On Paterson and Art of Poetry

I saw Paterson yesterday. The movie, yes. It’s a subtle take on life in my opinion. We are thrown into a loop of life that the main character in the movie lives everyday, and with seemingly no regrets. For a bus driver, he appears quaintly subdued and cultured. We know that when he takes us through his poetry. His poems are a dose of realism mixed with emotional outbursts that relive itself in his eyes as he shows us how much he adores his wife, his dog and his daily sojourn into the next-door bar.

There’s something telling about this movie. And it’s not just the chance encounters that are memorable and deeply impressionist. The nonchalance that Paterson displays to everything around him, his restraint with modern technology, and his vocation of bus driving – where he listens-in on random conversations that his passengers indulge in while commuting to wherever it is their next stop is. He picks up shards of imagination, of thoughts sewed into these conversations and uses them to live his actual life – that of a poet.

It appears to the viewer that this guy here, is satisfied with what he has in life. He finds joy looking at the emptied glass of beer in that neighborhood bar. He relishes the predictability of his bus routes and becomes mildly exhausted with only a small break in routine when his bus breaks down. Its brought out beautifully, this apparent non-event, when everyone around him is glad that the bus did not “erupt in a fireball” when it was just a minor electrical failure.

We go on in our lives looking for new experiences. We “buy” experiences when we travel and engage in pursuits of materialistic pleasures. When experiences itself reside in your mind, does it not bother you that you could, theoretically, attain the same satisfaction by just staying in the same place and exercising your mind itself? I suppose, what stops us in taking it to the next level, is our foremost fear of the society we live in. The rules of the society we live in, and surround ourselves with, mandate the various activities we end up taking, even as we feel ourselves half involved in them. That Paterson did not really want to even try publishing his poetry says something about his way of looking. He does not seek approval from the wider world when he has made this small town around him his entire universe.

Paterson is a deliciously refreshing movie. It stays away from patronizing literature while keeping true to the essence it began with. It has an innate charm buried inside the delicate sense of balance that Adam Driver seems to achieve with his portrayal.


 

I read this intriguing piece on poetry in the last week’s issue of The New Yorker. Provokingly titled ‘The Defense of Poetry – Can a poem change your life’, the author reviews (and damningly so) the book “Equipment for Living: On Poetry and Pop Music”, another provoking title I daresay.

Poetry and pop music as equipment of life? I have always found it difficult to relate to poetry at a personal level. Even though the basic premise of poetry, of playing truant with words and wordplay, of distilling 100% the very aspect of living into breathable words, of inserting multiple innuendos and meanings in the space of a scant few pages, are my daily pet peeves with the novel or the short story and how the latter do not provide this window at all, I could not – despite multiple attempts, bring myself to love (or hate) any poet/poems. Somehow, they felt a bit incomplete to me.

The article then, had the necessary qualifications to attract my usually cursory glance and it got stuck into the mud like flies to the cow dung. What stuck out to me though, other than the usual deep-dive thinking into the review, was this:

Robbins, Lerner, and Zapruder all tell pretty much the identical story about themselves. One day, almost inadvertently, they read a poem, and suddenly they knew that they had to become writers. They did, and it changed their lives. Later, they all wrote books about poetry. I read those books, and it changed my life. You read this piece about those books. Maybe it will change your life. If it does, the change will be very, very tiny, but most change comes in increments. Don’t expect too much out of any one thing. For although the world is hard, words matter. Rock beats scissors. It may take a while, but paper beats rock. At least we hope so.

From The New Yorker, Can A Poem Change Your Life

Change does come in increments. There’s not a single poem which can change your life and therefore the question isn’t whether a poem can change your life, as many of the current poets and critics exclaim. For many, its a process of finding the poem(s) that does so. What though, is the purpose of poems? Living it, maybe. Because, as with everything else in writing, people write poems because they have something to say.


 

The days are beginning to end sooner on the East Coast. There’s a tinge of chill that pervades the air I breathe. The urgency of the Schuylkill river has elevated all of a sudden. It’s the beginning of the fall, or the end of summer. A year has gone by, of my employment. A year has clambered past us, of this insane WG’18. I am at home, while the golden sky plays peek-a-boo with the blue.  There’s a silence, inter-meshed with muffled noises that my neighbors partake in. And above it all, the clock keeps fidgeting. As if awaiting entropy. There’s a stillness that’s appealing to me. Somehow make this inner voice quieter, which is a surprise because, usually, in the din of the daily kerfuffle, the voice drowns more often than not.


What I am reading now:

  1. In search of lost time: Within a budding grove [Marcel Proust]
  2. The ministry of utmost happiness [Arundhati Roy]
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