How does poetry work on a listener? How does the reader listen to poetry? Why do readers say “every time I read this poem, it strikes a new meaning, I get a new insight, a new meaning in the words or expression or rhythm”? What makes the greatness of the “poet” mingle easily in the ordinariness of the reader/listener? What differentiates a Poet from a listener/reader?
These questions are pertinent to understand the effect and cause of poetry. I am referring to the reader as listener also, because even the illiterate participant in the joint experience of poetic delight and ecstasy is as relevant as the educated reader. Excepting for reading abilities, people can possess analytical capabilities and interpret meaning of the phenomenon or life or complexities or simplicities or existence or non-existence of the visual and the hidden. Curiosity is natural to all beings, especially human beings. The poet in all living and non-living beings (the inanimate is a state of frozen consciousness in the total Order of Nature and erupts in due course, releasing abundance of energy. May be it is the Energy Cycle of the Cosmos), strikes musical notes and poetic expressions through sound (without images—letters of the alphabet are images of sounds). Before the arrival of the written word, all poetry was in oral format.
Every person has a poet in one part of his/her mind. As all of us are regulated by light of the sun and the moon, so are our poetic minds. Depending on the pursuit, some of us succeed in giving expression to our poetic experiences while others take the expressions and ingest them. In this process of ingestion, the listener gradually starts taking the place of the poet. Since the phenomenon of ingestion is generally gradual or even slow, the listener finds new meaning every time he/she listens to the poem or reads it from the poet and the two merge into one. This can be termed as the process by which similar wave lengths merge into each other easily or waves merging into each other. Unless poetry succeeds in effecting this merger, it fails as poetry. The highest form of this kind of poetry depends on the emotion it evokes or portrays. Emotions can be permanent or temporary and can change over time, place or person. How exactly the emotions work, is a full length study of the aesthetics in Indian poetry (The Rasa Shastra). Though all kinds of emotions occupy the poetic canvas, the Bhakti or devotional poetry seems to have enjoyed the longest universal life, if poetic marvels like the Ramacharitmanas, Mahabharat, Srimad Bhagwat Gita, Bible, Koran etc are any indication. Their appeal is enduring for the reason that it is a particular emotion that has greater permanence and reach than the others. I have chosen to cite the Bhakti poetry only for the reason to illustrate that even the ordinary thinks same as the great poets who gave expression to the feelings occupying the special poetic region of the human mind. Since the super consciousness remains aligned always with The Consciousness, the poetic expression builds that necessary bridge between the feeling and the expression.
I call it articulation. I feel the only difference between the poet and the listener is that the poet is able to articulate his/her feelings while the listener is not able to do so, unless given stimuli in the form of recital or reading poetry. Once such stimuli is given, the poetic portion of every human mind gets activated and the desired trigger is received to turn the passive into the active and the sleeping into the awakened. This causes a fast traffic flow of similar emotions and expressions, binding both participants in a new experience, ingesting the listener with same and similar feelings. The level of consciousness of both is raised. While the poet may write or recite, he/she also learns new meanings in the participative company of the listener, about which he/she has never been aware earlier. It is the critic in the form of the better kind of listener/reader that imparts new meanings to poetic expressions. Many times more has been written by critics on Shakespeare than the Bard himself!
When the poet and the listener participate, they become like the beings with The Being. The reason poetry stays is that it celebrates the beauty of everything: creation, created, creator. Beauty is always bewitching. Beauty is the only Truth. It was at the beginning of the world, it is still there and it shall always be there. That is why it is The Truth. All that inspires is beauty. All that activates that part of the mind which is capable of translating beauty and interpret it is the poet in each being. That is why birds sing, streams sing, waves sing, light sings, darkness sings, poetry sings. That is why the poetic experience elevates the listener to sublimity. It is the perception of the poetic part of the mind of the beauty of creation that excites poetic outbursts. It connects. This perception, this mental vision, this connection of consciousness is the poetic experience. Every being is capable of such a vision, such connectivity. Humans being better endowed with thinking capabilities are advantaged to express it in the form of poetry. Rest of the beings and non-beings do with merger of sounds with the sound. The ever reverberating Sound is called The Anahad Naad or the Sound that reverberates without striking a note, as compared to the sounds caused or created by striking any object with fingers or anything else. One is there in the cosmos and can be heard by everyone of us simply by putting our hands on our ears and listen to that sound or the anahad naad. The other is what we are making all the time, including poetry & music.
It can be surmised that basically there is no difference between the poet and the reader. Both are the same, so far as the mind is concerned. Both have that area of the mind devoted to poetic sensation. It is the medium that keeps them apart, till active participation merges the twin into one. If the receiver is incapable of receiving the transmission, the communication will be wasted. But the Creation suffers no waste. That is the reason that it has not provided for waste. It is only human interference with the Natural Order that causes waste. Poets know it much better than others. They celebrate that Order, that Beauty, that Being and identify themselves with “That” and express the ecstatic experience, lending permanence to poetry.