University of British Columbia;
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
2 June 1998
A poet sees what we cannot see—the highest Beauty’s golden crown, the deepest Beauty’s golden throne. A poet feels what we cannot feel—oneness with the sorrows of Eternity, oneness with the joys of Infinity.
They say a poet is born and not made—not true, not true, not true. I am an eye-witness. Many supreme poets at the dawn of their poetry-adventure were nothing but pathetic. Again, there are many late-bloomer poets. We do not know how and when God’s Compassion-Eye descends on them.
True, poetry and poverty are good friends, but poverty has its own joy. To feel that joy, we needs must have a different heart-breath. That heart-breath only a poet can claim. At times, the outer poverty can be an illumining expression of an inner purity.
Poetry and invisibility are dear friends. Poetry and invisibility are great admirers. Poetry and invisibility are perfect oneness-heart-flyers, divers and runners.
When a poet sits in deep contemplation, who can say to which realm his thoughts are winging? Lord Byron jests, “Poetry should only occupy the idle.” But the idle moments of his own life were not spent uselessly. Even in idleness, the inspiration-promise of dynamism can burst forth. In “Don Juan,” for example, Byron writes:
The mountains look on Marathon—
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream’d that Greece might still be free.
When the present mind enters into the bosom of the past, we tend to glorify the past, but when the present is with us, we treat the present either in a humorous vein or in a contemptuous vein:
“A poet in history is divine, but a poet in the next room is a joke.” – Max Eastman
Indeed, inside each human being there is a poet. I fully concur with Joubert:
“You will find poetry nowhere, unless you bring some with you.”
We must have a subtle poetic touch of our own to appreciate and admire poetry.
Poetry and truth are inextricably linked. The Sanskrit word for poet is kavi. Kavi means ‘he who envisions’. What does he envision? He envisions the truth in its seed-form. Once more I wish to invoke Joubert. His sublime realisation is: “You arrive at the truth through poetry; I arrive at poetry through truth.”
I have been a poet all my life and I have been a dreamer of truth as well. Inside my heart I feel that these two players—the poet and the dreamer—are at once interchangeable and inseparable. That is why I wrote many years ago, at the dawn of my poetry-journey:
Arise, awake, O friend of my dream.
Arise, awake, O breath of my life.
Arise, awake, O light of my eyes.
O seer-poet in me,
Do manifest yourself in me
And through me.
What is my poetry and what do I actually expect from my poetry?
O my poetry,
You are the lotus of my heart.
You bring into my heart
Nectar-Light from Heaven.
When my life flows
With the river of sorrow
With its countless waves,
May your magic touch
Hide me in the waters of liberation-sea.
At this point, I wish to cite the words of a certain poet. History has not preserved his name, but this veil of anonymity only serves to heighten the essential invisibility of a true poet. It is not we, but God, who writes poetry in and through us.
Each time you pick a daffodil
Or gather violets on some hill
Or touch a leaf or see a tree,
It’s all God whispering,
‘This is Me.’
Something of tremendous importance in my life I wish to share with you. I cannot help reproducing a few momentous words from India’s greatest poet Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Fruit Gathering”:
To the birds You gave songs, the birds gave You songs in return.
You gave me only voice, yet asked for more, and I sing.
Being both a prose-mind-writer and a poetry-heart-writer, I have made a supreme discovery in my own life: every time there is a competitive race between my prose-mind and my poetry-heart to arrive at God’s Golden Palace, my poetry-heart invariably wins. How and why? Because, unlike my prose-mind, my poetry-heart sees invisibility’s reality-existence-life.
[Sri Chinmoy was invited as a Visiting Poet to the University of British Columbia by Dr. Mandakranta Bose, Chair and Co-ordinator, Cross-Cultural Literary Studies in Asia Group at the Institute of Asian Research. On behalf of the University, she offered Sri Chinmoy the “Dreamer of Peace” award.]