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Mangalore: Poetry does not bring money, but makes us human: Renowned poet Jerry Pinto

Pics: Spoorthi Ullal & Steevan Pais
Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore

Mangalore, Jul 13: The august audience gathered at SDM College here on Saturday July 12 were taken through a beautiful intellectual journey as renowned Mumbai-based poet and novelist Jerry Pinto spoke on various aspects of poetry.

Delivering the third James and Shobha Mendonca Endowment Lecture on Poetry organized by Kavita Trust, Jerry Pinto, a Goan, mainly elaborated on what poetry is, and the idea of poetry as a profession and as a hobby. His talk was interspersed with quotes from various poets, with a delightful doze of subtle humour.

"I am here to talk about what work a poet does. Work is something that is supposed to earn you money, but poetry does not bring money. Even a novel will fetch money only when its rights are bought for television or movie, or when the author is invited at big universities to lecture. Hence, if work has to be paid for, then a poet does not work," he said.

He then referred to 'Truth & Beauty: A Friendship' by Ann Patchett in which the author spoke of her deep friendship with writer Lucy Grealy, author of 'Autobiography of a Face', who suffered from facial cancer, and said how they had only wanted to write and do not want to do any other job to make their way into universities and courses, and each time they settled down with their literary work, they had to shift again for some reason or the other.

"However, poets in India need to to work and do other jobs than just write poetry alone. There have been poets from different fields such as academics, police, journalism, investment banking and so on. But what you see in all these foundation seminal careers is that the money did not come from poetry. In fact, money went into poetry. Often, poetry requires you to pay for it, than be paid by it. Hence, poets are forced to publish their own works," he said.

"Poetry is something that you do. If you say you are a singer or a musician, you would be asked to perform, but if you say you are a poet, people leave the room. Poetry is a stepchild of the performing arts. If you start telling a story, people will listen. This is called gossip in its worst form, and called literature in its highest form. It is the same story. It is told with malicious intent on the side of gossip, and told with an uplifting intent on the side of literature," he said, given the example of how the story of Leo Tolstoy's 'Anne Karenina' can be narrated in different ways, as gossip and as literature.

"So, when you actually decide to write poetry, you are saying 'I will take the stepchild into the house, I will not let it sit outside the house'. You come out of the closet and say 'I am a poet, this is who I am.' And when you publish your own work, you are saying to the whole world, 'There is no one who will publish it, so I will do it myself'," he said.

"Art is called 'art' when it enters the realm of the marketplace, when there is some who is willing to pay for what you do. If is there is no one willing to pay for what you do, it is your hobby. So imagine the insanity of the poet who says he will put money into it rather than take money from it, and yet poets have done this," Jerry Pinto said.

He further said that there is a wrong conception that poetry is confined to cities alone. Giving the example of tribal poetry, he said, "Poetry origins in rhythm of your mother's heartbeat. When language is added to music, it becomes poetry. It is the beginning of literature. Our oldest literature, the Vedas, the Epics, the Bible, are all in the form of poetry.

"Think about the passage of life. There is poetry for every point of time. As a child, when you were put to sleep by your mother, she sang lullaby, which is a poem. When you were being roused to action, anthem was sung, songs like 'Hum honge kamyab' were sung to wake you up. When a daughter leaves the house on wedding, there are 'bidayi' songs," he said.

"Poetry is not the white noise of humanity. Poetry is not an excess. Poetry is what makes us human... Art begins the process of defining humanity."

"If poetry is not work, is it play? Play is what gives us joy. In poetry we play with concepts, but poetry is also work as it is artisanship. You are taking language and shaping it, forming it, controlling it and also being suprised by what it can do. Poetry is therefore, neither work nor play - it is a need. You write poetry because a word comes to you, and pushes at your tongue, it wriggles in your brain and sctraches under your hand and then you put that word down. Something new and different is growing there, and you begin to enjoy doing it, but you also hate it as the thought is not so easily yielding itself. You have to keep on working on it till it becomes what you want it to be. You must write poetry because it's a need," he explained.

"Writing poem improves the world, it makes you a calmer person. A poem left unwritten is a life left unsung. About 99.9 percent of the world goes unwritten. You cannot hold on to everything. Art is the undignified scramble to get into that 0.1 percent that is remembererd. That's what poets are aiming at. Our big aim is not the award or 10,000 copies sold. My aim is will anyone be reading my poetry three hundred years down the line. I will never know, this is the tragedy of the artiste. We are not playing for tomorrow, we are playing for 300 years down the line," he said.

Speaking on how he developed interest in poetry, Jerry Pinto said, "I never liked poetry when growing up, it meant nothing to me. A poem like 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud' did not touch me, as I did not even know what colour daffodils were. Then in 10th standard I read a poem 'Futility' by Wilfred Owen, about a dead soldier. It seemed to me something that mattered, made me non-violent and completely changed the way I looked at the world. Any great moment must be examined carefully. I thought I could never be a poet, until I read Nizzim Ezekiel's poem 'Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher'. I was fascinated by how three things - writing poetry, courting women and watching birds came together like magic. This magic was what I wanted to do."

"Poetry brings other poetry into being. When readers read, they bring poetry into being," he added.

Jerry Pinto also answered a host of questions from the audience after the talk. To one question, he said that Facebook was killing poetry these days, and in about 250 years, the habit of reading itself may not exist. He was also of the opinion that literature cannot exist without philosophy and heirarchy.

Melvyn Rodrigues, president of Kavita Trust felicitated Jerry Pinto on the occasion.

Jerry Pinto presented copies of his books to James Mendonca, the sponsor, and K Devraj, principal of SDM College, as a token of gratitude.

William Pais welcomed the gathering while Smitha Bhat compered. Kishore Gonsalves, Averyl Rodrigues, Andrew D'Cunha and others were present.

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Comment on this article

  • Annie Dimple Castelino, Mangalore

    Mon, Jul 14 2014

    I would have loved to attend this lecture. Regret that I missed it. Happy for all the happy faces in the crowd.

    DisAgree Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Henry Lewis, Sastan/Kuwait

    Sun, Jul 13 2014

    It is pleasing to see renowned poets on stage Kavita Trust is taking the efforts in keeping up the konkani poetry with the initiative by Bab Melwyn Rodrigues and team may their efforts bring in more fruit and carry on the poetry to the generations to come.

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  • Kurt Waschnig, Oldenburg, Germany

    Sun, Jul 13 2014

    Poetry makes our lives rich and poetry gives a person a voice. This voice can be used to express a variety of things. Often, people use poetry to express how they feel when they think they are misunderstood. Writing lets you see through the eyes of another, and this is why poetry is important. Poetry is real. Real people have written it to express real emotion that is normally hidden. Poets write to show that people have felt certain things before which someone else may be experiencing at another time. A poem allows you to see beyond the surface. Sometimes this is done through metaphors or other abstract ways which cause you to really think. Beauty is expressed, and art is emphasized through poetry. Finding and using words to fit exactly how you want them to takes time and thought. When people read poetry, they have a chance to really see the world with some of the bells and whistles stripped away it lets them concentrate on the details which remain. Poems often describe life and illuminate aspects of it using flashes of imagery. Throughout history, poetry has been important because it gives us a historical representation of what previous generations found beautiful, important, or profound. It can show us words and concepts from the past. Poetry can even depict historical events. Poets in the past may have written a poem after a big event had occurred (for example, WWII), and by reading their poems, we can see how the event affected everyday people. Overall, I think poetry is important because it tries to render things that aren't easy to express in words. It does this by making use of attributes of language which aren’t commonly seen to instill deep thought and contemplation. In a sense, poetry uses words as doors to many possibilities. It carries our imaginations or stirs new dreams. Mainly, it extends the power of words to communicate. Let us enjoy and promote arts and poetry.

    Best regards

    Kurt Waschnig, Oldenburg/Germany


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    Sun, Jul 13 2014

    It was delightful to see the presence of many eminent members of the community gathered for this meet, like the world-famous Doctor Dr.Derek Lobo,Mrs.Dorothy Vas, Professor Carmelita Goveas, Eric Ozario and other senior members of the Mand Sobann, Shakespeare of Konkany CGS along with Mr.Mendonca and Mr.Melwyn.
    Konkany language is very rich and has full of words which can be incorporated into many songs and phrases like our forefathers did, and which have come down to us as traditional folk songs which are anyday more pleasant to listen or to sing than some of the modern day Konkany songs with Malyali accents or themes.

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  • R.Bhandarkar, M'lore

    Sun, Jul 13 2014

    Hearing Jerry...
    In a Blissful Trance He does Ferry
    Gives new meaning to 'Merry'
    In short says 'Never Worry'...

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  • R.Bhandarkar, M'lore

    Sun, Jul 13 2014

    I had been there.Had these airs about me you see..For being 1.Acknowledged as a 'poet' in Daijiworld. One of my dear friends
    here had referred to me as Shakesphere ,another as a 'witty wonder' and all that.
    2.I had also received news that, Director Operations, Daiji was contemplating retirement on reading some of my poems.
    So off I went to see and hear Jerry
    whom I Considered my 'contemporary'
    Jerry took the stage and initially
    I thought it was the lightning and the rains outside that were cooing in symphony! But no! It was Jerry
    and his avalanche of knowledge gushing through! Nothing short of a 'Tsunami' bottled (I think so)in
    a 'True Poet' was bursting through
    and man did I swim through it complete bliss! Tried to latch on to the gems for they were everywhere, but managed to do so on one of the most precious.
    'Know who you are, and what you are here for' to make the journey meaningful he said.The definition of a 'poet', the recognition he got during hi lifetime and the clamor to 'own him' after he left the scene were true eye openers.
    Needless to say I was that 'much wiser' after listening to a 'wealthier poet' in the true sense.
    See along the sidelines,wherever I go all these thing happen.Same here
    1. During the interactive session,I wanted to ask a question . Now a well known trekker cum writer cum everything rolled into one, seated next to me said , as a matter of fact
    " It' O.k. if you are an idiot. Don't open your mouth and prove it". I looked at that person quizzically but did not ask the question.
    2. A top personnel from Daiji also
    called me aside and asked-'You still
    think you are witty and a poet
    after listening to Jerry? Now what to say? I mumbled something and left but not before feeling that the attendance for the evening
    was far less. Many Mangaloreans had really missed out on 'something divine'. Hope Jerry comes back often in any form time and again to enlighten us.
    Thank you Kavitha Trust and the Mendoncas family. You made it possible.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Mapusa

    Sun, Jul 13 2014

    “You can cry in public as long as you don not sob. Tears are transparent. If you’re walking fast, if the sun’s too strong, no one notices. Sobs intrude. They push their way into people’s consciousness. They feel duty-bound to ask what has happened.” - Jerry Pinto ...

    DisAgree [1] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • CGS, Mangalore

    Sun, Jul 13 2014

    It was an interesting,inspiring,
    intellectual and informative talk on Poetry by Jerry Pinto.Thanks to Melwyn Rodrigues, Kavita Trust team,Shobha and James Mendonca.

    DisAgree [2] Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

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