Editorial II: ILF Samanvay 2016
Language as Public Action
I start thinking about the space of this blog, in the context of ILF Samanvay and I start thinking about my own genre. What can be the public action of poetry? Till the 20th century we saw poets participating in social action and writing political poems. Is it possible in our time? I wonder. Can a poet go and approach the public the way Neruda did with the copper mine workers in Chile? I doubt, because the face of poetry has changed a lot in the last century.
In Western Europe they take it for granted that there is a fundamental split between poetry and politics. The problem is not that the twain can never meet but they can do so only at a very great cost. The complexity, tension and precision of contemporary poetry simply does not go with the language of politics, with its vague rhetoric and dependence on clichés, but in post WWII poetry, politics came in a very different way, especially in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia.
When poets from Western Europe or the English Speaking America react in public protests and create worlds that are autonomous, internalized, complete within their own heads, the poets from the other parts of the world are continually exposed to the impersonal and external pressures of politics and history. In Western Europe and in the English Speaking America they react to the cozy, domesticated way of life in a mass democracy by exploring the realm of breakdown and madness. For the others the madness is on the outside. They need not be political in the conventional sense: they do not purvey, in suitably touched-up forms, the pre-digested truths supplied by any party. They are political by virtue of being permanently and warily in opposition.
I remember suddenly an action of Juan Ramón Jiménez the great 20th Century Spanish Nobel prize winning poet: when he was forced to move out of civil war stricken Spain, in his poetry he started writhing dios (god in Spanish) with a small “d” which is conventionally written with a capital “D”.
This year at ILF Samanvay we are celebrating language as public action, poetry being the highest celebration of any language, is an integral part of it. In the time when madness here is at both ends, lets find semaphores in the misty language-scape.