I know some people who shun aesthetics and emotion. They’re utilitarian, and nothing moves them. Play them a post-rock song on a rainy day, and they’ll probably laugh. Meaning, love and solace mean nothing to them. They’re like pebbles in the rain: Oblivious to the ambiance and the petrichor. They’re fine irrespective of what climate you place them in: Humid, dry or cold. They avoid anything mystical or anything that deals with metaphysics. They don’t read books, and the greatest works of art are just pictures on a wall to them. Show them a black and white photograph that’s fiercely evocative, and they’ll stare for a second before moving on. Life, for them, is all about their achievements. Some artists fit this category too. An example is a musician who plays for the fame or the money. He was never in it for the art.
We live in a bizarre world. These days you find books to help you become a ‘published writer.’ You have people who self-publish something and say, “We’re published!” Everything is a bloody business. And if you’re not making money, at least you’re getting the likes on your blog. I’m going to go off tangent for a bit and talk about what gets people likes, comments and follows. A lot of it saddens me. Now, there’s this new Dadaist movement that’s bound to put semioticians in nuthouses. It involves stringing together big words and making poetry (or prose) sound vaguely morose. The sentences aren’t structured properly. The grammar is poor. There is no underlying meaning or theme or idea. There is no use of a poetic meter. It’s awful.
“My penumbras of lust cacophony within me
My skin is obnubilation
Your dewdrops are arcane.”
The above is a fictitious example of such poetry which is a collage of synonyms from a Thesaurus. I cannot get my head around it! I’ve tried, but all my efforts are futile. I’ve found these poets quoting Sylvia Plath. Now, Sylvia Plath was not a Dadaist poet. She was a confessional one. And she knew the ins and outs of poetry and everything she wrote made sense. She even wrote sonnets and villanelles. Please read April Aubade and Mad Girl’s Love song if you don’t believe me. They’re both written using beautiful meter and rhyme. But the greatest achievement of these poets is crude alliteration. Rough, terrifying first sound repetition that the old alliterative tongue twister, “She sells seashells by the seashore,” will beat any day. I’d rather read, “I lament loving and losing you,” than, “The cacophonous carcass of chaos and custody.” The latter sounds like a line out of a death metal song!
Moving on, I’ve decided to name these Dadaists, ‘The Meshuggah poets.’ Meshuggah is a band known for its complex polyrhythms and harsh vocals. Their music often drones. Like them, these poets also produce a grating form of poesy that’s loud, extremely difficult to interpret and unpleasant. I’m sorry, but someone must tell you the truth! You can use a Thesaurus all you want, but if you lack the command of the English Language, work on it, instead of producing something that’s a poetic train wreck.
Next, I want to talk about the arrogance of some of these Dadaists. You’ll find their comments section riddled with the rudest replies. If you want one, all you need to do is to tell them the truth. Say, “I don’t understand what this means. Could you please explain it to me?” and they will blame you for not ‘getting them.’ What’s there to get when the whole piece is too recherché, and obstinate in its incoherence? Now, before some sycophant of theirs pounces on me, please note that I’m not targeting one writer. I’m critiquing a movement in the blogosphere and hopefully not in the artistic mainstream.
Today, with the evolution of the ‘New Weird Movement,’ we have a lot of published surreal art. Authors like Jeff VanderMeer and China Miéville have authored many books that take your mind to all sorts of places. But the difference between them and the Dadaist bloggers is that they have a way of gripping you because of their style of prose, which is fluent, efficient and makes good use of language. You know the rules before bending them. These writers do just that. And even though they use surrealism heavily, their stories do have plots. Annihilation by VanderMeer, for example, is a book about how human reason is limited when faced with the inexplicable or the supernatural. So, the surrealism used only augments VanderMeer’s idea and makes it more harrowing and potent.
The Meshuggah poets, on the other hand, use surrealism like a weapon to kill off their poems. Each, “There is a humungous skin in my echo/I salivate with extraordinary fetish,” is a gunshot to the poem’s body. Then bleeding and in its death throes, the poem begs for mercy but finds none. “Fatal soothsayers and their nectars bleed,” is the fatal blow.
There is also a group of great surrealist poets on blogging sites. I’ve found some who are inspired by Dali or Picasso and create brilliant works of art. They have this uncanny ability to take a work of art and create a story around it using imagery. An image is something that should help the poem sail along and not hold the poem back. It’s only a portion of the poem. It isn’t the poem itself. Experienced surrealists know this, and hence create bold works of art.
I’m going to end this by going back to people with no aesthetic. Without an ability to feel beauty and let serenity envelop, a poet can never grow. If writing is about showing off, forget it. We, as artists, should strive for quality. And suffering, patience, emotion and treating our art like our children is the only way we’ll get there.
© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)