So, what is a poem? Many renowned poets have provided us with equally varied qualitative definitions of poetry but quantitatively a poem (or any work of literature for that matter) is a collection of words. However, this view hurls back the question, what makes a journal entry of travelling and dining expenses or a to-do list different from a literary work, both being collections of words? The answer is as apparent as it is confounding; the difference lies in the meaning the collection of words conveys.

For example, we are all more or less familiar with a to-do list but consider the following one,

Replace Anton Drexler as the chairman.
Attempt the Beer Hall Putsch.
Become the Chancellor.
Enact the Reichstag Fire Decree.

It becomes immediately obvious that the above is anything but an average person’s to-do list. Now under the title, “Adolf’s To-Do” the above collection of words can be called a poem, for not only the set of words paint a staunch picture of Hitler’s initial rise to power, it also predicts the outbreak of fascism in the later years, that culminated in the diabolic blitzkrieg and heart wrenching holocaust.

Now, if a poem is a collection or set of words, what does it mean! It is apparent that an image made out of millions of tiny red, blue and green light emitting diodes on the television screen, means more than those lights mean, either individually or combined. The same is true for any work of literature as well; the collection of words ought to mean something greater than the words in the set can mean. Accordingly the above list means more than being the chairman of a political party or the chancellor of a country or the enactment of an oppressive law. In retrospection, it presages the onset of the Second World War.

At the same time, just like a single word has connotations along with what it may denotes, a set of words also has a sensual meaning and an intellectual one. The difference between these two meanings has been aptly explored by Charles Lamb in his article on the tragedies of Shakespeare, through contrasting the former one, as conveyed by a performer on the stage with the latter, as imagined by an avid reader, going through the text of the play. For my future arguments’ sake, I shall term these meanings as a. sensual perspective and b. intellectual perspective. I hope the synonymous nature of “meaning” and “perspective” requires no explanation, for what something means to someone is in the end what that something was perceived by that person.


The above discourse makes us curious because the creation and interpretation of both these perspectives happen in the conscious part of a human mind. So we are left with the question, what was the subconscious part of a poet doing when the conscious part was busy composing the poem. This article proposes a hypothesis that tries to provide a satisfactory answer to the question posed above but not before issuing a general note of caution to the esteemed reader. It goes without saying that the author of this article is not an academician. He is more akin to an illiterate poet than to a man of letters. What I propose here is what I have observed while reading poems and inferred by the dint of my less than adequate reasoning faculties.

What I have observed, both in the works of my contemporary poets and the old masters, is that the subconscious part of the poet’s mind is also highly active during composition. Like an ethereal bird it unfolds its wings from the dark crevices of the mind and rises up. Without being too obvious to the composer, it rises up and leaves a trail of breadcrumbs in the poem being composed, for other poets to find and explore.  I say for other poets because I believe these breadcrumbs remain hidden from any occupied or focused readers’ views. For an elaborate explanation of these different kinds of readers please see one of my earlier posts, “A New Classification for Poetry

For an example let us consider the word ‘Autumn’. What does it signify – Ripeness and completion or decadence and degeneration? So, whether the poet has associated the word with the former or the latter is a possible breadcrumb for other poets to investigate. If sincerely explored, these breadcrumbs will furbish the poem with yet another perspective along with its sensual and intellectual ones. Let us call this the psychoanalytical perspective.

Now, before concluding I would like to point out one of the key features of this perspective. Generally speaking, the trail of breadcrumbs in a poem remains invisible to the composer, unless reviewed in retrospection at least 5 to 6 years after the poem was composed. However, to an observer, free from the subjectivity of the composer, having glimpses of the trail happens to be lot easier. This is one of the reasons why a great work of literature is interpreted in myriad ways and also a prerequisite for any work of literature to outshine the stamp of time in order to achieve the classic status.



61 thoughts on “Perspectives in Literature

  1. I don’t usually read anything this “heavy” on a Saturday morning but I started reading a few lines and couldn’t stop. 

    As I said before, I don’t have any background on literature but I love, love, love words (am obsessed is more like it) in any forms of writing. Lately I’ve found that I am more inclined to read and write poetry. With poems, when I write it, I could be as ambiguous, or concise, or long-winded as I want to be. And then I look forward to reading what others make of it. When I read one, I could let my imagination run wild and take me to wherever direction it may lead. Sometimes I’d even get a different feeling or idea when reading the same piece again, days or months later. 

    With words, poems specifically, I can hide some “crumbs” for people to find, as you have pointed out. And I love looking for and finding crumbs. 

    (Thing is, when I am at work I have to be the opposite – I am not to assume anything written and will always have to clarify and verify facts.)
    I really enjoyed this piece (and chuckled at Hitler’s To-do list – what a list!). Well written, my friend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thank you for such an elaborate review. I believe I share your feelings about words but I think there can be poetry in a prose as well. the thing you said about more space for ambiguity in poems is true and that is why I love it more than any other literary forms. sad to know about the mechanical (which is synonymous to inhuman in my dictionary) environment of your work. hopefully things will get better soon!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t be sad; I’m loving my work 🙂 It does involve writing too (when it comes to reports haha) but due to the nature of my industry I need to check and re-check things to make sure I present facts to my clients. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely a grand presentation of intellectual thoughts. I felt like I was walking in the forest of definitions happy to be finding the crumbs left for me.
    Kudos my friend. Your pen shines in prose!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Sir, I reallly appreciate your thoughts. ☺
    Hehe, now I’ll have to learn a lot from you! You know what, I had to find the meaning of soo many words in the dictionary! 😂😂
    You write really well. Tbh, I didn’t understand everything out of it, it’s beyond my thinking! But I’ll try harder! Still whatever I understood was beautiful. ☺☺☺☺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. hahaha! that is a very brave and down to earth self-assessment! but please STOP calling me sir… I have not been knighted yet. in brief what I said in the article is this, there are 3 layers of perspectives/meaning available in any literary work. 1. Sensual (the perspective you get when you perceive the work through your senses, i.e. touch, vision or smell) 2. Intellectual (the one you get when perceived through your thoughts and imagination) and 3. Psychoanalytical (the one left by the subconscious of the writer). I hope you find the explanation helpful. best wishes!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hehe, I’m sorry Sir. 😂
        ‘Sir’ is the way of respect naa! I can’t stop this. 😅
        And thankyou so much for that explaination! Abi I understand it properly. And I’m sorry I bothered you for the longg explanation! 😶

        Liked by 1 person

  4. …this was such an informative read…the goings on of the subconscious/ subtle mind as the poet/ writer writes. BREADCRUMBS…such an honest, down to earth analogy of the etheric trail left behind to amuse, inspire, awaken and many myriad other feelings. Loved reading about what makes a Classic piece of writing a “Classic”, that lives for eternity! Interestingly, I listened to the author Michael Morpurgo talking about his classic book Warhorse, which has been turned into a film and play and been so successful. Interestingly enough it is the sequel book to that , Farm Boy, that is his favourite. Interestingly how the outside world then interprets the writer’s words, striking different chords to those within the writer himself. This was most thought provoking Amit… Thank You. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

        1. you have reblogged more of my posts than the whole blogosphere combined. I know you have to share once you come across a good work. still I hope you know how overwhelmingly grateful I feel at that!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ah, well, as you said, we tend to reblog what we like, and there’s something to be said about the urge to be able to re-read a piece of work with some convenience at a later time. In a way, this is a prime example of digital hoarding!

            Liked by 1 person

  5. That is some heavy duty material you’ve dealt with there, and opened quite the can of worms along the way too! Opening with that daunting to-do list of Hitler’s, all but forces the reader to pay attention to the text. And the ensuing switch from WWII to Shakespeare; stunning turn around. Because I don’t think readers have really caught the plot until right then.
    But now, is when you hit your point, creating a link between the blinking television lights and the subconscious thought process of our minds during thought, perception and creation.
    And then, with confident certainty, you arrive at and provide the exposition to your breadcrumb hypothesis. Which brings the article to a screeching halt after that breakneck pace through fire and psychology and fairytale allusions, leaving the reader breathless at the center of the maze with the Tri-Wizard Cup right in front of them and no energy to pick it up.
    Having said that, there were plenty of “poetic narratives” in that article for the truly focused reader to have picked up on the hidden breadcrumbs in your own post. Hence, your hypothesis has been proved, should they ever realise it.
    I am now quite out of breath from that roller-coaster ride!! It certainly was a blitzkrieg!! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Honestly, it was like going on one of those water slide rides at the amusement park. You enter and then there’s no going back; it just keeps drawing you in until the end.
        In fact, that comment is a play-by-play account of what my subconscious was experiencing as I read the article. It was well organised and well presented. Good work!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. “Like an ethereal bird it unfolds its wings from the dark crevices of the mind and rises up. Without being too obvious to the composer, it rises up and leaves a trail of breadcrumbs in the poem being composed, for other poets to find and explore. ” You are poetic even when writing prose with deep meaning and connotations. This is an excellent post my friend exploring tackling the big question with wit and knowledge. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 😀 I am delighted that you like it. my confidence in prose writing is about one quarter of that in writing poems. Reviews like yours will boost it for sure. more so for coming from a superb prose writer like you. you have my earnest gratitude!

      Liked by 1 person

                    1. 😦 but “Welcome Home” is the “Sanitarium” and “Fade to Black” is one of my favorite composition! Still as you have said so, I stand ready to “Ride the Lightning”

                      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s