‘Poetry is a discipline over which poet’s morality, cognitive and civilised selves exert little control’: Ashis Nandy

 

Vigorous scholarly discussion on poetry as marker of conscience brings
curtains down on Vak: The Raza Biennale of Indian Poetry


New Delhi, April 10: Describing disciplines like poetry, music and the arts as “primeval, innate and true”, celebrated socio-cultural analyst Ashis Nandy said here that the ‘un-socialisable’ nature of the poetic act meant it was an exercise in conscience.

 

“A poet's conscience is not a prescribed societal conscience. Poetry is among those disciplines over which our cognitive, civilised selves exert little control. Nobody can become a good poet without surrendering to its form. The best poetry involves self-confrontation. It is not only an expression of the self, but a method to deal with the anti-self within,” said Dr Nandy, over an engrossing evening discussion in the city on Sunday.

 

The power of poetry is therefore derived from what it says about society and is at least partly the result of the poet being taken over by his or her art, he added. “In writing poetry, the poet’s morality does not matter very much. The great poet will automatically inject primitive ethical considerations into his or her poetry. A subversive element in itself, poetry can’t be socialised or silenced. Its values are acquired biologically,” he said.

 

Dr Nandy was a panelist in a scholarly conversation titled ‘Poetry as Conscience’ at Triveni Kala Sangam that closed out the first edition of Vak: The Raza Biennale of Indian Poetry. The three-day celebration of verse held over the weekend was organised by the Raza Foundation – set up by the late master artist Sayed Haider Raza in 2001 and helmed by eminent Hindi poet Ashok Vajpeyi, the Managing Trustee.

 

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