What Are Poets for in a Post Po-Mo Society?

Manila Bulletin, September 6, 2009 | Go to article overview

What Are Poets for in a Post Po-Mo Society?


“Lumapos kaw. Ya tapos. Di kaw mauno.”  (You will succeed. You will finish. Nothing bad will happen to you.) – Mandaya Panawagtawag RitualIn a far-flung village of Davao Oriental in a remote town called Cateel, there used to live a native guardian of “mangmang” (bamboo instrument). He was called the “Bamboo Beater,” whose task, in his entire life, was to wake up the villagers before sunrise by beating the bamboo instrument.At exactly 4 o’clock in the morning, he would thump the “mangmang” in a harsh manner and then, the sound would slowly ebb away with melodic beats. The rhythmic vanishing sound would serve as a reminder to the villagers that their endeavors should be fruitful and meaningful at the end of the day. Poets as thinkers and guardians of truth Poets today are like Bamboo Beaters, they rouse people’s consciousness from indifference and complacency. Most often, poets create a discordant sound reflective of social reality and stir up the society’s conscience toward commitment and responsibility.Poets are preordained to speak up the “Truth” and the “Summum Bonum” (highest good). When poets create, they reveal something that is not yet revealed before, but has already been happening within the lives of people in a particular society. This revelatory process is the disclosure or unveiling of “Truth” because poetry, like philosophy, is the embodiment of metaphysical realities, which are the Truth, the Good, and the Beautiful. No poetry is created outside its own reality because it is an anathema to its ontological meaning as the precursor of “Truth.” In like manner, Poets as the guardians of “Truth”, have a moral responsibility to bring the ideals of “Truth” to the society to be pondered upon by its members.As thinkers and guardians of “Truth,” poets should make poetry accessible to the people as the primary recipient of their musings.  They should not alienate their readers with lofty linguistic expressions, or confuse them with otherworldly imageries and symbols, because poetry, as a product of creative freedom, is neither self-conscious nor rigidly conventional. As the highest form of language, poetry is supposed to reach out and touch the human lives with dignity and meaning. The poetry, for instance, of an Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore or the Japanese poet Akiko Yosano spoke the language and sentiments of its people based on their social realities, beliefs, and culture.Tagore and Yosano had woven their sensuous experience of language by speaking from their own native tongue, in such a way that the people in their respective milieus could identify as though the written or spoken verses were their own.Conversely, in a ‘post po-mo society’ (Post Post-Modern Society), it is not the conventional form or structure of poetry that is consequential, but how accessible it is to the people, how it addresses their concrete realities with urgency, and how it represents their “voice” within the particular conditions of their society. In the same manner, as the revelation of truth, poetry seeks to establish a dialogue with people; it converses in their intimate moments with gentleness and compassion, rousing their souls to experience the transcendent amid their convoluted world, so to say.As a dialogic encounter, poetry reveals realities that matter to the people’s lives rather than that of the poets. Even if poets were to write in a confessional or autobiographical manner, they can still address or respond to the people’s reality, as an eloquent representation of the latter’s “voice” or sentiment.In the end, poetry is not about poets who write about poems, but it is about people living within a historical society. …

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