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World Poetry Days in Mongolia

A few heartfelt remarks about Dr. Gombojavyn MEND-OOYO’s poem


A few heartfelt remarks about Dr. Gombojavyn MEND-OOYO’s poem

by Dr. Imre P. Zsoldos svd

Already the title of this poem is extremely well chosen. Who does not want to have shining moments in life? Are we thrown out from the womb of out mother because she does not want us? Is it true what Clarence Darrow says, that “the first half of life is ruined by our parents, the second half by our children?” Or what Abraham Cowley put in words about life, “Life is an incurable disease?”Or what we often hear cited on stages, coming from W. Shakespeare’s pen, “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing?” (Macbeth)  

No doubt everybody can occasionally have such thoughts and feelings about life, but basically, we must say, this is not “the whole truth, nothing but the whole truth” about it. Life should eventually be defined as Ewric Fromm did for all of us, “ There is no meaning to life except the meaning man gives his life by the unfolding of his powers.” Even Charles Baudelaire who spoiled his own life by debauchery could not give a better definition of life than this, “ Every man who refuses to accept the conditions of life sells his soul.” For a believer like I “Life is God’s greatest gift.”

By virtue of being born in this world, every human being has the right to say; Life, although revoltingly, but I still accept you as you are, with all your tears, fears, sorrows, painful experiences, injustices, the politicians and machiavellian maniacs, scientists, narrow minded, power hungry dictators try to instill in us. Our life, that we have to face, is indeed struggling, but it does not mean that it is senseless, hopeless and aimless.

We, the poets, like Dr. Gombojavyn MEND-OOYO, have a better way of saying what life really is. Let’s see it now in a detailed way.

As far as the form of this poem is concerned, it has been written in a free verse, i.e. there are no classical regulations where the rhythm or the rhyme of the poem would have followed any of the classical poems like a sonnet, a ballad, a madrigal etc. which the Parnassian poets considered quintessential by making such rules that “form is everything”.

We know that in modern poetry this is often disregarded and not used any more. The first stanza’s first verse here has 13 syllables, the second 12, the third 9, the fourth 9 again. The second stanza’s first verse has 14 (15), its second verse 7, the third 11, the fourth 6. In the third stanza’s form we can find another amount of syllables. The first verse of this stanza has 9 syllables, the second 6, the third 12, the fourth 13! All in all, we can say, there isn’t any strict rule used here in the creation of these three stanzas. If the poet would have added two more verses with the prescribed rhymes a sonnet must have, we could say, this is a classical poem in which we can find perfectly well applied Petrarca’s rule on the form of a sonnet. Would this poem gain something by respecting these rules? I don’t think so, maybe the contrary. It could be less smooth by that artificially grinding sound that some of the poets, even if they called themselves “Parnassians” created and imposed on themselves by such rhymes. We should never forget that even a good rhyme does not make a good poem! But this is a good poem. Why? For many good reasons!

It is a good poem for its interior rhythm and impact. If we read it aloud, we can immediately feel an enormous élan vital in these verses, a streaming energy and impact, naturally following the rhythmical breathing of the poet. He is a true son of his country. All the murmuring creeks of Mongolia and the sough of the howling winds of this immensely beautiful country are dancing in this poem like the Lippizaners in Vienna’s Hofburg to the rhythm of a waltz bewitching everybody with the elegant movement of their bodies. How do I dare saying this? Just try reading aloud the fourth verse of the first stanza: Only at night do the saddle studs sparkle, or this one, Sun shines brightest, streaming through the clouds. But any of them! Why? Because of the alliteration and that extraordinary altruistic feeling the heart of the poet is imbued with. There is not one single word in this poem in which one could sense the smallest pessimism, lethargy, nausea. Pour Sartre who could see the whole world from your dim-lit window only through the dark sunglasses of Marx’s ideology and livid, narrow mindedness even at the end of your life! What a pity that you never wanted to look a little bit further than your nose, your diabolically twisted mind! Why did you kill in your heart the desire of visiting, for example, Mongolia and did not listen to Voltaire’s recommendation when he wrote down this, “les voyages forment la jeunesse” (It’s the traveling that forms the youth.) Were you afraid that Mongolia would have disillusioned you with its freshness, youthful spirit, the purity of its air, the vastness of its evergreen pastures in summer? Here you could have understood in a jiffy that remaining sclerous is the surest sign of senescence and decrepitude! You wanted to remain forever, it seems, an old “salaud!” to give you backyour favorite word for calling the others. In Mongolia nobody tells to anybody that “L’Enfer, c’est les autres!” (The others are the Hell!) not I Jean Paul Sartre, the founder of existentialism. Reading Dr. Gombojavyn MEND-OOYO’s All shining moments, you could probably slowly but surely understand this basic universal truth that “In a shooting star’s flash, light’s unique rays converse Giving birth to a son, to light up the universe.” This is what this great poet wants most of all tell us in this poem, where everything is put under the rays of the sun in a dazzling clarity and simplicity that resembles a little bit that clarity and simplicity, which only God can have!

There are myriads of poets, writers, artists, but real great ones are rare! A poet must be first of all a down-to- earth, a terre-a- terre person who has two eyes, two ears, to nostrils, two hands, two feet, but most of all a clear mind and a compassionate heart. He must see with one of his eyes the world he was born in like any other human being. However, he should never forget that his other eye was given to him to look further than his nose, this world. He must look at the stars too at least from time to time. The word anthropos (man, a human being) in Greek tells exactly this “someone who can look upwards also.” This is an absolute duty of the poet. He must transcend. What he sees here has a symbolic meaning. Everything here on earth is sign and signifying simultaneously. As a sign it remains here, as a signifying thing it points to somewhere else. Great poets always transcend already by their sheer will and desire to create something durable, permanent and eternal. The few real great poets however do even more! Besides transcending they try to transfigure also. Transcendence can come from the mind, from the exterior too. Transfiguration is something intrinsic. It comes from the innermost core of the heart. Great poets, great saints, great artists can eventually reach this pinnacle through their artistry and way of living. But it is not given to everyone even if s/he is a genius. Besides these three levels of artistry there is a third one, which I call transubstantiation. This is given only to God. Human talent, human creativity have not reached yet this echelon. History recorded one single case in the Bible, the case when Jesus had his last supper with his 12 apostles. During the supper he said over the bread “Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.” And over the wine, “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting convenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.” By this transubstantiation God realized the greatest form of poetry writing. No poet, no artist, no genius whatever s/he excelled in, could do this as of today. But we can say that each poet is prophet, priest and poet, has this threefold function through his/her creation and art. “All shining moments” is an extraordinary proof of it. Congratulations, dear Dr. Gomboyavyn MEND-OOYO . You showed in this poem that you are certainly able to do it.

I am very sorry that I could express my ideas about this poem translated from Mongolian into the English language. I am absolutely sure that your original wording in your mother tongue is much more beautiful and artistic. I must also say that the translator did an excellent job. In translated poems I often can find terrible grammatical mistakes in the Far East.

This is not the case here. The translator has a perfect command of English. I would like to make a suggestion about one verse in the second stanza where I could read, “Song casts light into the darkness of the soul.” Here I would have put the word ‘song’ into plural for two reasons, first, ‘A song casts would be grammatically more correct, but my reason is related to linguistics. The ‘g’ is a voiced phoneme in English. It is followed as it is here by a voiceless, aspirated ‘k’. Reading them aloud in this order is a little bit difficult especially if someone wants to articulate each phoneme very well and make them understood clearly. Now, if you add an ‘s’ or in other words, you put this word in plural, this ‘s’ is a voiceless phoneme. In reading them like this “Songs cast light into the darkness of the soul” it will be much easier.

Congratulations again to you and all your fellow-poets for their immense effort to make Mongolia’s gems and pearls available to all the poets of the world. With respect, love and admiration, yours as ever, Imre P. Zsoldos svd