Sunday, September 28, 2014

Discovering Joseph Brodsky

One needs to find inspiration. To do new things, to take leaps of faith, to get onto uncharted plains. And one finds them unexpectedly. Here and there, life becoming a trail of new discoveries and new inspiration, your leaps of faith become the shining guiding lampposts of your life as you look back and think of the vector path of your own life.

Unrelated thoughts, but they surface together right now...intertwining themselves. As Eliot wrote, there is a time for an evening under the starlight, and then there is time for an evening under the lamplight (the evening with the photograph album).

How is this all related to the title of this post?

On my recent vacation, I bumped into the essays by Joseph Brodsky ('On Grief and Reason'). And then I looked him up further. He won the Nobel for literature in the eighties. He was a poet.

And like observed earlier, poets writing prose are a world apart from prose writers writing prose. They operate at a different level, the intensity, tempo and the effluvium of their world is different. All the rest of the writers reduced to mere mortals in front of these Gods of written word. Few words, but then they don't need more to exactly say what they need to.

The prose speaks directly, urgently to you. Cuts through the clutter. 'Precision' is the word. 'Precision' is his advice as well, as he speaks to a graduating class...his advice to make sure that one knows the words for one's feelings. His observation that life grows and people grow, and so should the terms in which we express ourselves...the same old words are outgrown. You need more precise words to exactly know and understand your mind, your moods, your thoughts, their changes...precision.

I had come across the essay sometime back...during the commencement speech season. There is some other advice as well (be no victim...if I were to summarize it, I'll borrow from Shakespeare..."the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings")
The referred essay/ speech by Brodsky (full text here)

I am yet to read his poems. I read a couple, but poems need so much growing up to. They need patience, they come to you when they come to you. They are not like fiction that you sit down to read and then you get captured, glued to a page turner ignoring everything else. Poems come to you. You read them once, you read them again. You soak yourself in them...sometime they are like songs on loop...which come with a season, like a fever, like rain, like a wave...and then they pass. But when they are there, the poem, the song is the only thing echoing in your mind.

These days, months or should I say, years, it is Eliot for me. It is his Four Quartets currently which provide the background hum ho of my existence. A few years back it was EE Cummings. Frost is always there, some of his poems which are relatable, accessible. I discovered Wislawa Szymborska as well. But Eliot it is currently. And it is growing by the day. Until probably I understand or remember all of the Four Quartets.

Brodsky makes a case for poets and poems, and you nod. There are few better writers of prose than some of the poets that walked this Earth.

I am still working my way through the essays...they lie on the same side of my bookshelf where Borges' non fictions, DFW's essays, Kundera's non fictions, and my current issue of essays/ non fiction writing by Woolf, Susan Sontag, Atwood get stacked. It's inspiring to go through these words, the inner workings of these minds, how they looked at this world. Its always a pleasure and to me, a privilege to dip into a few pages, re-read and glean newer meanings out of these texts. They end up uplifting, inspiring, guiding the path, and at times infusing much needed courage in the reader to go ahead and get going with things, with choices, without bothering about any other thought save that of better realizing the self. There is probably no better place in this post to say, you only live once.

In the larger scheme of things, there is probably nothing that matters. And since it is nothing that matters, we need some other criterion for making our life's choices. Poetry perhaps provides those dimensions...to measure, to consider, to choose and prioritize our lives...it inspires, it sets us on some path...a push here and a shove there to the vector that life charts, as we zoom through the varied intensity planes of the world around us.

I don't know, but how can one not love this:

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
the world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters

Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning

(Four Quartets)

So here goes my rambling post. I feel better having written this. The inspiration from Brodsky was to try to capture in words the hovering cloud of thoughts around my head. I have tried to pull them here...some of them, like a thread through the eye of a needle.

I'll post this today, edit this some other time.

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