POETIC LICENCE :
I have always been a great fan of Khushwant Singh. I love reading his Saturday columns in Hindustan Times,titled ” With Malice Towards One And All “. In one of his recent columns he discussed about the purpose of writing.The heading of the piece was “Poetic Licence”.
I had often heard this word but had never thought about it seriously.I did a little research now. As a noun, the meaning of the words is : The liberty taken by an artist or a writer in deviating from conventional form or fact to achieve a desired effect.For example, if someone says ” I’ve never seen grass or a tree of that colour”, that’s artistic license.
Grass and trees have generally been accepted to be conventionally green.No ?
Now what has the most reliable source (according to my experience,so far) “Wikipedia” to say about this ? And I quote :” Artistic license (also known as dramatic license, historical license, poetic license, narrative license, licentia poetica, or simply license) is a colloquial term, sometime a euphemism, used to denote the distortion or complete ignorance of fact, ignoring the conventions of grammar or language, or the changing of an established fact that an artist may undertake in the name of art. For example, if an artist decided it was more artistically desirable to portray St. Paul’s Cathedral next to the Houses of Parliament in a scene of London, even though in reality they are not close together, that would be artistic license.The artistic license may also refer to the ability of a poet to ignore some of the minor requirements of grammar for poetic effect. For example, Mark Antony‘s “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears” from Shakespeare‘s Julius Caesar would technically require the word “and” before “countrymen”, but the conjunction “and” is omitted to preserve the rhythm of iambic pentameter (the resulting conjunction is called an asyndetic tricolon). Conversely, on the next line, the end of ” I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” has an extra syllable because omitting the word “him” would make the sentence unclear, but adding a syllable at the end would not disrupt the meter. Both of these are examples of artistic license.”
Thus, as per above quoted source,poetic/artistic license is:
1.entirely at the poet’s / artist’s discretion
2.intended to be tolerated by the viewer, and
3.useful for filling in gaps, whether they be factual, compositional, historical or other gaps used consciously or unconsciously,intentionally or unintentionally or in tandem.
Further,the same source says: ” Artistic license often provokes controversy by offending those who resent the reinterpretation of cherished beliefs or previous works. Artists often respond to these criticisms by pointing out that their work was not intended to be a verbatim portrayal of something previous and should be judged only on artistic merit. Artistic license is a generally accepted practice, particularly when the result is widely acclaimed. William Shakespeare‘s historical plays, for example, are gross distortions of historical fact but are nevertheless lauded as outstanding literary works.”
As we all know, the more the controversy,the more the fame,or is it not ?
Yet further, it says :” Artistic license is often referred to as dramatic license when it involves the glamorization of real-world occupations for the sake of exciting television or cinematic experience. For example, police procedural programs typically omit completely the more mundane aspects of the occupation such as paperwork, reports, administrative duties and other daily “business-oriented” aspects which in reality often comprise the majority of the work. They will also present other duties with much more action, suspense or drama than would be experienced in reality. The same is also true for many military-oriented adventure stories which often show high ranking characters being allowed to continuously enter dangerous situations when in reality, they would usually be restricted to command-oriented or administrative duties. Star Trek is an example of this with its treatment of the captain and senior officers.”
” Writers adapting a work for another medium (e.g., a film screenplay from a book) often make significant changes, additions to, or omissions from the original plot in the book, on the grounds that these changes were necessary to make a good film. These changes are sometimes to the dismay of fans of the original work.”
That was quite an expose isn’t it ?
Having dealt with the basics of poetic licence,I will now go to the piece referred to in the begining of this posting.I reproduce the same herebelow without any changes ( without using the tool of poetic licence at my end ! ) :
“The principal purpose of writing is to communicate,whether it be prose or poetry,and if the writer fails to convey to the reader what he has in mind,he fails in his mission.This applies more to prose than to poetry because poetry is absolved of rules of grammar in order to preserve its musical ingredient through metre and rhyme. But even in poetry,the poet should not go beyond the comprehension of readers.A lot of modern poetry does, and I find it frustrating to read.With some difficulty, I was able to come to terms with T S Eliot and Dylan Thomas; Ezra Pound remains beyond my understanding.Indian poets are not obscure and I enjoy reading them in Punjabi,Hindi and Urdu.
Mirza Ghalib,whom I admire most ,often confuses me and I ask more knowledgeable than me to enlighten me.I am not the only Ghalib admirer who has this grouse against him. My friend Abid Saeed Khan of Bugras quoted Nawab Agha Khan Ashq,a contemporary of Ghalib,who had this to say about the last Mughal laureate:
” Agar apna kaha tum aap hee samjhey,tau kya samjhey ?
Mazza kehney ka tab hai,ek kahey aur doosra samjhey.
Zubaan Meer likhey aur kalaam Sauda samjhey,
Magar in ka kahaa yeh aap samjhein ya khuda samjhey !”
( ” If only you understand what you have composed,what is one to do ?
The joy of composing is when one composes and others understand too.
When Meer writes and Sauda says we understand ,
But his couplets only he understands and God,its true !” )
So true,isn’t it ? Let’s try to remember this when we write prose or poetry.
One more passing shot.Thank God and our Government for not making it compulsory for poets to obtain a licence from some authority before writing a poem and publishing it or even reciting it. Am I giving ideas to the new Government for raking in more revenue / taxes ? ?
Ah yes,you will not need a licence to air your views on this piece,so shoooot !!
Bahut badiya Sir ji.
Jatinder Saheb, you gave a lot of info with a suggestion to the Govt at the end which enables it in augmenting funds.Aakhir bankwale bankwale hi hote hai.Always thinking of money, mopping up, mobilising deposits etc.Hope you don’t take me amiss .Taking me for a ride is theek hai, if time permits.Have a nice day, dost.cheers,
Sir, This article reveals that you are an excellent literary critic as well. I am also an ardent fan of Shri Kushwant Singh.
Ch J Satyananda Kumar, Visakhapatnam
Jun 15, 2009
Quite a thoughtful piece. Broca ji. Very well written. “The principal purpose of writing is to communicate, whether it is prose or poetry, and if the writer fails to convey to the reader what he has in mind, he fails in his mission.” This quotation makes one think about the possibilities and dimensions that a writer chooses. But this applies to prose and that also not in very strict terms. While writing a piece of prose the writer has his audience to present his works to and waits for suggestions and comments. His writings can vary from fiction to non-fiction but remain quite comprehensible to his readers, that’s why we have a wide readership for prose as compared to poetry the reason being quite clear that poetry is something that requires intelligence of a particular level above what we call as common thinking. But on the other hand does a writer choose to write only for his audience? Is it justified to confine him in the tight circumference of making the readers comprehend as his only mission? Should the writer not enjoy the freedom of writing to manifest a new idea in totally new dimensions?
As for poetry it sometimes bears the tag of being incomprehensible for the ambiguity that the poet chooses to infuse in the words he pens and in the arrangement of the same. The meaning or conclusion that the reader of poetry derives from a particular poem tends to vary from reader to reader. Poetry always contains universal philosophy in it however abstruse it may sound or look. Good poetry containing deep ideas is what we are discussing here and not just overenthusiastic scribbling of someone.
Poetry isn’t one-dimensional; it contains many dimensions that the poet chooses to inculcate it with. It requires high levels of intelligence to decode the underlying meaning concealed in each word and stanza so carefully chosen by the poet. It’s the inner eye which can enjoy its hidden treasures almost like chunks of pure gold on sea beds and this calls for deep exploration and sound knowledge of the language in which the poem is composed. The deciphering of what remains unsaid suggests more importance than the superficial meaning that some readers choose to derive. Poetry rests heavily on ambiguity, the hidden philosophies; raw clarity deprives it from the magnificence that it contains. And this, much to the dismay of many, is the actual beauty of poetry – its very essence.
Mirza Ghalib composed his verses largely in Persian to conceal his views from the common eye and whatever he chose to compose in Urdu remains peerless even today for the universal philosophy that his couplets contain. The beauty lies in deciphering the hidden meaning which may not appeal to some people while for some it may be an experience of inexpressible joy. Or else Ghalib would not have been Ghalib.
Or else W. Somerset Maugham wouldn’t have said, ”The crown of literature is poetry. It is its end and aim. It is the sublimest activity of the human mind. It is the achievement of beauty and delicacy. The writer of prose can only step aside when the poet passes.”
Saima Afreen, Calcutta
Jun 17, 2009
Dear Saima ji, thanks a lot for your scholarly response. All I can say is: “Afreen ! Afreen!” You have presented your views quite convincingly. Yes Ghalib would not have been Ghalib had he written pedestrian stuff !! Incidentally, I searched you on Google and I was fascinated by your blog. Will surely visit it sometime soon. If you feel like visiting my blog, you can search “Broca’s Doodle Pad” on Google and reach it. May Allah shower all His rehmat on you!
J S Broca, New Delhi
Jun 19, 2009
Thank you so much Broca ji for appreciating my comment. I feel delighted. You are welcome to visit my blog(s) anytime and leave your thoughtful comments. It’ll be a matter of honour for me. Allah is always with us; we hardly even have wisdom to understand the tasks He assigns to us let alone perceive His Majestic Powers that He has blessed this universe with.
I will surely visit your blog. Am sure it will be a wonderful experience. Best regards,
Saima Afreen, Calcutta
Jun 20, 2009