfred Prufrock
Let us go then, you and I,
To the Apple store and buy, buy, buy
Like an addict stupefied by news`from Faber;
Let us go, like certain half – demented geeks,
Who mutter on for weeks
Through restless nights of world wide web soft sells
Of awesome Apps of which the Guardian tells:
Geeks who need no facile argument
Of insidious intent
To lead me to an overwhelming question …
I need not ask “What is it?’
I’m hot to trot and make my visit.
While it may offend the chaste tastes of a word-master to call application an ‘App’, abbreviating is an act of simplification; poetry has often been accused of simplifying life – but that is its charm, is it not?
So, O Prophet of a wasteland where ideas vie with each other in mad rush towards oblivion, the fragment, you shore against your ruin might save a geeky soul from drowning in his y/i/pad/pod. Yes, Lazarus comes to speak again.