Wednesday, 14 March 2007

The True Subject

In Act V, scene III, of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida the protagonist complains that his beloved writes "Words, words, mere words, no matter from the heart."

The truth is that in and of themselves, words mean nothing. They only have value once they have been transformed in our hearts and minds. We can stare at a page for hours and fail to understand. We can listen to a song and be unable to hear its real music.

Yet we all know that feeling when, every so often, something that we have seen or heard a thousand times comes alive to us and we feel its full symbolic power. For me, this is the definition of poetry - the illumination of the everyday into significance and beauty - and the true subject of art.

I only recently discovered Faiz Ahmed Faiz, whom many have compared to Pablo Neruda on account of the consciousness-changing effect of his poetry and a life spent campaigning for social justice and human dignity. This is how he desribes that experience:

"Someday perhaps, the poem
murdered but still bleeding on every page,
will be revealed to you.

Someday perhaps, the banner
of that song bowed low in waiting
will be raised to its great height by a tornado.

Someday perhaps, the stone
that is an abandoned heart on the verge,
will pierce you with its living vein."

I urge you all to read his work. The volume I have before me is called 'The True Subject'.

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