Quotes n’ Notes: Walt Whitman* # We and poetry

Quotes n’ Notes: Walt Whitman* # We and poetry


“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. So medicine, law, business, engineering…these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love… these are what we stay alive for.” # Walt Whitman


Why do we read and write poetry? Is it because it is cute? Walt Whitman explores deeper and attributes that to a refiner dimension of the human race. Poetry, in fact, is specific to human race. Other living  beings are alien to such finer and evolved aspects of life.

Then the question arises, what makes poetry so human specific?Whitman’s answer is – passion! While all other animals are confined to mere base activities, related to food and baby making, human mind is engineered for higher activities of mind. Besides the body, man has many other aspects of life like – thoughts, emotions and energy. Passion arises from mind and emotions both. It arises in the mind and and is nurtured by the emotion.In other words, passion alone is the heart and soul of poetry.

Whitman acknowledges that many other noble pursuits, like medicine, law, business and engineering are pretty helpful to the humans and necessary to life, but…; But all  pursuits are just instruments, means to support life and sustain it. They are certainly not ‘what we stay alive for’.

Then, what is it we really stay alive for? Our real pursuit is joy, not material and short-lived but of the soul, i.e., perennial. Poetry, according to him, is an instrument and means for that. Members of the human species are blessed to have it, through reading and writing poetry.

*Walt Whitman, (1819 –1892) was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. He is among the most influential poets in the American literature, often called the ‘Father of the Free Verse. Whitman’s influence on American poetry remains quite strong till date. Whitman wrote in the preface to the 1855 edition of Leaves of Grass, “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.”Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe affirms, “You cannot really understand America without Walt Whitman, without Leaves of Grass ….” Modernist poet Ezra Pound goes one step farther and emphatically calls Whitman – “America’s poet …He is America.”


# Ashok Misra

My Reflections: Of intuition and gut feeling

My Reflections: Of intuition and gut feeling

Isn’t it, that sometimes as you are about to go on some errand, you feel something in you is not into it. Your mind sways between yes and no for a while. However, with an uneasy feeling, you go ahead, but only to discover that owing to some unforeseen circumstances, it doesn’t materialize. Your effort goes futile. You get back wondering about your yes-no dilemma, and what exactly was it that was trying to dissuade you from the errand. Well, that was your intuition or gut feeling.

Intuition, as you know, is a sort of understanding or feeling a thing without conscious recourse to thought, observation or reason. Gut feeling, a more hip expression, refers to that which arises from intuition. When you think a certain thought, you get a strange, vague feeling in your gut, i.e., belly. That’s what psychologists describe as your intuition or gut feeling. So together, they make a heady combination, don’t they?.

To elaborate a bit, sometimes it feels like something inside you is urging you to take note. Your inner voice speaks up advising you to go for a certain thing or avoid it. You seem to have a vague idea about something you should do or shouldn’t. But you can’t exactly decipher it, you do not know why. It is only when the moment has passed, and outcome of your decision and action arrives, that you heave a sigh of relief…or regret. What you abruptly did was actually a subtle act of your intuition.

Delving deeper, we discover that both – intuition as well as gut feeling are far from a physical or mental form of understanding. They are rather etherial, that is, free from the control of body and mind. They are like your soul whispering advice to you. Since soul is believed to be always right, your intuition can never go wrong. Intuition is therefore considered as one of the best guidance systems around.

Now, where does all that lead us to? Shall we always heed to the voice of intuition? Well, if it is really that, we must. But what if it wasn’t? What if one suffers from poor sense of decision making, or a habitual mental lethargy? Well, since the soul communicates its advice in very subtle voice, one has to be sensitive enough to pick it and act accordingly.

Also, when you are not alone in such a situation, you might find it difficult to explain the soul’s advice to others in a convincing manner. For example, flashback to your hostel days. Your friends manage to extort a movie+dinner programme from you on your birthday. You tried various excuses to avoid but in vain. Most reluctantly you agree and part with a big chunk of your pocket money.

With tickets in your pocket as your gang reaches the theatre, you discover, to your horror, that the whole place is surrounded by violent mobs agitating against some controversial scene in the movie. The whole area including the market, is barricaded by police and you have no option but run for life. In the aftermath, if you try to tell your disappointed friends about your ‘gut feeling’, well, you can anticipate the consequences.  

So the moral of the gut story is, we can’t afford to overlook the subtle advice of the soul. We ought to keep our communication channel with the soul duly activated for any instant alerts. That’s what this message seems to appropriately suggest: “Trust your gut. Your gut feelings are usually accurate and correct. If you truly feel there’s something, chances are, there is.” [Anon]

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# Ashok Misra

6 Tips: How to Sharpen your Creative Instincts

6 Tips: How to Sharpen your Creative Instincts

1. Whatever you do, even if it is a simple, mundane act, do it with a conscious mind. Try out new ways to do your things. That would improve your method and performance and you’d enjoy your work..

2. Be open-minded. Observe other (creative) people doing similar things. Interact and exchange ideas with them. Keep your mind open to new ideas and skills. That would sharpen your creative instincts and give you a cutting edge.

3. Do not confine yourself to your comfort zone. Step out of that and try out new ways to do your things.

4. Pursue and practice some creative art, like – creative writing, painting, photography etc. That is the best exercise for sharpening creativity. An artist gradually develops very strong imagination and aesthetic sense. He/She is an experimenter and innovator who is always after creating something new out of the stuff at hand.

5. Do not be scared of criticism or ridicule from others. Take them in your stride and go ahead with where your instinct guides. However, if it comes from a positive, knowledgeable, and well meaning  person, try to learn from that.   

6. Remember, creative minds are different from the mechanical. They sometimes need to unwind. Give your mind relaxation and peace after a hectic job/day/week. A relaxed mind is more fertile to produce creative thoughts and actions.

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# Ashok Misra

Life’s Simple Tales: On the Highway

Life’s Simple Tales: On the Highway

Once, we were travelling by car from Kanpur to Mumbai. It was about 1400 kilometres drive. We would drive all the day and take a night halt at some rest house by the highway. The third day, after passing Nasik, my father-in-law, at the driving wheel, realized that the vehicle was slightly swaying and losing speed. He drove it to the roadside under a tree and stopped. The right hand front tyre had gone flat.

He opened the boot and I pulled the stepney out. Taking out the jack and other tools, we started the operations to replace the flat wheel.The jack was slipped under the body spring, the rod attached to it and efforts were on to raise the flat tyre up. But the jack was totally stuck, it won’t move a bit. We took turns, perspiring profusely, with all our might, but no use. I started looking for some puncture repair shop nearby, but there was none in sight.

Suddenly, a truck passed by us. It slowed down, turned rightwards and stopped ahead of us. Next moment, its driver alighted and came down to us, busy struggling with the stubborn jack. “Kya hua bauji”? (What happened Sir), he asked. Daddy explained the problem. He sat down, took the jack rod and tried his own hand to move it, but it still refused to oblige.

Then he called up his cleaner/assistant and asked him to bring their own jack, used for the truck. It was a huge equipment with trolley wheels to pulled it up. I wondered if that would really work. From then on, the cleaner was at the helm. With some extra power, he managed to push the contraption under the vehicle, and then, things started happening. Within ten minutes, the flat tyre was replaced by the stepney, and the car was ready to run again.

We heaved a huge sigh of relief. Daddy profusely thanked the stranger who had arrived as a god-sent. We offered him some money for his timely help, but the good samaritan just refused to accept. When Daddy insisted, he simply said, “Bauji, we are all the time on the road. Many times we too are in trouble, and somebody comes down to help us.” I looked at his face and was amazed at his cool thinking and simple way of living his day to day life. His words still sometimes ring in my ears…even after about thirty five years.

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# Ashok Misra

Quotes n’ Notes: John Dryden* # Happy the Man

Happy the man, and happy he alone,
He who can call today his own:
He who, secure within, can say,
Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.
Be fair or foul or rain or shine
The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.
Not Heaven itself upon the past has power,
But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.


John Dryden’s Happy the Man was written during the 1700s. This is a much shorter poem, only 1 stanza. I have picked this poem because even after about four centuries, the poetic wisdom it carries holds as relevant as when the poet had penned it.

The theme of Happy the Man is happiness. Dryden affirms that a man is happy, and he alone is happy who can call his today his own. In other words, the one who lives in his present moment. He who has got a sense of security within, and with a damn care attitude, boldly challenges the tomorrow (future) to do his worst. Such a man is not bothered by what might come tomorrow because he has already lived his present. So no worries, no regrets.

Now, what is the secret of his undaunting spirit? His joys! He tells in an upbeat mood, that come what may, whether it was good or bad, whether it was rainy and dark or sunny and light, despite the (unpleasant) games of the fate, he had possessed and thoroughly enjoyed his joys. According to him, nobody has the power to snatch away from the past, even a bit of fulfillment and happiness he has had. The speaker’s attitude against his detracters is that anyone, who lives in the now, accepts one’s past, and does not fear one’s future, is capable of triumphing over life’s uncertainties. Dryden argument is that happiness is attained by one who can appreciate the now and have a consistently positive and grateful attitude towards life, regardless of the situation.

As for the poetic form, Happy the Man is in Dryden’s heroic couplet. A heroic couplet is a pair of rhyming lines that is present in a heroic poem or that relays themes of heroism within a larger poem. Heroic couplets generally consist of two lines written in iambic pentameter, though some poets chose to vary the meter, perhaps using blank verse or incorporating enjambment between the first line and the second line. In general, heroic couplets  follow a simple AA end rhyme scheme, for example, alone-own; say-today. Also, Happy the Man is similar to a limerick.

*John Dryden (1631-1700), the English author is best known as a playwrit, poet and critic. He also wrote about 30 plays and was one of the greatest dramatists of his time. He is best known today as a satirist, although he wrote only two great original satires: Mac Flecknoe (1682) and The Medall (1682). His most famous poem, Absalom and Achitophel (1681) contains several brilliant satiric portraits.

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# Ashok Misra