Art and poetry share an inseparable bond. While one is usually described as silent poetry, the other is often referred to as a work of art created with words. Since time immemorial, both these worlds of creativity have been influencing and inspiring each other. Down the ages, a great number of poets have either been pursuing art with immense dedication, or converting images seen in a work of art into image-bearing or symbolic words. An equally great number of artists, similarly, since ancient times, have borrowed, consciously or unconsciously, images and symbols from the world of literature in general and poetry in particular. Let alone the legends of the Italian Renaissance or other greats of the Western world, this wonderful coexistence is perfectly embodied by none other than Rabindranath himself, so much so that French art critic Henri Bidou wrote in 1930 : “In producing poetry, he (Rabindranath) worked as a painter; now that he is a painter, he works like a poet.”
This spirit is also embodied beautifully by our very own Hiren Bhatacharya and Nilmani Phukan, two iconic figures of the world of poetry in Assam. Just as acclaimed art critic Herbert Read is a serious poet in his own right, Nilmani Phukan, too, has been an art critic of extraordinary vision and understanding. Hiren Bhattacharya, too, takes to painting and drawing from time to time and produces works of quality.
It is because of this close interrelation that art and poetry have evolved side by side over the years. Romanticism captivated these twin worlds for a long period of time. Surrealism was founded by someone who happened to be a legend of French poetry. His name was Andre Breton. Now is the time when Postmodernism has seeped into the world of art, as well as poetry.
Though inseparably linked, art and poetry are but two different media of expression with distinctive characteristics and mediumistic beauty. Both originate from the same seed, and they are the two branches of the same tree with unique features of their own. A pictorial reproduction of a poem can never recreate the original beauty and magic of the words, just as a poem, ‘translated’ from a painting, can never create the same degree of sensations in the soul. So far as creating sensations in the mind of a viewer or a reader is concerned, art and poetry are not complementary to each other. This is because not only are the kind of feelings generated by a work of art or a poem different, there may be difference in their depth and degree as well.
Our senses play a vital role in our appreciation of art and poetry. A painting or any other work of art, except sculptures, has to be seen with the eyes, which are but only the visible and external part of something that eventually completes the process– the inner vision. A sculpture, on the other hand, is created to be seen; but it is possible that some of them can also be felt through touching, even in pitch darkness. In case of a painting, drawing or a graphic work, the eyes are a pre-requisite. A poem is also meant to be read, but it can also be read aloud– and it requires only the ears as receptors. Homer was a blind man. Towards the later phase of his life, Milton, too, went blind, while the work on Paradise Lost was still going on. His wife helped him complete the process.
It can be pointed out that poetry is restricted to language, while a work of art can be seen or appreciated by people all over the world. With the growth of information technology, art has found a more expanded horizon. But in case of a poem written in a particular language, it is the feeling beneath the surface created by words, that has a universal appeal. It was not the Sanskrit language, but the sorrow expressed through the world’s first lines of poetry, that was universal – Ma nishada prathishtam twamagamaha/Shashwathi samaha/Yatkrouncha mithunadekam avadhihi kamamohithaha.