WRITE ANGLE There were couplets in the past, now they come dressed up as complete poems — in 140 characters, to be precise
In the land of The Mahabharatha, poems got just briefer. Very brief. Once speaking the language of Vyas, today they cater to the whims, the moods, the patience (or the lack of it!) of the SMS-tweet generation. Like water, poems too have found their own level with the new generation. There were couplets in the past, now they come dressed up as complete poems. Call it an evolving art, if you will, but the fact is, poems now come with a dash of fun. You no longer need peace and quiet to soak in poetry. You can finish one in the lift, a couple of them at traffic intersection! All thanks to Pritish Nandy, the flamboyant author not often removed from a good cheer. He has now added a new chapter — or is it a couplet? — to the grammar of the medium by coming up with a poetry book that challenges the very notion of the subject. No expansive love for Nature, no beguiling description of a woman’s beauty. Indeed, no pandering to idiosyncrasies or self-indulgence, just an instinctive expression with poems that are all of 140 characters — the number you can tweet with. No wonder, his book is called Stuck on 1/Forty! Direct, pointed, sharp. There is a text that says a little, leaves a lot unsaid. After all, when you write a poem in 140 characters, you have barely an alternative!
Says the poet: — actually it is a homecoming of sorts for Nandy who started off as a poet, then found verse worth his time before realising that “world cannot be changed with journalism” and came back to tell the tale in 140 characters — “Today’s world and modern technique are enforcing a new language on us. There is a desperate urge to keep things short, be it newspaper articles or even poetry. There is a feeling today that you can savour life in small bits and pieces. Test cricket is giving way to T20. In an environment like this, if poetry has to survive, it has to discover a new grammar, invent itself. It is an attempt to search for a new medium.”
With the book comes a fine new experiment. Maybe, it is a literary version of T20, but it offers in a glimpse what is often denied in a panoramic view. All poetry may require certain discipline, but Nandy’s work calls for an ear-to-the-ground approach. No need to catch up with the dictionary or see the meaning of any italicised expression. So, in between poems that talk of faithless sunset, sex getting sexier, meaning of silence and other similarly sumptuous emotions, a visual element creeps in. Yes, there is a brightness to the work, lent by a splash of colours to the book. Every page has a different theme, like the poem, and accordingly, there is a different colour on it! Happy with the outcome, Nandy concludes: “I brought in the visual element to it and the typographies. But in the end, they are poems you can tweet, you can SMS. I believe if you can seduce the reader to come back, to cater to the mysticism of poetry, you would have succeeded in your job. The book is an attempt to get people to have a tactile response.”
The purists might frown at the brazenness of the venture. The connoisseurs might squirm at the audacity. And good old English teachers, often tied to stereotypes, might struggle to classify poetry that can be texted. Yet, it is a little rivulet that one day might just go mainstream. Who knows? What level water reaches, when it turns into vapour, when does it rain!
In the end, every poem starts a conversation — isn’t that the goal of all who have ever used a pen? Yet, there is a little feeling of travelling at a roundabout. You end up at the same place from where you began. But then, do roads always lead you to the preferred destination? Nope. One might as well, then, enjoy the journey.