Monday 26 April 2021

Poetry and Illusion

Interviews by: Dr. JERNAIL SINGH ANAND


Dr. Jernail Singh Anand: Welcome to World Literature India. My first question to you is what is the connection between poetry and dreams?

Sujatha Warrier: Thank you Jernail Singh Ji for this recognition. It is indeed an honour for me. As an ordinary person who always dreams and sometimes writes poetry, I feel both dream and poetry are manifestations of the inner self of the dreamer or the poet. Both have elements of imagination. Both use imageries. Both are inspired and driven by passion. Both occur as a poet’s or a dreamer’s response to their own thoughts, experiences and the world around them. However, poetry communicates with people, and every reader engages with what they read in their own way based on their thoughts and experiences. The same poetry creates different images in different minds.

JSA: Can you draw a line between a dream and a delusion?

SW: I would differentiate them based on the presence or absence of realism. Delusion is being out of touch with reality. The person under delusion believes in the delusion in spite of marked evidence to the contrary. Dreams are normally defined as images and experiences that pass through one’s mind while in a sleeping state. Whether the dreamer believes in the dream or not is irrelevant, as he cannot be concerned about reality in that state. Having said that, a dream also means a strong aspiration to achieve something. Such a person who chases that kind of a dream believes in it and has it in him to turn his dream into reality.

JSA: Can we call them normal human beings who are chasing dreams? I mean are poets normal human beings?

SW: Of course they are normal human beings. Those who chase dreams have realised that they have it in them to make their dreams real. Poets are sensitive human beings who see things in a different way from others. This is just an inherent thing – like the ability to sing, dance, or paint. And then there are thinkers, scientists, philosophers, etc. The world needs them all. That makes the world normal. I would say human beings who lack sensitivity or who have lost the ability to dream are not normal. When the world has more of such people, then we should be concerned that the world is not normal.

JSA: Dreams and delusions make people live. What is a pipedream? And what happens when The Iceman Cometh?

SW: A pipedream is more like a fantasy. Hope helps people live. And that’s what dreams, delusions and pipedreams offer – hope. The person who deludes himself into believing something doesn’t realise his belief is irrational. One who has a pipedream doesn’t believe that it is just a fantasy and impossible to materialize. So what they all offer is hope and the reason to live. As in Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh – where the iceman is the symbol of death – when the iceman or death comes, one finally faces reality. Poetry, however, with all its imagery, is also a communication of reality – at its different levels, with its different perceptions, in its various layers. With all its elements of imagination, it is still a reality check.

JSA: What is the connection between dreaming and depression? Society is filled with a widespread sense of loss. Don’t you think dreams and wishes are the preserve of deprived people?

SW: Dreams are associated with real life experiences and situations. Experts say that in people who have mental disorders, the content of their dream is related to the mood they are in at the time of dreaming. They say depressed people dream more because their ruminations make them emotionally aroused. So understanding their dreams should help in controlling their state of depression. Coming to the last part of your question, ‘wishing’ is like feeling hopeful, and hence is closer to what one aspires for in life. So wishing and dreaming can complement each other and help one get through life.

JSA: Does poetry help a dreaming world by helping it with a catharsis?

SW: Poetry is a form of writing that is charged with emotion. Any emotion – whether it be love, sorrow, rage, or any other – is expressed more effectively through the poetry form. The emotion in the poetry easily and quickly connects with the emotion in the reader or the listener. One can see proof of this in how the world responds to patriotic poetry, revolutionary poetry, romantic poetry, etc. So poetry does help the world with catharsis. Most recently, we have seen poets across the world coming together with their poetry themed on the much dreaded COVID and Black Lives Matter, and also poetry inspired by social empowerment, and gender, child and human rights issues.

JSA: Dreams are a great property of mankind. If we stop chasing them, will there be still any poetry left behind?

SW: The ability to dream is an attribute unique to the humankind. If it had not been for the dreams, human beings wouldn’t have come this long way making discoveries, acquiring knowledge, bettering their lot, traversing the space, reaching the moon and other planets, and connecting the world virtually. Of course some dreams may have gone wrong, but we have it in us to tip back the balance and find new normals. All this is possible because human beings can dream. This is one of the features amongst a horde of others that makes them human. Human beings have never and will never stop chasing dreams. Poetry will always be there, perhaps taking different forms, as it already is.

JSA: Airy nothings are the stuff of dreams. A poet may, but can an ordinary person live on such fragile invisible stuff?

SW: As I mentioned earlier, poetry is one talent among myriads that human beings possess. It’s not necessary that everyone should dance, sing or paint. It’s not necessary that everyone should be a scientist or a doctor. And it’s not necessary that everyone should understand and relate to poetry. Besides, poetry is not just some words in a specific format. There’s poetry in nature, there’s poetry in the crafts, in design and in all other works of creation and, let me add, compassion. So human beings will connect with poetry in some way or the other. I believe a poet is as ordinary or as special as any other human being.

JSA: How does poetry make life more liveable?

SW: Poetry connects with your heart and soul. It has in it the beauty of all the arts. It flows like a song, paints pictures, creates moving images in your mind, narrates stories, and is intense with emotions. Poetry is a language in itself which connects people around the world. It holds a mirror to the world and life, and reflects not what’s superficial but what’s below the layers. It throws light on different aspects of things so you can perceive them from different angles. It provides a voice to call out to the world, to respond and react, to rouse people and inspire them, and to make them positively respond. It soothes.

JSA: Poetry gives the patient a strong dose of dreams, puts him through some impossible estates, and restores his balance. I think this is the therapeutic function of poetry. Can anything else in the world bring balance back to man’s mind? Are dreams steroids which cure bruised souls faster?

SW: All creative arts help in bringing balance back to man’s mind. It’s known that music, dance, art, storytelling, drama, etc. have great therapeutic effect and help in restoring balance. So also do recreational activities, sports and prayer. Being in a serene environment may have the same effect. Anything that can touch the mind, release its stresses and leave a positive impact can bring balance back to man’s mind. Poetry does all this. It’s not just a strong dose of dreams, it’s a salve that heals and protects the mind, dealing with its pain and fears, and its conflicts and chaos. I would go as far as to say poetry creates a peaceful space in our minds.


  1. Creative arts do help to soothe the mind. I wish there was greater emphasis on it in troubled situations.

    1. Yes, art can play a great role in conflict and distress management. Perhaps that's why many people have involuntarily turned to art while 'staying at home' during these troubled COVID times. Thank you for reading the interview.