A Report on the talk given by Dr. Mahmudul Hasani at Sana’a University Modern poetry:The reality and the myth [Archives:2003/686/Education]

November 17 2003

By Dr Ayid Sharyan
Department of English
Faculty of Education
Sana’a University

On 5 October Dr Mahmudul Hasani, Head of the Department of English, University of Science and Technology, Sana’a, gave a talk on Twentieth-Century Poetry: An Overview. at the Department of English, Faculty of Education, Sana’a University. Students from all levels as well as the faculty members were present.
At the outset, Dr Hasani traced the origin of modern poetry. He referred to the last two decades of the 19th century, especially to the major technical innovators like G.M. Hopkins and Thomas Hardy — the semi-Victorian and semi-modern poets. He explained how they influenced other writers like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, leading to the emergence of varied modes and concepts in the 20th Century (e.g. imagism, symbolism, fragmentation, allusions, loss of faith, spiritual bareness, Oxford Group, etc).
He touched upon the Georgian poets that evaded the harsh reality by going to simplicity, instead of facing reality. He illustrated the different modes of modernism and postmodernism by referring to some writers in American and British literature. He quoted lines from poets like T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, W.H. Auden, Amy Lowell, Ezra Pound and so on. He emphasized how modern poetry deals with the harsh reality of modern man unlike the romantic or neo-classical poets. Modern poets, particularly in the first half of the 20th Century, like the metaphysical poets, tend to exhibit their learning and scholarship in their poetry to challenge the reader. If life is complicated, it needs language that is complicated to express this entanglement of modern man. The individual is caught between personal desires and social obligations that alienate him from others. Modern man is faced with great challenges of ideologies and historical events that include Freud’s psychology and Marx’s theory of class struggle. These are explicitly or implicitly reflected in modern poetry. Decadents and war poets as well as wasteland literature are manifestations of disintegration and spiritual collapse. Many things in the periphery are unable to hold to the center any more. To quote W.B. Yeats “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold”. Conventional establishments such as family, beliefs, ideologies that used to represent a point of reference are challenged by modern thoughts. Bewilderingly complex demands in the modern age have alienated the individual who runs after mirage.
He concluded his talk by highlighting the causes leading to the obscurity of modern poetry which relate, on the one hand, to the techniques used such as imagism, irregular rhyme, irregular rhythm, no fixed stanza form, no fixed metric unit and, on the other, to its theme such as war, allusions to different cultures, obsession with death, loneliness, loss of faith, wasteland literature, psychological catastrophes, etc.
The illuminating and highly informative talk evoked a lively participation by students who had an opportunity to interact with the speaker as well as with Dr Abraham. Dr Ayid Sharayn, and other staff members in the Department. The event was marked by a stimulating intellectual fervour which was shared by all those who were present on the occasion.