17 February 2012

There are republics I would die for

I got an email yesterday from a friend who calls himself ‘Yakkho’.  It referred to an interview given by the exiled Chinese poet, Liu Hongbing to Lucie Kalvachova in Prague in October 2004.  The title of the write-up was ‘The Republic of Poetry’.  Hongbing says, ‘This city of Prague has always been on the map of my heart. So much history has been created here!’

My friend is a cynic but so informed that I sometimes feel that the well-informed cannot be anything but cynical.  This is what he had to say about Hongbing: ‘Hey i think this guy Hongbing (red soldier!) stole this from my fren in Beijing the pilipino musician Ato Mariano who set up his "Republic of Feeling" there..he was part of our "Detour" poetry circle in Bj, 2007-2009....then again, this is a 2004 screed, i just noticed...
A few hours later, Yakkho sends another email.  It’s a poem. ‘The Republic of Poetry’ is title poem of the eighth poetry collection by Martin Espada, editor, translator, creative writing teacher and award-wining poet. I give below a couple of stanzas:

In the Republic of Poetry,
poets rent a helicopter
to bombard the national palace
with poems on bookmarks,
and everyone in the courtyard
rushes to grab a poem
fluttering from the sky,
blinded by weeping.

In the Republic of Poetry,
the guard at the airport
will not allow you to leave the country
until you declaim a poem for her
and she says Ah! Beautiful.

The book came out in 2008 so I am not sure if the title and idea were borrowed from Hongbing who, in that interview says, ‘In the world of poetry, there are no national boundaries. You don’t have to have a national passport to travel in poetry from one country to another – you can call it the Republic of Poetry, if you like.’  Yakkho the Cynic doesn’t think much of Hongbing and rubbishes his statement about Prague: Where has "much history" not been created?....maybe London where he's now ensconced…’

Who said what first and where are not that important except for those who have an unholy and perniciously anti-poetic fascination with copyrights. What is important is the sentiment, IF it makes us understand ourselves better, and understand each other better, in a manner so nuanced that we become gentler, more tolerant and humble. 

I like to think of a world or a nation or a community that inhabits a feeling-entity.  If we felt more and thought less, if we were made more of emotion and less of strategy, if there were more poets and less mathematicians (‘mathematics’ as metaphor of course), I like to think the world would be a better, more wholesome, less destructive and far more musical place to live in.  Would Poetry be a province in Feeling, or vice versa, I wonder.  It doesn’t matter.  Such polities would be included in one another, independent AND dependent of/on one another.  Now if only countries, communities, continents, regional blocs, ideological blocs, religious and ethnic blocs could be divested of boundaries in similar manner! 

Life doesn’t resolve or dissolve that easily.  There are no Republics of Feeling or Poetry.  But there is enough poetry.  There are enough words.  There are helicopters powered by the music lovers make as they whisper silences, there are pilots birthed by love that is thicker than hatred, paper made of petals and inked by tears, and hope hidden in raindrop and moonbeam descending, descending and alighting on heart and sensibility.  

I think Yakkho is absolutely correct; history has always been birthed, in being born and will be reborn again and again on every square inch of our earth.  All births are not recorded and not all deaths noted.  This is also true.  It doesn’t mean that people don’t do things, twist fate by its tail, restore mortality to the so-called divine and elevate man to god for being a giant and for being an ant, in the required dimensionality of moment. 

We don’t have eyes.  Not all of us are sighted. Not all are blind, for this too is sometimes pre-requisite for ‘seeing’.  We are not deaf enough, and sometimes are too hard of hearing; both conditions that stop music at the Gate of Consciousness. Our tongues lack certain taste buds and have too much of others. We can’t distinguish flavour from flavour or mis-taste at the wrong moment.  We don’t know words.  We don’t understand silences.  We mis-read and over-say, fracture communication and end up muttering the incomprehensible. 

We are human.  Therefore we are divine.  If we can imagine a Republic of Feeling and a Republic of Poetry, we can also imagine a Republic of Hope, one of Smile, another of Fragrance, a Republic of Sharing, Giving and Humility.  Such republics transcend ‘national’ boundaries, the lines that separate human from human, child from child; prevent adult from acknowledging and indulging the child within that never died.  They make impossible love possible.  That alone is enough.  

[first published in the Daily News, June 10, 2010]
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