Between the Covers of Books | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 15, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 15, 2017


Between the Covers of Books

“I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on

In the world between the covers of books, 

Such sandstorms and ice blasts of words… 

Such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, 

Such and so many blinding bright lights…

Splashing all over the pages

In a million bits and pieces

All of which were words, words, words,

And each of which were alive forever

In its own delight and glory and oddity and light.” ~ Dylan Thomas


Some may say poetry does not bring peace; it does not do anything “substantial”. Well, if some people think that peace is a piece of something that they can somehow discover somewhere as a lapis philosophorum and then insert it in the heart of the grand mechanism of life that showcases myriad nooks and nuances of incomprehensible kinds, then I am sorry to inform them that they might have serious delusional dreams that make them see visions of a fantastic world – one with incorruptible political and civil harmony – which, only to leave some room for doubt, may never actually come true. Peace in no way is like the saviourex machina; it does not originate somewhere in the “external” and then have a centripetal movement; rather, it blooms out of the centre, and the centre, no matter what post-structuralists say in their unique cerebral capacity, is, and has always been, human individuals. Peace therefore is unquestionably anthropocentric. It cannot be systematically disseminated, nor can it be systematized, nor supervised by one particular institution. Therefore, the reality is always peace ex nihilo, where the “nothing” denotes “indefinite possibility”, which, definitely, one particular institutional projector cannot contain within its limited jurisdiction.

A debatable opinion this may be, but in reality, peace lies in small, often intimate, moments; it lies in everything that is poetic (not poetry necessarily) or which rhymes with what our existence covets in its multifarious whims. Reading in between lives, can we truly interpret the complex codes and chaos of constantly complicating realities that keep peace at bay? So, what I am trying to say is that, there is nothing called peace but only “peaceful moments” that may insufflate its essence into larger realities when too many people are not necessarily “poets” but have considered the “poetic sensibility” necessary. Poetry intoxicates the mind with potions of “truth” and “beauty” and it is only when the mind is thus administered with these powerful potions, one can develop microscopic perspectives and see what is not readily visible to open eyes; it is only then can one see beyond the obvious, read between the shades, discerncolours, and ultimately appreciate the little things that unwrap the gifts of life. Allow me a moment to hypothesize: peace is invisible to eyes that are not poetic, since such eyes cannot appreciate the little things.In contrast, the mystical temperament believes that God lies in the details, in the grain of beings. It is not difficult to comprehend the truth that understanding the world may bring peace, and it is poetry, much intricately than anything else, that helps us to understand the world. This particular psycho-intellectual disposition is what fashions our characters, whose effects on our surroundings are indubitable. Although denounced by rationalists, this sensuousness of the world, discerned by the worldliness of our intellect, entices our senses and thus takes us closer to the bits where we may encounter, in a magnified state, the magnificent Leibnizian monads – the ensemble that renders “meaning” and “beauty” to the nature of reality as we perceive it in our limited understanding.


Beauty has two forms- the obvious and the oblique. The firstkind can be found in beautiful things and therefore can be encountered by anyone who happens to pass them by; the oblique ones, on the other hand, are what we need to extract from the blandly mundane. It requires a little perceptiveness and a little power of observation to find oblique beauty (which, let me remind you, intoxicates the mind) that remains camouflaged around us. But once it starts to communicate, and its inapprehensible language starts to make sense to an individual, the spirit rejoices for this peculiar gift, which, the spirit fancies, has only been bestowed on it. This fancy, this priceless passion of attainment conceived in a moment, makes the mind alive with peaceful feelings. For example, on a winter evening, when you hold the hand of your beloved inside the pocket of your jacket and feel the warmth that elevates your heart to heights even birds cannot reach, there is peace. After a hot summer day when the thunderbolts get busy displaying the art of kintsukuroi on a broken sky and the night plays music with invisible strings on the taro leaves, there is peace. One cannot deny that there is a particular peace in petrichor! There is an aching peace in nostalgia too, in reminiscing about the good old days, or in the moment when “painful pleasure” in childhood “turns to pleasing pain” in age. When you see a small child trying to catch a butterfly with his fingers smaller than the bug, or when a butterfly circles your leg for no reason, there is peace. There is peace even when your words put smiles on the faces of your students, and when their smiles make you smile inside without anyone noticing.

Now what is poetry other than the exhibition of oblique beauty (thus itself becoming beautiful)? And what is poetry other than a fine display of what perceptive individuals have discerned from the realities with the power of their unique observation? Poetry, to perhaps put it too simply, is the tool through which we can live these moments in our mind without living them actually. And poets are those humans who do their bits to make the mundane magnificent! So if we can truly achieve the poetic feelings within us, each of us will be instrumental to the achievement of a serene environment, which, let me tell you, will never be permanent. And that is the beauty of it, because imperfection is the spice to the desire of our becoming, and when there is no desire, there is no life!

Now surely one cannot expect to have an ocean out of nowhere without the colossal assembly of tiny water drops. If poetic feelings are a must to achieve that state of mental peace that affects our life and in turn bigger realities, how can one deny the contributions of people who transform poetic feelings into actual poetry, into accessible mini-worlds where one can meet, in person, life in its crude form? Poetry allows us a vantage point, to see what we merely look at and never understand. Poetic sensibility, or even poetry, presents us with personal moments of peace, because “political peace” is an oxymoron, an utter impossibility. We cannot not know that the influence of civil and political life on each other is reciprocal. But what we must not forget is that the political persons have always their personal convictions at their side that, at the end of the day, make them who they are, and after all, lead them towards adopting policies that affect everyday lives and civil society. World peace therefore depends on the individuals who populate this world with sensitivity. It depends on those of us who can dotheir bit with poetry to ignite minds. And once the mind is ignited, there is no darkness that can colonize forever this celestial garden that came into being from the centre of the solar system – the source that gives “beauty” its visibility.

Hisham teaches English at Varendra University, Rajshahi

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