Read Archana Sahni’s He Loved a Poet
He Loved a Poet is one of my favourite poems by Archana Sahni. It brilliantly explores the theme of unrequited love from a fresh perspective. It is a plea of a woman-poet to her love,
Metamorphosis by Tina Banerjee
who loves her ‘poetry’ more than the ‘woman who wrote it’. The reader-beloved cannot see through the duality of the poet’s persona- the woman writing poetry(the poet) and the woman in love; He cannot read the poet’s mind in her words.
For the woman-poet, poetry is a vehicle to reach out to her beloved-reader. She is a woman first, and a poet later. She is not born a poet, it is her love for her beloved that made her one. “ This vocation is given to me by you”…” I would never have become a poet/if you could have been mine” , she admits. But to her dismay, her beloved “ love(s) the poet/ he could have also loved the woman”. But he does not, will not, cannot. Poetry for the poet becomes more than a play of words; for the reader it is ‘just another poem’.
For the woman, “each poem is (not) just a poem’- it is a plea, a mirror of her state of mind, a mode of communication. She writes for him, with a brutal knowledge that he cannot read through her words. Yet, she writes with a hope; she writes because she loves him enough not to stop writing for him, she continues to remain a poet, even though the poems come in the way of the ‘woman who loves’
The poem subtly questions many issues that lie at the heart of poetry writing and reading: it re-analyses the relation a writer has with her/himself and with the reader, it is an odyssey in search of an ‘ideal reader’*, a delineation of the pain of not having found one. On the surface, the poem appears to be a woman-poet’s plea for love to her reader-beloved. However, the undercurrents run deeper.
Poetry, or any work of art, comes to life only in the presence of an ideal reader- a reader who reads beneath and beyond the written word and can understand the true emotion that brings forth a work. However, an ‘Ideal reader’ may not be available. The woman-poet is in love with the reader-beloved and yearns for an ‘ideal reader’ in him. However, to her disappointment he isn’t/cannot be the one. She continues to write with a hope that someday he will read through her poems, and will bring them to life by truly understanding the undercurrents that run beneath them.
The reader is however not the Romantic reader- the one who dissects words and emotions to unveil the persona beneath the poem; he is a Modern reader who has announced the ‘death of the author’ and is happy to see his own reflection in the poem he reads. The Romantic poet is mercilessly tied to the hands of a narcissist Modern reader. The fate of such a marriage is gloomy; making the poet yearn for love, understanding and acceptance not as a poet “in books” but as a “woman in flesh”.
The poem is a plea for an ideal reader. A writer always longs for a reader who can understand a work in its true sense and context. An Ideal reader is a writer’s true love. The title of the poem, He Loved a Poet, can be read as the unideal reader’s self-love. He loves the poet who writes poems because the poems are a reflection of himelf. He is a narcissist who loves to see his own reflection in others; and in the longing for self, he continually evades the voice of ‘the other’.
The poet, like Echo, is in love with Narcissus, (Read the legend of Echo and Narcissus here) who is not the ideal reader. She longs for him to read her love and longing in her poems, but he has “close(ed) his pores to them”. Like Echo, She would not stop responding to the calls, she would continue to write with a hope that someday he will “throw the book into the fire and set (her) free”, the book that is “in the way of the dreamer”.
The poet does not wish to remain a poet anymore. In fact, she wishes she had never been one. She longs to be a woman who is loved as deeply as she is loved as a poet. But, the poet in her will always come in her way. she will have to learn to live with the acquired identity and suffice with love that grows with every poem she writes.
*Ideal Reader: The imaginary audience who would, ideally, understand every phrase, word, and allusion in a literary work, and who would completely understand the literary experience an author presents, and then responds emotionally as the writer wished. Term coined by Wolfgang Iser.
Read another poem written on a similar theme, In response to Sahni’s >>
Copyright, Tina Rathore.