PP Study Group

Lovers of Poetry

It is said that poetry consists exclusively of delight and is delectable with mood. This study group uses poetics (poetry theory) as the stimulus for exploring traditional and modern poetry. Understanding poetics enables the objective evaluation of poetic skill. A composition theme is suggested each time and participants share their work with the group. Topics include

Poetry and Thought

This topic explores the philosophy of language as it relates to poetry and the world of ideas. It introduces conceptualisation as a unique faculty of the mind, enabling it to convey ideas beyond the factual. This power is exploited to the full in poetry by means of linguistic devices. The theory of language presented is based on an ancient Sanskrit work on psychology, the Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali.

Other subjects, from Sanskrit poetics, include inspiration and its supports, the definition of poetry and the three classes of poetry analysed according to the presence or absence of hidden meanings.

Words and Meanings

What is the secret behind whether a piece of literature or poetry grips the imagination and succeeds, or fails to engage and falls flat? It is the effective transference of meaning from author to audience. There are three powers of words – to state plainly, to imply hidden meanings and to evoke ideas and emotions – and they are manipulated in story telling in order to establish a connection between two minds.

Sentences and meanings also have power over and above the individual words. The discussion therefore includes the purport of sentences and the evocative power of meanings.

Emotion and Dramatic Mood

Why are people entranced by novels, poetry and plays? How do authors evoke emotional responses and build up a ‘dramatic mood’ that reflects actual life yet affects the mind only temporarily? Consciously or unconsciously, good storytellers induce the desired mood in their audience by introducing characters, circumstances and actions that support, intensify, relieve and indicate emotions. Sounds self-evident? Yet there is a science behind the art of literature. The science can be found – surprisingly – in Sanskrit theories of aesthetics and poetics. In explaining the creation of emotion and dramatic mood it elucidates principles that apply to engaging writing of whatever century or culture, including English literature.

The workshops discuss ‘evocative’ poetry and explain dramatic mood and how it is generated and indicated. Additional topics are transient moods, abiding and transient emotions, and literary forms depicting these.

Hidden Meanings

Poetry, as the consummation of linguistic expression, is replete with implications, innuendoes and figures of speech that suggest meanings beyond the superficial. An analysis of meanings – stated, implied and evoked – is set out in Sanskrit poetic theory, whose major contribution, relevant to all languages, is an explanation of the evocative power of poetry. Mastering the art of poetry will make eloquence blossom; indeed, it is asserted that poetry leads to fame, wealth, knowledge of the ways of the world, the removal of misfortune and instantaneous sheer delight.

The subjects discussed include the classification of poetry and the language of evocation. There is poetry with evocation dominant, poetry with evocation subordinate and poetry without evocation.

Attributes and Defects of Poetry

To produce good poetry it helps to avoid grammatical errors and awkwardness of style. A checklist of these defects is provided by Sanskrit poetic theory: linguistic flaws relating to syntax, meaning, and sentence structure and flaws in the evocation of mood and hidden meanings. By the same token poetry can have attributes which are congruent with the content of a poem: sweetness, vigour and clarity. This checklist provides a yardstick for evaluating poetry.

Ornamentation of Language

Language has enormous scope for ornamentation and figures of speech are a feature of poetry. Knowing the range of linguistic devices opens up possibilities for making writing picturesque in both sound and meaning. Sanskrit poetic theory classifies more linguistic devices than English, but all languages use them. An interesting example is sarcasm, which is classified as a phonetic figure of speech.

The topics also include two types of ‘picturesque’ poetry, a metaphor for poetry and phonetic and semantic figures of speech.