BY SUDHANSHU CHOPRA
In Midnight in Paris, when Gil Pender, a present-day, successful but creatively unfulfilled Hollywood screenwriter, travels back to the 1920’s for the first time to a party for Jean Cocteau, I’m amused by the presence of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: my dear authors speaking as if they are writing: Zelda, “missing the bathtub gin,” is high on adjectives, and Scott, well he never misses out on a chance to say “old sport.”In the background, Cole Porter sings a Cole Porter song. Everyone looks neat and shiny; cigarette puffs punctuate sophisticated sips of wine. The person I’m looking for is not there.
Another scene, another bar, though plain and quieter, Gil meets Hemingway: unkempt hair and fairly under-dressed as compared to the people in the situation earlier described. I get hopeful. But later in the movie he, too, is shown getting drunk at what seems to be an invite-only party. He is also associated with a woman—a stunning fashion model conveniently out of an ordinary man’s reach (unless the man is an anti-hero, whose lack of sweeping ability only makes him all the more attractive, and who, of course, is not fictional.) With these steps, Hemingway bluntly walks out of the shadow I had initially thought he might be sitting comfortably in. He, too, turns out to be part of yet another literary circle: the circles capable of only producing revolution, and failing to open up to freedom and diversity (whichthey apparently advocate), mostly because of their closeness, their circularity.
I wonder if all this was being watched from a dark corner by someone like the anonymous master who wrote the very fine Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.Also, a ballad singer comes to mind, one having no idea of the privilege he could have achieved by asserting his ownership over the invaluable lyrics he so nonchalantly scattered at curbs going around towns. Maybe if by wearing a certain sort of trinket he had shone like radium, people would have thought of him as a finer man. He would have inspired awe—in place of homeliness—amongst his ragged listeners who would have spotted him from a distance, thus in a way bringing him closer to them than his words ever could.
I, Art, have always been the field of the elite. The part of me that has not been so is unknown, mainly because it could not fit the social construct of popularity.And I do not speak just of kings and nobles, but of every era that has been doing the same: a handful of erudite gathering in groups, leaving out millions whose stake in me is no lesser. A bird’s eye view would show separate, distant dots—formless on the body of time—rather than a uniform veneer that covers all nakedness.
Since my inception, perhaps even before—when my idea was being conceived in black holes—I was meant to be imbibed, not made. I had smooth, flexible ends, not the stiffness of unwritten rules and tacit protocols which were forced upon me by every movement no matter how much liberal and anti-establishment it called itself to be. And these limitations have not been so much in the works than in the interaction of people producing those works, because wherever humans are involved there is always preference and dislike, clash of thought, and intervention of ego.On these factors is decided what and who deserves tobe in the group—who is capable of being an artist. Therefore, every age has had its artists, and the commonplace folks—the ones who can’t comprehend me.
At this point, I’m inclined to wonder if I’ve always been just another societal norm, away from the universality I stand for. Sometimes they try to adapt, the non-artists— they spend evenings watching intense theatre, or standing in front of confusing brush strokes on canvas, and after getting home, try to convince themselves of the beauty of what they just witnessed.They are ready to change, rather than contribute with their originality. Would I ever be able to purge myself of promoting this pretence?
How would I know? I’m too old and fraught now to pine for a perfect past. I can only ask you to write prose poetry or poetry prose, or any third form that you can conjure, maybe even go directly to a fifth, or simply come back to the classic iambic pentameter couplet if that is your dark corner where you can sit secluded from ideology and relationship to the external, offering your blank mind to my once free, independent and all-pervading body.
It is then that I hope to find you, my elusive person. And I hope to find you before Liam Neeson does.
SUDHANSHU CHOPRA hails from India. He draws inspiration to write from observation, memories, subconscious, books he reads, movies he watches, and music he listens to. Sometimes a phrase or simply a word is enough. Some of his poetry has been published in In Between Hangovers, Anti Heroin Chic, Calamus Journal, Wordweavers, FIVE:2:ONE, and Right Hand Pointing. Some more of his poems/thoughts could be found on his blog, The Bard.