In a short and crisp session on ‘The Descent of Man’ at the ‘Naale Baa’ venue, poet, essayist, and critic Vijay Seshadri was in conversation with author Ranjit Hoskote. The dialogue hovered over and went into the contours of poetry and its development. Vijay argued that while prose operates in a marketplace, poetry doesn’t have a marketplace to operate in and that makes it a more difficult domain which makes poetry possible only when you are doing poetry just for the love of poetry. He also added that although in recent times thinkers and political scientists are contributing with their ideas to the mix of the political crisis we are facing today, he believed that the poets too had something to contribute to the discourse.

According to Vijay, poets have always spoken in metaphors about myriad challenges of the world. When Wordsworth spoke about the language of the ordinary people, he was not just talking about poetry but about the problems faced by the ordinary people, French revolution etc. Poets have always dealt with polemics and we all have common humanity which is invested in language.

The duo quickly moved to the Q&A session where multiple questions were put to the poet. On being asked about the dearth of inventiveness in English poetry in present times as compared to the Shakespearean age, Vijay maintained that he wasn’t seeing much of Shakespearean kind of inventiveness in American poetry where nouns were converted to verbs and vice versa. However, he also added that such creativity is presently found on the fringes, on social media et al. Words like ‘friend’ and ‘unfriend’ as verbs weren’t seen too kindly by Vijay initially but they are here to stay as we are already on that path. He also observed that in India’s case, there is also an interesting genetic exchange between English and Indian vernaculars as well as between Indian languages themselves.

Speaking about the phase in 60s when English poetry saw a great upsurge in evolutionary qualities that transformed poetry and comparing it to today’s more plainish phase, Vijay spoke of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ in evolutionary biology where after an extraordinary phase of evolution, there is a long duration of stasis where not much evolution is noticed. This happens to literature as well and we are in the more stable phase of evolution where we are still digesting the works created in the 60s. This is not to say that there is no quality work being done currently but in order for poetry to develop, this phase of stability is needed as well. Also, giving his two cents on the interference of Artificial Intelligence in poetry, he didn’t seem to see any work produced by algorithmic formulations interesting enough to be noticed but added that the technological advancements had certainly added more to the arsenal of the poets who can go big on podcasts and the performance of poetry in general.

About the Author: Abhishek Kumar Jha is Founder Editor and Writer at www.bookstalkist.com.