Of all romanticism associated with poetry, the ethereal and carefree life of a poet is perhaps the most adored. But is this — the state of a poet's being — the reason for the existence of poetry, and, more so, what is a poem's purpose?
There are no wars to be won through poetry, no great intentions behind a poem's composition and it is more of a compulsion for self-motivated souls than a mere hobby, says Kiriti Sengupta, a gifted Indian poet, who has more than 17 books of poetry to his credit.
Sengupta said, "I think writing poetry cannot be defined as a favourite pastime for a writer. An honest poet writes poetry out of sheer compulsion. Poets write poetry when they think it will do justice to their thoughts or expressions. There are several other ways for conveying messages, observations,and experiences, but poetry is written only when poets think they can do no better without indulging in this genre of literature,"
Elaborating, the much-acclaimed poet from West Bengal said that he had no "great intention" when he started composing poetry and even now he does not entertain ideas of "changing the society" through his poems. "Poetry does not change anything. It does not initiate a change either. Poetry makes you think, makes you aware, and it makes you revisit your concerns, which may include your agonies as well," he added.
Sengupta's My Glass of Wine is almost autobiographical and is now a part of India's first poetry trilogy, Dreams of the Sacred and Ephemeral, which also bears two other works, The Reverse Tree and Healing Waters Floating Lamps. In the first two collections, one finds verses placed alongside prose. Sengupta stressed on the fact that he wanted to eliminate the apathy of a common reader towards poetry and thus a mix of prose and poetry was the immediate option.
But poetry is considered to be one of the finest expressions of literature and, even today, it is widely read and adored. How fulfilling is the experience of a poet then?
"You have a definite purpose when you write a poem. You either convey a message you intended to, or you showcase your cerebral prowess to juggle words. Whatever be your objective, if you do it well, you are happy at the end of the day. Prose writing is generally more time-consuming, but then, there are poems that, no matter if they are long or short, take days and even weeks to write and finish," quipped the poet.
And then there is the writer's bloc. Like all creative people, a poet is no stranger to this rather depressing phenomenon, but Sengupta says that one has to live with it as it is a part of the journey.
"I've my share of non-productive days when I fail to write. After publishing more than 17 books I don't find it stressful or alarming any more. I just feel bad about it, but it is only when I read other poets' work. See, it is extremely important to keep abreast of the latest happenings in the field of poetry, especially when someone is seriously engaged in it," he maintained.
Sengupta also contested the idea that poetry has taken a backseat in recent years and said that the reality is actually contrary to popular belief. There has been a rise in poetry consciousness across India, he said, and we have more than one organisation in every city promoting poetry among new readers, especially youngsters. It is, however, debatable whether they promote quality work and enhance the availability of quality work.
He also emphasised that it is indeed impossible "to earn a living from writing poetry" in India. "Poets are self-motivated souls who write poems for the joy derived from creating a work of art," said the poet, whose upcoming chapbook of verses is titled "Solitary Stillness" and is due to be published in August.