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May 03, 2020 Sunday 12:39:38 PM IST

Poetry as Powerful Medium of Expression in Educaton

Morningbird Photo for

Marriage is not a house, or even a tent 
It is before that, and colder: the edge of the forest, the edge of the desert
The unpainted stairs at the back, where we squat outdoors, eating popcorn
Where painfully, and with wonder at having survived so far
We are learning to make fire. 
Margaret Atwood, Habitation
Since childhood, poetry has been an indomitable medium of expression for me. Over the years, this tool has served many ends, in addition: the skill of communicating more in less, the ability to express the unsaid and unthought-of through the art of non-verbal communication, and the distinction of freeing the mind, body and soul from unwanted baggage through the powerful play of words.  
It brings to mind a quote that Robert Frost is believed to have given the world: "Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words." 
It is no wonder that poetry is being rediscovered in the field of education as a pedagogical tool that facilitates the holistic development of an individual, preparing him or her for what we call the journey of life. Expression, no matter of what kind, is an important element of this journey, and in today’s world, sees dominance – be it in any sphere.  
So, the recent developments of our times – political, religious, cultural or any other - mirror the expressions of societies and communities the world over. Debates, discussions, protests, speeches et all, demand the use of communication, of which poetry is an inherent form.  
Poets, across centuries, have expressed what the common man stood for, irrespective of boundaries. They include Pablo Neruda, Bertolt Brecht, Nazim Hikmet, Mahmoud Darwish, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Maya Angelou, Kamala Das, Kazi Nazrul Islam and so many others. Even the works of Kabir, Meera, Tulsidas, and others reflect the times of their existence. Poetry served, and continues to serve, not only as a medium for poignant expression, but also as beacon of hope, an inspiration to retrospect and introspect, a depiction of times that were and continue to be, a reflection of the sentimentalities that bound societies then and now. In fact, the poem by Faiz: Hum Dekhenge is an example of how emotions were expressed in verses, stirring sentimentalities to a frenzy.
 But does the current state of affairs leave any room for poetry? Is the scenario today too ‘volatile’ or dynamic to allow room for a more ‘subtle’ form of expression? These questions are debatable, but what remains is the essence of communication: the effort to pay attention, the patience to listen, the mindfulness to comprehend, the tolerance to understand…the list goes on .Says Sushruti Tripathi, a lawyer by profession and a poet by passion: “I believe the need of the hour is for people to engage in fruitful dialogue with each other and to be able to question their own allegiances. We shouldn’t be blinded by what we believe to be right, so much so that we are unwilling to listen to what the other side has to say. We need to take a step back from all the arguments and engage in discussions again. Being better listeners is the first step towards finding a resolution for deepening polarisation.” 
However what remains is the fact that poetry remains a medium of powerful expression: “If wrappings of cloth can impart respectability, the most respectable persons are the Egyptian mummies, all wrapped in layers and layers of gauze” – Kamala Das.
“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.” – Maya Angelou 
“You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.” – Pablo Neruda 
The above reflect not only the deep connect with the times that bore witness to the powerful works of the above-mentioned poets, but also hold true in today’s times, as they emphasize the fact that poetry is timeless, as are thoughts, and is human nature.

Sarah Berry

Sarah Berry is a Consultant in public diplomacy, strategic outreach and training, author and painter.

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