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JYOTIRMAYA THAKUR NOV 18Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals. In all circumstances, and particularly in a time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national or political passion. Writers should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations and people; they must pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the community and country to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible. The necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organized political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, writers should pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends. Continue reading POET AS A MARGINALISED INDIVIDUAL By Jyotirmaya Thakur




Can Creativity in Poetry/Writing Make the Word Mightier than the Sword?

By George Onsy – Egypt



In a world shadowed by dominance and conflicts, I’d like to suggest a way out of that fatal battle between all that’s human and what’s against the very sense of humanity. It is about resurrecting the dormant power of the Word so it may stand high and invincible facing the Sword’s terror. Through this research I will talk first, in Part I, about the indispensable elements of Creative Poetry/Writing, starting from the VISION, moving to the literary work’s coherently expressive STRUCTURE that includes its Beginning, Idea Sequence and Conclusion that should leave the needed impact on the reader very conscience. In this part, I will also give more details about the Physical Aspect of the poetic work and how the Imagery takes flesh and blood through the word music enhancing the poetic translucent logic. However, as the structural analysis of the Word’s literary forms is not everything we need to empower the Word’s Message, I will later, in Part II, proceed to demonstrate and analyze more endeavors of poetic/literary works that can enable the Word to echo the human voice louder than the Sword’s menacing roar.


Can Creativity in Poetry/Writing Make the Word Mightier than the Sword?

We live in an era of fatal challenges that menace the very existence of the notion of HUMANITY as they are about to completely abolish what characterizes a human being to be really a “human”. So, if the Sword of Terrorism, Oppression, and Corruption, continues to wave from East to West trying to have the final say, hasn’t yet the time come to raise the silenced Humanity’s Voice through the still Hidden and Ineffective Power of its WORD?

To discuss this possibility, we need to study and apply two approaches that can open the way to: First, empowering the writer/poet’s Word by enhancing the main elements of the text’s structure – and this will be Part I of this research. Then we’ll proceed, later, to Part II where we will apply some Key Mechanisms to activate the Word’s Power in order to face human challenges, as our Today’s World does need a NEW WORLD ORDER that can never be built without an URGING MIND-CHANGE AWARENESS COMPAIGN, and in that second part we’ll focus on:

  • Supporting Human Unity Against Discrimination; Racism and Fanaticism.
  • How to Motivate the International Community to Help the Needy; the Refugees, Persecuted and Oppressed.
  • How to Face Terrorism Questioning the very Fear of Death.

Part I: CREATIVITY IN POETRY – How to Empower the Word:

I would like to display here some ideas to help enhance and intensify the needed power of humanity’s word. I will first start with the analysis of powerful works of writing, focusing on poetry, suggesting some effective approaches to empower the Human Word through poetic VISION, IDEAS, and STRUCTURE.

Through the infinite space of awareness, meanings and ideas never cease to hover everywhere and your yet-to-be-born poem is still hanging there, entangled across that faint blue print of the universal enlightenment. It is still waiting for your own personal vision to trace its structure amid the silence and stillness of minds, expecting the birth of thought that’s unquestionably original.

VISION is the very starting point from which a creative poet’s pen set to navigate through the poetic hazardous journey. It is a vision woven out of the lights and shadows of the poetic soul’s own experience, situation, problem or issue to incorporate into the poem’s very body in order to be seen, felt and embraced by the reader’s eyes, heart and mind.

The poet’s vision about what he is going to handle through his write is his own specific angle of view; how he would view through his very personal perspective what he is to weave with his verses. So, his vision must be authentically transparent to his identity, beliefs, way of thinking, manner of responding to what he sees, feels, and conceives. Here, such a vision must be very individual, inimitable, matchless, and fairly distinguished from any others’, even if it still belongs to the global frame of human consciousness regarding what needs to write about.

In fact, a vision is the very natural and spontaneous approach to the topic treated, an approach the poet must start his creation with adding, through his own perception and conception new dimensions to what he would portrait in verses where shadowed sides of the subject are to be bathed in a new light, where unknown mysteries that have never been disclosed before are to be deciphered and heard through the ears of minds, hearts and souls.

A good example of starting with poet’s special vision is William Blake’s “THE LAND OF DREAMS” where he visualizes, through his own enlightened soul’s eyes, Eternity as a land of dreams then he molds it into a short simple dialogue smoothly flowing between a son and his father. See how his mystical vision of Eternity is implicitly being revealed through his verses:

  • ‘ O, what land is the Land of Dreams?

‘ What are its mountains, and what are its streams?

‘ O father ! I saw my mother there,

‘ Among the lilies by waters fair.


We can see how he tells about Eternal Life through a vision he creates out of his own profound spiritual experience that had characterized almost all his works. The father’s reply to his son’s words will come later as an excellent example of ending.

Likewise, William Shakespeare in his “FEAR NO MORE THE HEAT OF THE SUN” from his play, Cymbeline, incorporates his own vision about Death as his lines echo a voice saying to a parting soul:

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun;

Nor the furious winter’s rages,

Thou thy worldly task hast done,

Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages;

Golden lads and girls all must,

As chimney sweepers come to dust.


Fear no more the frown of the great,

Thou art past the tyrant’s stroke:

Care no more to clothe and eat;

For thee the reed is as the oak:

The sceptre, learning, physic, must

All follow this, and come to dust.

Another example of Blake’s work shows his vision and philosophy about true love when he displays in his “THE CLOD AND THE PEBBLE” two opposite views of love uttered by their opposite viewers; the Clod of clay trodden by cattle’s feet then the Pebble of the flowing brook:

Love seeketh not itself to please,

Nor for itself has any care;


Love seeketh only Self to please,

To bind another to its delight:


But as this particular work is closely related to the structural feature of poetry, I’d rather talk about it later when we will come to analyze the physical aspect, particularly the poetic music that echoes each of these two contrasting views and its reversed one.

Then, the vision should take on a STRUCTURE, that’s, a sequence of ideas to give it bones and flesh, starting from the very beginning. The BEGINNING or the introductory verses should tell the reader about the topic, yet, not direct like news information, rather in a way that can be unexpectedly capturing the reader’s attention.

My mother cried my father wept

Into the dangerous world I leapt

Helpless, naked piping loud

Like a fiend hid in a cloud


Through these verses, Blake tells about those special moments of his birth. Here, the powerfully rhythmic meter proclaims loud the event his going to talk about.

When Anne Finch, Countess of Winchelsea, writes an open letter “TO DEATH”, she begins with verses presenting that unusual interviewee:

O King of terrors, whose unbounded sway

All that have life must certainly obey;

The King, the Priest, the Prophet, all are thine,

Nor would ev’n God (in flesh) thy stroke decline.


In some other cases, the introductory stanza or verses can effectively be used to set the scene for the coming events that will take place throughout the poem, as we read in Tennyson’s “THE LADY OF SHALOTT”:


On either side the river lie

Long fields of barley and of rye

That clothe the wold and meet the sky;


And thro’ the field the road runs by

To many-tower’d Camelott;


And up and down the people go,

Gazing where the lilies blow

Round an island there below,

The island of Shalott.


Then, a coherent chain of IDEAS should follow the introductory part. These ideas would better be built ascending a hierarchical progression to reach an intellectual and emotional climax preparing for an echoing ENDING or conclusion.

A good example of this is also Tennison’s “LADY OF SHALOTT” narrative lines which keeps the rhythm, ending each stanza with a rhymed phrase as if marking the consecutive episodes of an epic: The town of Camelot, The lady of Shalott, and at certain point; bold Sir Lancelolt.

In such cases, presenting the protagonists of the story or its main scenes is to be given a special care by the poet. So, the Lady of Shalott is presented through these soft dreaming verses:

Four grey walls, and four grey towers,

Overlook a space of flowers,

And the silent isle embowers

The lady of Shalott.


But who hath seen her wave her hand?

Or at the casement seen her stand?

Or is she known in all the land,

The Lady of Shalott?



And by the moon the reaper weary,

Piling sheaves in uplands airy,

Listening, whispers, “ ‘Tis the fairy

Lady of Shalott.”

And when the poem comes to Lancelott, we find Tennyson presenting him through these lines:

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,

He rode between the barley sheaves,

The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,

And flamed upon the brazen greaves

Of bold Sir Lancelot.


A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d

To a lady in his shield,

That sparkled on the yellow field,

Beside remote Shalott.

When we come to talk about the IMAGERY, we can say that those poem’s ideas should exhibit a wide variety of poetic images. If the poem’s ideas are not clothed into their beautifully woven imagery the poem may sound more like an article or a research paper set in verses, lacking the emotional whispering that can tap upon the reader’s consciousness.

However, wrapping ideas with images is not merely an external nor superficial adornment. We should bear in mind that each idea is impatiently tempted to melt into its own “coupling” image, so structurally and so intimately. The intermarriage between ideas and their images that they mysteriously, both consciously and unconsciously admire and woo, is a major key to this crucial stage of poetic creativity.

As we all know, imagery may take up different forms; simile, metaphors, … etc., but WORDS with their different levels of connotations, will still be the splendidly coloured threads that can beautifully and coherently interlace those forms, bringing forth their intended impact.

Words are the main element of both ideological/emotional and physical aspects of poetry as they convey a wide range of meanings while equally ring a broad range of sounds that enhance those meanings leaving lasting echoes within the reader’s space of awareness. Thus, intertwining both meanings and their related sounds, i.e., poetic logic and poetic music is indispensable for the poetic structure.

We have seen how Tennyson played with the rhymes, Camelott and Shalott, alternately at the end of each couple of stanzas. That wasn’t merely to maintain the poetic music, but also to give an identifiable sound color to the scene he wanted to set of that gloomy mysterious town, the very stage of his narrative, Camelott, focusing in the meantime on its main character, the Lady of Shalott. Hence, both elements of his built go perfectly parallel right from the poem start till its planned end.


But in her web she still delights

To weave the mirror’s magic sights,

For often through the silent nights,

A funeral, with plumes and lights



Or when the Moon was overhead,

Came two young lovers lately wed.

“I am half sick of shadows,” said


In fact, poetic music can be widely misunderstood. For many, rhyming is essential to create it. Some go as far as trying to keep their poem rhymed sacrificing its logical coherence, and by so doing, they may allow themselves to twist the flow of ideas, or at least, make it superficial loosing their poem’s needed depth.

Here, Blake’s “THE CLOD AND THE PEBBLE” can give us an ideal example of the perfect symbiosis of both the logical-emotional and physical aspects of poetry. See how he amazingly tells about those two opposing views of love, mentioned above, through a highly inspired philosophy that his mastery over poetic meter is beautifully highlighting:


Love seeketh not itself to please,

Nor for itself has any care;

But for another gives its ease:

And builds a Heaven in Hells’ despair

So sang a little Clod of Clay

Trodden with the cattles’ feet:

But a Pebble of the brook,

Warbled out these metres’ meet,

Love seeketh only Self to please,

To bind another to its delight:

Joys in another’s loss of ease,

And builds a Hell in Heavens’ despite.


Another important element of the write or poem’s structure is the TURNING POINT. A turning point helps push forward both the logical and emotional flow of a poem, a literary work in general, or even any work of performing art or music, in order to reach a higher phase of its progression, steadily moving towards the work’s planned ending. See how Tennyson knits his turning point in his narrative of “THE LADY OF SHALOTT” in order to prepare for a more dramatic complication of his write which is here Lady of Shallot’s voluntary death, hence, leading the reader towards the ending part:

She left the web, she left the loom,

She made three paces through the room,

She saw the water-lily bloom,

She saw the helmet and the plume,

She look’d down to Camelot.


Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack’d from side to side;

“The curse is come upon me,” cried

The Lady of Shalott.


Then he dexterously paints the whole nature’s colossal revolution prophesying her tragic end:

In the stormy east-wind straining,

The pale yellow woods were waning,

The broad stream in his banks complaining,

Heavily the low sky raining

Over tower’d Camelott.

Then come the verses that tell how she took the boat to end her life putting a sad end to her emotional conflict.

Finally, the ENDING or CLOSING stanzas or verses should stress the final conclusion or the lesson learned out of the entire poem’s message. In order to give this message a resounding logical and emotional effect, a special effort has to be done in order to elaborate those concluding verses, both rationally, emotionally and musically, as all these aspects should be harmoniously intertwined together throughout the entire poetic work.

Another look at Anne Finch’s piece, “TO DEATH”, will exemplify this:



Spare these, and let thy time be when it will;

My bus’ness is to die, and thine to kill.

Gently thy fatal scepter on me lay,

And take to thy cold arms, insensibly, thy pray.


In spite of his strikingly different vision of death and afterlife, William Blake’s ending of his “THE LAND OF DREAM” was molded with a great care leaving a strong impact on the reader as the father answers his son’s question:

  • ‘ O, what land is the Land of Dreams?

‘ What are its mountains, and what are its streams?

‘ O father ! I saw my mother there,

‘ Among the lilies by waters fair.


‘ Among the lambs, clothed in white,

‘ She walk’d with her Thomas in sweet delight,

‘ I wept for joy ; like a dove I mourn :-

‘ O when shall I again return !’


  • ‘ Dear child ! I also by pleasant streams

‘ Have wander’d all night in the Land of Dreams :-

‘ But, though calm and warm the waters wide,

‘ I could not get to the other side.’

In fact, this particular stanza leading to the poem conclusion, like many others characterizing Blake’s works, is standing unique as it is mysteriously veiled with such an ambiguous meaning that the reader can hardly grasp. This can also be another important feature of a powerful ending of both literary and artistic works.

At the end of this part, I would like to say that what I have explained in this paper is neither an ultimate criterion nor a set of rules. It is just my own view on creative structured poetry writing, a view that I have shaped out of my experience with visions, ideas, imagery and words. So, I do appreciate if you would kindly enrich this write with your appreciated feedback and enlightening comments.

We’ll meet again, in Part II where we will apply, as mentioned above, some Key Mechanisms to activate the Word’s Power in order to face human challenges, as our Today’s World does need a NEW WORLD ORDER that can never be built without an URGING MIND-CHANGE AWARENESS COMPAIGN, and again, in that second part we’ll focus on:

  • Supporting Human Unity Against Discrimination; Racism and Fanaticism.
  • How to Motivate the International Community to Help the Needy; the Refugees, Persecuted and Oppressed.
  • How to Face Terrorism Questioning the very Fear of Death.

Many thanks for reading and for your very appreciated feedback!

George Onsy@copyright2019

George Onsy – Egypt

Writer, Poet and Artist for Peacemaking & Human Solidarity. Researcher and designer Applying his Problem-Solving Visual Modeling Approach. Professor of English and History of Art & Architecture – Fac. of Engineering. International Director at The World Union of Poets (WUP). Jury Member for several International Poetry/Literary Contests. Secretary General of the International Higher Academic Council of English Literature (IHACEL). Advisor of 5 International Literary Organizations in India, Kazakhstan and Canada. Laureate of many International Awards, among them “The World Icon of Peace” 2017 and the “The Most Outstanding Peace Poet for 2017” 2018 from the World Institute for Peace-Nigeria (WIP)

Poetical Moments: An Analysis Of Inspirations Writing Poems

NilavroNill Shoovro


Do we really know when does appear the unique poetical moment? Are we sure that all the poems are actually the manifestation of that peerless poetical moment? Don’t we know that most of the poems are actually the outcome of editorial compulsions? If one asks any individual poet, I believe the answers would certainly be different. One can always ask, whether this poetical moment is actually a rare phenomenon or a common one. Those who are prolific writers, do they actually live in a constant flux of poetical moment? Otherwise how can one produce volumes of poetical creations years together?  Every moment is actually the manifestation of instantaneous time span. So I ponder whether these unique poetical moments do appear constantly in the creative mind of the great poets.

It seems that these unique poetical moments occur more often in those poets whose sensitivities are too deep and widely spread. It is only so that the poetical creations of these poets move their readers with great vigor. And we the readers follow those poets so eagerly. I do believe this is the foundation of their superiority. Yes those rare poetical moments of which we are discussing, are really peerless, which have seas of sensitivities of great poetical minds in the background. And without these sensitivities I don’t think poetical miracle is possible. And here is the difference between the great poets and the common poets. We come to this truth only when we realize world literature in its true sense.

Suppose all the great poets have been offered to discuss the actual stories of those poetical moments of their famous creations. They have to narrate the innermost feelings of any particular moment of which their famous poems have been written down. Those poems which kept us bemused down memory lane. Those poems that had been rediscovered again and again by different eras, according to their own values; the poems that reveal universal truths; the poems that had reformed the literary cultures of the upcoming times; suppose if it was possible to know the true stories behind those famous poems!  Besides those originals poems! Can we imagine the experiences?

Might be that most of us would have been taken aback. If the real truth would emerge out of the blue, I fear, most of us would find it really embarrassing to know the innermost secret after comparing it with one’s own interpretations. Again to many readers, it would have been a great opportunity to get poet’s own story about the poem itself. Yet many critics would certainly raise an argument that this may confine the literary strength of the poem itself. The inherent power of poetry lies in its multi various dimensions of different interpretations among its readers. Even the different literary eras may differ in their literary interpretation of the same poetry. Now if the readers depend on the poet’s story then the poem will remain standstill and lose its progression among time and space. Different readers and different eras would react in the same manner which would eventually kill the splendor and mysticism of the original poetry. Then how can a reader take shelter in his or her beloved poems when all the mysteries are lost?

Actually if everything is get discovered there wouldn’t be any space to fathom farther. So also with the poetry, if we see the curtain raised reveling the actual stories of the poetical moments then all the enigma associated with the poem would certainly evaporate into thin air. Yes, there will be the end of the poem.  Many readers and critics may agree with these arguments. But if this is the real case, then it will be real calamity for the lover of poetry. Only for the literary researchers this may open up new dimensions for their works. The deep inherent chemistry between the poets and their poetry may reveal new truths, which may be real blessings for literary researchers.

Yes this may be the reactions of readers of poetry. That may still differ from person to person, which is quite natural. Now let’s try to understand how these amazing poetical moments actually occur. That creates some deep impacts in poets’ consciousness. A poet is a good translator of these deep impacts through his words and phrases. Already it has been discussed earlier that these poetical moments vastly depends on the magnitude and the depth of poet’s sensitivities. It may differ from poet to poet still it is important how a poet actually interprets his time and space, how he or she interacts with his or her surroundings through personal emotions and intuitions. How best one can recreate the innermost feelings into the canvas of personal wisdom? These poetical moments when germinate through poet’s experience of life and cultivate through poet’s wisdom of time and space can only be enriched in universal and eternal truth. And that is the time frame when a great poem actually emerges. The readers can find shelter and take rest in that poem. The poem that can extends human values among its audience in the literary horizons year after year; the poem that will bear the poet’s signature in the literary fraternities of world literature is the true significance of the poetical moment of any poetry.

It hardly matters, that we try to discover those poetical moments or not. Even it hardly matters for the world literature also. Even for the poet himself or herself it matters little because already that poetical creation has become complete that will tune up the eternal truth in universal time and space which will remain as the light house for the readers of world literature for years together. The poet’s word will then carry the flag of the civilization in its literary beauty.




“Always dear to me was this lonely hill

and this edge that of a large part

of the farthest horizon

the sight excludes.

But sitting and gazing, endless

spaces beyond that and superhuman

silences, and a deepest quiet

in my thought I feign….”


from The Infinite by G. Leopardi



Giacomo Leopardi is the greatest Italian poet of the nineteen century as well as one of the most important figures in world literature. The Infinite is one of his idylls interpreted and commented over time in different ways.

I wanted to capture in the image of the edge all that is hidden from the sight and men’ minds. A physical and mental boundary that inhibits the ability to investigate, to go beyond time and space preventing to feed the desire to grasp, understand beyond the limits imposed by social conventions or perhaps by the divine will itself.

There are barriers which are insurmountable, for which the various branches of the human sciences have failed to open a passage through. So everything beyond stays blurred by the fume, the mist of mystery as the idea of life after death. Someone has also tried to investigate but it just remains the final destination we all shall reach one day.

A thought we can clearly infer from some verses by W.D. Yeats, the  Irish poet, writer and dramatist  who showed a deep interest in mysticism and spirituality throughout his life:

“I know that I shall meet my fate

Somewhere among the clouds above


In balance with this life, this death”


From   An Irish Airman Foresees His Death, 1919

 Not less complex and in some ways inexplicable are the human barriers. Those that make us feel prisoners of ourselves, closed in our ideologies and convictions. The same for which anyone different from us becomes the enemy to fight, to win. And it’s then that the fear of diversity makes us build walls, not only ideal, to keep him away, to reject him.

The differences of faiths, of political ideologies, or races and skin colour have so many times lead to conflicts and wars depriving millions of people to the sacrosanct right to life.

History is the perennial witness of how much blood has been shed and you can just give a look around to get the bitter awareness of how much is still paid because of barriers that reason, a mutual acceptance or love could easily break down and in their place build bridges of human solidarity in the intimate conviction of living in a common home: the world.

And it can’t surprise anyone that within the same borders, within the same community there are distinctions for social classes that also create great distances.

The reasons that alienate men, creating unbridgeable spaces among them, are manifold each of them deserving a deepening apart to understand them and seek possible remedies. One of this is homosexuality which is seen differently depending on the level of the civil rights recognition achieved by the society you aim to examine.

For some time the issue of sexual diversity, which has forced man and women to live in silence their most intimate sufferings, has opened to social debate. in the meanwhile, in many areas of the world, those who do not fall into the gender categories recognized by the masses are still regarded as individuals apart who are not granted the right to a full social participation. Their pains can be easily elicited from the pages of Oscar Wile’s De Profundis. A letter written by the author during his imprisonment in Reading Gaol where he explains the reasons for ‘his conscious giving himself to the ruin’. They, he says,  ‘are rooted in a noble motivation: love’.

But, in those days, that love was considered an offence to modesty to bee condemned. A barrier built by ignorance and hypocrisy that lead the dandy poet to forced labour, and isolation from the same society that had plaudit him in all the London theatres and world literary circles.

It is, therefore, necessary a careful reflection on the many obscure aspects of men’ choices, their fears, their individual and collective behaviors to try to understand. And I believe it is mainly the poet’s task to investigate further, to open new glimpses, to look far, over the visible to question and give answers.

Cultural Changes In Belief Systems And Spirituality Throughout Literature




This essay  will focus upon cultural changes in belief systems and spirituality throughout literature; starting from the ancient period into the medieval period; emphasizing the similarities and differences between three epic poems: Hesiod’s Theogony, Virgil’s Aeneid, and Dante’s Inferno; in hopes of giving an example, explanation, and appreciation of spiritual poetry

Hesiod’s Theogony, Virgil’s Aeneid and Dante’s Inferno are three epic poems that focus on similarities and differences. Though beliefs differ in these epic poems, they all have a powerful source of a “Supreme Being,” they acquire a spiritual guide on their journey, and focus on an eternal afterlife. Enjoy the crossing of time, as we make our passage through epic brilliance.

In our depictions of divinity, we humans have given form to our sense of the ultimate source of our own significance. When we give form to divinity, we derive that form from our own experience. We make gods in our own image because our own image marks the physical limits of our being. We cannot know the gods; we can only experience them (Leeming, D.A. 2014).

Hesiod’s Theogony is a pre-classical Greek didactic epic poem that focuses on the cosmology of the universe, the genealogy of the gods, and the eventual reign of the almighty Zeus as the “Supreme Being.” Hesiod’s cosmology is important in Greek mythology because the poem explains the gods, and how the “Supreme Beings” created the universe. It was meant as an instructional piece of literature that give answers to questions that the Greeks had regarding why they were here, how the universe was formed, and who formed it. Though Zeus becomes the almighty ruler over all the gods; the gods, goddesses and lesser spirits play a significant role in the creation of the universe, the purge of humanity from the destruction of the flood, and the afterlife. In the Theology, Hesiod fulfills the Muses’ command on the origin and genealogies of the gods and the established reign of Zeus:

So, spoke the fresh-voiced daughters of great Zeus/ And plucked and gave a staff to me, a shoot/ of blooming laurel, wonderful to see/ And breathed a sacred voice into my mouth/ With which to celebrate the things to come/ And the things which were before. They ordered me/ to sing the race of blessed ones who live/ Forever, and to hymn the Muses first/ and at the end. No more delays: begin (Damrosch D. & Pike D. 2008).

A similarity is also found in Virgil’s Aeneid. The gods have a vital part in the lives of the mortals and to the demigod Aeneas. They decide their destinies, especially Zeus who is the “Supreme Being” over all the gods, as in Hesiod’s didactic epic poem. The Aeneid has a lot of involvement of Zeus and the gods through divine intervention, along with the pietas in the character of Aeneas. Although Aeneas is upstanding in character as a hero, the mighty Zeus has great hatred toward him and the Trojans and make a constant effort to interfere in Aeneas’ quest. His mother Venus, who is also a god, pleads with Zeus on her son’s behalf:

It was the day’s end when from the highest air/ Jupiter looked down on the broad sea/ Flecked with the wings of sails, and the land masses/ Coasts, and nations of the earth. He stood/ On heaven’s height and turned his gaze toward Libya/ And, as he took the troubles there to heart/ Venus appealed to him, all pale and wan/ With tears in her shining eyes/ “My lord who rule/ The lives of men and gods now and forever/ And bring them all to heel with your bright bolt/ What in the world could Aeneas do/ What could the Trojan’s do, so to offend you/ That after suffering all those deaths they find/ The whole world closed to them, because of Italy (Damrosch D. & Pike D. 2008)?

While Hesiod’s Theogony and Virgil’s Aeneid focus on the Greek divine myth of many gods, Dante’s Inferno focuses on one “Supreme Being,” the one and only God of the Christian belief. Dante’s Inferno states this fact in lines 1.127-29, “He governs everywhere, but rules from there/ there is His city, His high capital: O happy those He chooses to be there (The Divine Comedy of Dante Inferno, trans. Mandelbaum A. p.9). Though Dante focuses on the belief of one God, Virgil, whose epic poem revolves around the Greek gods, is his guide through his adventure through the gates of hell. Hell, being the opposite of the “happy” place in heaven, is where the two poets venture after Dante is forced to go back to the dark forest. “When I had journeyed half of our life’s way/ I found myself within a shadowed forest/ for I had lost the path that does not stray (The Divine Comedy of Dante Inferno, trans. Mandelbaum A. 1980). Dante saw the sun upon the mountain (the light of God in the upper world) but is forced back to endure the darkness of sin that the Christian faith speaks against in the Bible. It is in this dark forest that Dante meets the spirit of Virgil and begins the descent into hell (Limbo is the first circle of hell where Virgil exists). Dante must journey through hell to reach paradise and spend eternity with God, the Supreme Being.

Throughout all these epic poems, the similarity of acquiring a spiritual guide is apparent in the various religious beliefs. For example: a religious guide is sought out in Hesiod and Virgil’s poems, and Virgil is the spiritual guide in Dante’s poem. The example in Hesiod’s Theogony is the Muses. The Muses in Greek mythology were sister goddesses, daughters of Zeus, who gave the ability of music, and in Hesiod’s case, the ability to write epic poetry. In the beginning verses of the Theogony he says, “The Muses once taught Hesiod to sing/ Sweet songs, while he was shepherding his lambs (Damrosch D. & Pike D. 1.25-26, p.55). In the epic poem of Virgil, Aeneas is guided by Sibyl, a woman who had prophetic powers. In Book Six, he promises to build a temple for the Sybil, the gods Apollo and Diana, and the priests. Aeneas states,

Then I will build you a solid temple/ Apollo and Diana, established hallowed days/ Apollo, in your name. And Sybil, for you too/ a magnificent sacred shrine awaits you in our kingdom/ There I will house your oracles, mystic revelations/ made to our race, and ordain your chosen priests (The Aeneid, trans. Fagles R. 6.83-88, p.184-185).

In Dante’s Inferno, Virgil becomes the guide for Dante. He comes as a spirit to guide Dante into hell. Virgil is the perfect guide for Dante because he lives in Limbo and is also familiar with the inhabitants of hell. Virgil speaks to Dante, “I was a poet, and I sang the righteous/ son of Anchises who had come from Troy/ when flames destroyed the pride of Ilium/ But why do you return to wretchedness/ why not climb up the mountain of delight/ the origin and cause of every joy…Therefore, I think and judge it best for you/ to follow me, and I shall guide you, taking/ you from this place through an eternal place (The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri Inferno, 1980, 1.73-76, 1.112-114). Virgil then guides him through hell, so Dante can reach paradise.

Another similarity in the three epic poems is the concept of the afterlife. In the Inferno, Dante’s journey takes him deep into the nine levels of hell, the afterlife of the Christian belief. Like Dante, Aeneas from Virgil’s Aeneid also journeys to the underworld in Book Six “The Kingdom of the Dead.” Aeneas is seeking out his father who passed on when they left Troy. Aeneas, like Dante faces many obstacles throughout his journey into the underworld. Hesiod’s Theogony also speaks of an afterlife. In his epic poem, the underworld or hell refers to Tartarus. Hesiod speaks of the Titans being thrown into the underworld, with a brief description of the terror of the dreadful place.

Overshadowed the Titans, put them down/ in everlasting shade. Under the earth/ Broad-pathed, they sent them, and they bound them up/ in painful chains. Proud though the Titans were/ they were defeated by those hands, and sent/ to misty Tartarus, as far beneath/ the earth, as earth is far beneath the heavens (Damrosch D. & Pike D. 2008).

There are many similarities between the Theogony, the Aeneid, and the Inferno, but there are some differences in the epic poems. The differences found, are due to the changes that occurred throughout Europe from the ancient period to the medieval period. Some of the differences are: in Greek mythology, mortals believed in more than one god, where as in Christian beliefs, there is belief in only one God. Another example is the cosmology of Hesiod. Hesiod gives explanation not only of the genealogy of the gods, but the creation of the universe and how the gods developed throughout the creation process. In Virgil’s epic, the gods are still active, and though Dante uses Virgil in his epic, Virgil was born before the birth of Christ and the establishment of Christianity. Also, in Greek mythology, the gods and the goddess possess human like traits like love and hate, lying and cheating, anger, and revenge. In Dante’s Inferno, he uses metaphor to give the traits of various sins and actions to animals.

In conclusion, although Dante’s Inferno revolves around the Christian belief of one God, and Hesiod and Virgil’s beliefs revolve around many gods, there is still an established Supreme Being in all three epic poems. They also had a spiritual guide, whether it be a Muse, a Sybil, or the spirit of a man. Finally, they all had a concept of the afterlife. The differences in the three epics occur because of the cultural changes and development of the Christian faith. The comparison of the three epic poems are more similar than they are different, even though there is a change in the belief system.

THE WORD IN THE WORD A Few Remarks on the Art of Reading



In a former editorial, in a critical essay about the relationship between reading and writing, NilavroNill Shoovro rightly said: “Regular reading is as essential as oxygen for a writer or poet. Without which we can never take our writings up to the next level of excellence.” In the following lines I would like to enlarge upon this topic from the perspective of the reader’s reception process.

In August 2007, Luis Camnitzer initiated the project “The Last Book”, a collection of written and visual texts, meant as a legacy for future generations and as a document of the book-based culture of our time. “The Last Book” was intended to be a testimony of how our civilization is mirrored by the printed word, in case this should disappear by catastrophe or for other reasons, or mutate due to the strong impact of the Internet and other media.

Is our book-based culture really in danger? And, if so, is literary reading, as part of it, doomed to disappear or to mutate? Nobody can see into the future, but if the word mutation is interpreted as an aspect of innovation, then we can say that book-based culture with all its facets is, to a large extent, but not in every respect, mutating. We are witnessing rapid development of the media as carriers of information, but the nature of the relationship between humans as receptors and processors of information, and the information itself, be it mundane or artistically sophisticated, remains basically the same. If we consider the realm of art and, within it, the interplay between art consumers and works of art, the statement appears valid that the nature of this interaction has not changed much in the course of time. The same holds true with regard to the relationship between the reader and a piece of literature in the process of its reception. Without doubt, each generation of readers have their own premises when getting involved with a literary work, but reading as a cognitive and aesthetic experience has, in my opinion, been roughly the same across the ages.

A literary work is not a finite product, but a permanent, creative process of encoding and decoding of reality, process which takes place in our consciousness. It starts with the writer, who encodes his own sense of reality generated by his personality, education and environment. The peculiarities of his mother tongue play an important role in this process. The resulting literary work undergoes a further performance in the mind of the reader in the course of its decoding. Again, such factors as education, personality and language characteristics (new ones when readers have other mother tongues) leave their marks on the product in process. A new fictional reality emerges, which is hardly likely to be identical to that of the writer. The more skilfully and convincingly the writer processes his own sense of reality, the higher the probability will be that the reader experiences it in a similar way. Identity of experience is, though, out of the question and actually undesirable, as it would mean that a completed work of art is always and for all readers the same, an end product instead of a living corpus apt to develop new potentialities.

To sum up, the relationship between writer, writer’s reality, text, reader and reader’s reality can be represented by the figure below. It becomes obvious that one piece of literature will have as many fictional realities as readers. This is a sort of primary type of translation, in which the writer  ‘translates’ and the reader ‘re-translates’ reality according to their own perception of it.




                        reality’                                    reality”

                            ¦                                   ^

                           v                                    ¦

                        text – – – – – – – – – – – > reader

As indicated above, among the features that make readers different  from one another, turning each one into a unique art receptor, a significant role is played by how the specific structures of the readers’ languages shape their views of the surrounding reality. This amounts to saying that people coming from different language communities have diverging approaches to the same verbal contexts, whether in literary or daily use. But when talking about receptors from different language communities, we usually imply that that specific literary text is actually accessed in translation and not in the author’s original version. It is, of course, a secondary type of translation, the transposition into a new language of the primary translation. Doubtlessly, a difficult task considering all the mental processes involved in this complex design.

What makes a good translator? Any translator of poetry or prose can only do their work according to their artistic intuition which, in its turn, is the result of years of involvement with literature, culture and the complexities of civilization. In his or her encounter with the poem, he or she is confronted with the end product of the creative process of the poet. But is this really an end product? Yes and no. From the poet’s view it is an end product. What starts as an amalgam of feelings, sensations and urges has been grasped, structured, organized and, ultimately, materialized in words and images – an end product. For readers, translators included, this end product is a beginning, a platform for interpretation. They must undergo the opposite process, from the printed words to the mental images, to the depths of whatever urged the poet to write that special poem in that special way – to what Walter Benjamin calls “the unfathomable, the mysterious”.

To what extent the translator can be successful in this endeavor widely depends on the degree to which that, what I would call the primary amalgam, the raw material at the origin of the literary work, especially of the poetic work, has been structured and organized by its author into the end product. The more transparent this structuring of the raw material is, the less demanding the translator’s task will be, due to the fact that the author’s intention is easier to grasp. Where the author is very parsimonious when putting flesh to the bones of his work, the challenge for the translator is a huge one. An ideal solution to this quandary has yet to be found.

Opinions about the requirements on a good translator are, without doubt, diverse, but I believe that one of the main aspects of this debate refers to the translator being, like every reader, an individual receptor of the work of art. That means that, on the one hand, he himself cannot claim ultimate comprehension of a literary work, and, on the other hand, neither readers nor critics can expect any final or universal translation from him. It is precisely the potential of every piece of literature to be interpreted and, accordingly, translated in more than one way that makes this work vital and durable.

Summing up, reading in general and poetry reading to an even higher extent, are most complex processes which require more than just skimming through clusters of words. I second NilavroNill Shoovro in his assertion that superficial reading is not much worth. Thoughtful reading, on the other hand, may be more time and attention demanding, but in return it can be highly rewarding and enriching.

Dr. Aprilia Zank

(reference: Zank, Aprilia, THE WORD IN THE WORD, Literary Text Reception and Linguistic Relativity, Lit Verlag, Berlin, 2013)