WRITING STYLE: 3/5
Let me start by stating that I am not a reader of poetry. I am not a consumer of words that present themselves in metaphors and sentences that alliterate. I have always preferred prose, stories, pages and pages of a world that a book brings with itself. That said, while reviewing An Apology For Shakespeare, I put my bias at bay and kept an open mind. Here is what a little introduction to the book will read like:
“An Apology For Shakespeare is a humble attempt to show that there is a need of awareness about Poetry in our life. Study of poetry and its manifold forms need to be encouraged. It voices against the negative and indifferent attitude to virtues and good qualities. This book aims to create a conscience among the people about the vanishing values and ideals from many of us. The study of classics is significant in this end as they provide much knowledge and wisdom and have grave and serious themes.”
In the preface, the poet S.A. Joseph humbly mentions how he feels the need to convince his fellowmen on why poetry should be highly valued. This preface is a clear testimony to the poet’s attachment to poetry itself. The passion for poetry and the yearning in his words only adds to the richness of An Apology For Shakespeare. When you start reading the book knowing how passionately the writer wants to bring his words to you, it appeals to you all the more. The poet provided a foreword and a prologue. While it is important to introduce your poetry with your own take towards it, more than a couple introductions tend to get repetitive. Despite this, the prologue stood out. It offered an insight into what a “defence” actually means.
This book is not written in response to anybody’s attack on poetry, but to create an awareness about the need of constant vigilance against the possible indirect uprooting.
There is a total of 52 poems in An Apology For Shakespeare – and I would say almost every single one revolves around love or a power higher than man. The book follows this theme throughout the poems. The poems vary in length and style but hold on to this theme in one way or other.
There are various emotions that the poems convey, and do so most beautifully. For instance, the first poem, (Chapter 1) mourns the rejection of a lover. The poet describes his beautiful lover, her godly appearance and magical presence and wonders why she rejected him. The lines She was born with me in one mind / Brought up with me in one world / And taught with me in the same realm / Does she see my heart and soul? / Certainly, but I do not know fully / Why I was rejected stood out the most for me, for love at all ages suffers this agony, the agony of rejection.
The following poems follow themes of love as well, some touching upon unrequited love, rejected love and difficult love. In the third poem (chapter 3), there are also heart-warming elements of reflections. They stand very potently in the following lines: Leaving Only, Alas! / The harder part of my heart / To be alone with me forever / Yes, I did it with a tender, noble, pensive, human heart. Almost every poem dealing with love addresses God, asking Him what the poet did to deserve this loss in love. While this is a beautiful way to agonize about love, it does get monotonous after a while. Poems are a brief affair and I read through the first few quickly, but a repetition of the central themes made me put down the book. One of the most significant marks of a good book, be it prose or poetry, is an inability to stop reading. I’m afraid this book does not offer that particular value.
Coming to the writing style, I would describe it as an old school beauty. It will remind you of the poetry you were made to read in high school: Victorian in its words, a house of metaphors. However, an enjoyable difference is this: when studying poetry at school, it brought with it a sense of compulsion. I was almost repulsed by poetry and hated analysing it. But this poetry does not come with the underlying threat of an exam, and thus you will end up analysing and enjoying it yourself, without any external compulsions, despite the similar writing style. All in all, the writing style was not my favourite, but this may only be because I can in no way be called a connoisseur of poetry. Perhaps a more sharpened knowledge would lead to a better critique of this poetry. However, the poet clearly aimed at addressing a common crowd (one which may or may not hold a special interest for poetry), appealing to them and defending poetry. If the writing style remains traditional and monotonous, it becomes difficult to bring it to the favour of the millennial audience. This is especially keeping in mind that today’s youth is a huge worshipper of a form of poetry called Slam Poetry. Additionally, they enjoy button poetry, musical poetry, contemporary poetry. Hence, the poetry in An Apology For Shakespeare may get lost on those who don’t love this specific type of poetry.
Though I would not reread the entire book, I marked a few poems that stood out. Poems that drip with emotion, passion and the yearning of the poet. When you pick up this book, you will definitely find favourite ones. Maybe the shortest ones that convey an entire story in five lines, maybe one of the long ones that read like the sound of a beautiful, broken heart. These ones, I will surely reread.
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