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Archive for October 4th, 2014

Why read Omar Khayyam? Why read fine poetry?

Poetry is all about our feelings and it is a device by which we bring them into the open. We use words to communicate our needs. It may be as prosaic as asking your barber for a hair cut or ordering the sandwich from a deli. Even to your barber you need be more specific than saying ‘just a cut’. It goes for sandwich as well and you need to choose what shall make it as  appetizing as you want.  Poetry is no way different.

Poetry sets all your feelings with greatest economy of words so words are not stumbling about under the weight of all that you feel but you make them sing, rather. That felicity arises not because you with a trowel slap-dashed your beloved in superlatives. You need not bury but burnish her just enough to please her as well as get your inner state across in no uncertain terms.

It is often you hear man calling woman a peach. It is not out of place when she is in her bloom and has a lovely complexion. I would not find it incongruous if Socrates had called his Xanthippe as pineapple. She was a virago according to historical records and the piny sheath of a pineapple just about describes her prickly nature. Be that as it may peach and pineapples are fruits better left on the dinner table. The point is  objects serve as certain clues for something else. They are symbols. These evoke certain emotions and when you read poetry how these are positioned in a line serves as goad in us to trigger emotions associated them.

Poetry works very well when you are in love. When you moon over your love something more than hormones are at work. Ideas of Juliet standing at the balcony kickstarted in Romeo feelings so hard that he wishes he were a glove: 

See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.

Oh, that I were a glove upon that hand

That I might touch that cheek!

That is what poetry meant to do. It makes an idea stand for so many ideas like a cloudburst choking on his heart. Touching a girl’s cheek shall not end there. But everything has its time and place. For the time being the symbol of glove hints his desire without being crude. He desires such closeness.

Can we not use this analogy while we speak of our body and soul? Like young Romeo thrown about by fortunes in love losing Rosaline or finding Juliet are all by chance. We are all eking out a living in the sun, in love and out of love subject to pain and sick of pleasures that are killing us in some other manner. In short our body pulls us in one way while our soul has its needs that need to be met. Like Romeo our body has not yet climbed the balcony to commune with our soul’s delight. Just the same it is there. As humans and given our rational mind we seek our place in the cosmos. There is out there something far greater than our body and its beggarly cravings warrant and when we consider the majesty of celestial spheres and the million years that keep them blazing away our measly four score years must seem beggarly indeed. If such starry canopy is stretched out we must be touched by some royal emblem that we are not aware of. Soul is a symbol of our happy circumstances. If then it is a moot point why do we rather feed the body and starve our soul? Are we fools or what?

Suppose all that cosmos is a bunk why delude ourselves with mysterious cosmos or for that heaven and hell? Such are questions that we can never answer and yet we allow some who claim special privileges as a prophet or an Acharya  to take their words as true! Such a class of conscience keepers can put their yoke on us on fear of hell and damnation to plough this mud-hole we call the earth. What wisdom is there in rejecting our true state to serve motley fools who themselves do not know hereafter and yet on their sayso we are willing to reject our present now?

As a mystic I have composed in the same style as Omar Khayyam using the rubā’iyyāt to express some of the big questions man has down through the ages wrestled with.

You can check out www.lulu.com/spotlight/bennymkje

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Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;


Eat I must, and sleep I will,—and would that night were 
here!


But ah!—to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!

Would that it were day again!—with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don’t know what to do;


This or that or what you will is all the same to me;


But all the things that I begin I leave before I’m through,—

There’s little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me,—and the neighbors knock and
 borrow,


And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse,—


And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow

There’s this little street and this little house.

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