....from 'Poetry Splash!' e-zine Issue 020
Go to E-zine Archives

-An Article By: Arvind Passey.

I came across a few quotations attempting to explain the mystery that woman is and some trying to delve deeper into the man-woman relationship. To my surprise I found they held in them some pertinent lessons for us poets. Poetry figures out mysteries rather fast, women love figures and man simply broods and remarks: That figures! I figure you've figured what we're getting into.
Quote #1
"Even when a man understands a woman, he can't believe it".
Many poets who claim to understand poetry surprise themselves. That is because everytime they read a poem they understand it differently. There are nuances they had missed earlier, an emotional hue depending so much on the time and place chosen to read a particular line...and so on. It isn't so much the limitations of a poet's capacity to interpret but the unfathomable depth of words that have taken the form of a poem...so like a woman.
The lesson in this for a poet is that if on repeated readings of his own poem he fails to interpret it differently, the poem needs a fresh start. The poem has obviously been unable to inspire a deeper probe -- and whats a poem without that! Or a woman, so to say!

Quote #2
"A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can."
(Jane Austen)
This one is not so much for the poet as it is for the poem itself. I remember having sent one of my poems to a competition in the Midlands in UK where some good soul analysed the lines and wrote back: 'You are too direct. Try to just hint and link to what you want to actually say. Use metaphors. Take distant examples, connect them by a common thread and it will become a better poem than if you lay all your cards open with only rhymes and jingles to support.' Fair enough, I thought...and here we are now with Jane Austen telling us a lot about poetry and women must behave and become.
It is equally important that the poem has something to say.
Quote #3
"There are only three things to be done with a woman. You can love her, suffer for her, or turn her into literature."
(Lawrence Durrell)
There are those who love poetry but can never write, those who grow long pampered hair and stink-nodes all over and yet not write a single line, and then there are those who write trite phrases and weld them together with precision tools and call them poetry that should be prescribed in Universities.
Thank you Lawrence Durrel, but it is the fourth unmentioned category that actually writes poetry that is read by us all. So the mantra is:
*Love poetry, read poetry but write for all.
*Suffer for her by all means but write only if you are convinced that it'll be read by all.
*Do NOT try to attempt to become immortalised on academic shelves only.
Remember what D H Lawrence said: 'The cruellest thing a man can do to a woman is to portray her as perfection.'
Quote #4
"A woman who will not feign submission can never make a man happy."
It sounds so Empson-like! Why should a poem be a tough nail needing diamond cutters? Not all readers of poetry have the patience, aesthetic sensibility and academic growl arrogantly atop peaks -- so why should a poem be unimaginably impenetrable? Let us write poetry for everyman, poetry that can be appreciated even on the Underground...and yet on every reading should the poem yield just that bit more to keep a reader coming back to it again and again!
Quote #5
"A woman who looks like a girl and thinks like a man is the best sort, the most enjoyable to be and the most pleasurable to have and to hold."
(Julie Burchill)
The best definition of poetry that I've ever come across. Julie, in fact, adds to what I've already promoted in the interpretation of Quote #3.
Every poem ought to have a multi-dimensional approach to existence. Try to write poetry that looks perceptibly simple and agreeable like a comic character...and yet have the capacity to hold and distribute wisdom as Winnie the Pooh or Snoopy do.
Quote #6
"I expect that Woman will be the last thing civilised by Man."
(George Meredith)
Women will love this one. Poetry is so advanced whimsically that it does not pay to even try and tame it. As Jill and Ulhas have expressed in this issue of the e-zine someplace else, emotions given a break from the stranglehold of discipline go on to evolve into mature verse.
As such it is not essential to become a disciple of free verse nor is it advisable to promote any sort of anarchy amongst poets...but it does make sense to realize that animals in the wild hold more attraction than those in the zoo.
And I am surely not very off the target in presuming that there are geo-regions where women do exist in chains. These are places where cultural and intellectual development is at the lowest level.
Safe to conclude then that the day raw and untamed beauty in poetry ceases, the world comes face to face with its worst catastrophe!
Quote #7
"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman."
(Simone De Beauvoir)
There is poetry in prose just as there are the effeminate amongst men! No, I do not mean that all men are prosaic nor am I trying to say that prose is masculine. What is important to understand here is that it is not a mere inheritence of physical attributes like verse-form that will magically produce poetry, just as silicon transplants will not make some women less masculine in nature.
There is a certain tilt towards lilt, fathomed rhythm, lines that sing along, words that whisper magic mantras, wisdom that flows down effortlessly like a waterfall, and a recall that copy-writers dream of that *makes* some lines poetry.
Hope you have liked the way I've tried to interpret these seven quotes the way a poet might like. Do e-mail me if you have any comments.