Are Poems Fact or Fiction?

What is a poem: verse or its obverse?

Is it an imaginative figment?

Or a metered historical segment?

But does it really matter? Fact or Fiction.

When the reading habit’s in such a dereliction!

I am perhaps a 99% engineer and maybe a 1% poet. I will therefore, attempt to answer the captioned question from a logical perspective (as an engineer would) having done my 1% bit in the 5 line ‘poem’ above. 😐

I guess if the poet writes from personal experiences, it becomes non-fiction. I always feel that such lines best whet their readers’ imaginations. An epic, also, if (and only if) it is historically accurate becomes non-fiction. The other way to look at this is to perhaps surmise about the origins of poems and prose: perhaps what we sang became poems and what we orated, or told stories about, we wrote in long sentences and paragraphs. Since we must have sung songs of fact as well as fiction, maybe poetry flits across both categories. Even as prose, which may have originated from the ‘fact’ that we told stories that were both historical truisms as well as, well, ‘stories’.

In any case, I am trying to discover poetry. Now, since I read all kinds of non-fiction, and because most people seem to think of poems as fiction, I will apply my boundary of fiction to my poetry reading goals as well – which is to read poems written by Indian poets, or poems that are about India. Vikram Seth, here I come! I know it’s rare to come across an alien Indophile poet these days, but one never knows.

And just because, as a ‘good’ engineer, I must force fit my results to my observations, I must bring up the Dewey Classification System, which is a widely used method of classifying books in a library. It specifies the 800s for classifying literature with the 8X3 codes being used for fictional works. All poems are slotted as 8X1s therefore making poems non-fiction and therefore allowed to be a part of my reading diet!

Quod Erat Demonstrandum! (so much fuss for deciding what to read!!!)


Pathways of fate

Two roads converged in the woods and I took the one less travelled. And that does not seem to have made any difference! 🙂 🙂 🙂

In fact even Robert Frost, whose poem “The Road Less Travelled”, admitted that if he were to retrace his path and were to come upon that same fork, he was not sure if would make the same choice yet again.

Some poems, stories, books stay with you. Floating around in your subconscious. This is one such poem that I remember from my school days. I cannot recite the entire poem in one go, but I remember the theme and the imagery that it had left in my mind back then. “The Pied Piper of Hamelyn”, “The Highwayman”, “Hiawatha’s Wooing”, “Satpura ke Ghane Jungle“, “Jhansi ki Rani” are some of the others.

Speaking of personal paths, I had drawn the locus of my movements on Earth sometime back. In my much younger days, decisions of my elders moved me around on the paths that I was takinng. There was no questioning and full trust. And i have had a whale of a time. Later on, as I entered the last few years of my teens, the path that I took have largely been my doing – with useful help and advise from others. So if I should regret, its on me. If I should celebrate, its on me.

Here’s how my domestic path looks like. These are the cities that I have been to, spent time working and/or visiting. From all these places I have learnt something. Some good things, some bad. Transit cities are not shown. So, for example if my journey takes me to Xanadu en route to El Dorado, I would not show the former on the map.

And below is how my international footprint looks like. A lot to cover, a lot to learn. When a group of us friends had decided to take a snowed in break in Auli (Uttaranchal) we had met a guy who had been to 120 countries. One of us had wondered aloud if those many countries even existed in the first place. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the formation of the various stans, I am sure this guy would’ve been thrilled. More to add to his travelogue. His Fodors was expectedly, very frayed.

So often we hear ourselves or our friends, associates fret and muse about choices and chances missed. About milk spilt. BTW, I don’t feel bad about any milk that’s spilled – because A) AMUL is not listed and B) I hate milk more than I hate luv storys. Coming back to the sombre mood, many of us love to regret, retrace and draw out imaginary probabilistic paths of alternate realities. Good fuel to feed the fire.

Does the Buddhist Baggio regret not hitting the target during the penalty shoot out against Brazil in the 1994 FIFA World Cup? Columbian Andres Escobar was not even allowed to be around to regret his faux pas of scoring an own goal against the USA in the same tournament. He was shot. And then some personal anecdotes that I have lent a sympathetic ear to:

“If only I had listened to my inner voice and pursued architecture from Sir. J.J. School of Art, I’d have been so much more successful. But my father wanted me to be an engineer”.


Kaash hum kuch aur padh lete bachpan mein. Hum bhi private gaadi ke driver hote, parking attendant nahi. Driver hone ke liye kabhi kabhi angrezi aani chahiye“. (I wish I could have studied. I would also be a chauffeur today instead of a parking lot attendant. Sometimes, knowledge of English is required of a chauffeur).


“If only I had waited for the birth of my son. I would not have to give up a promising career and become a housewife”.

Charles Dickens gives us young ‘uns some hope when he says that “Regrets are the natural property of grey hairs”. But then there is a perplexing (to me) remark from Henry David Thoreau telling us that “To regret deeply is to live afresh”.


Here are two paintings – which one is regret and which one is sorrow?




Sorrow and regret seem to be two sides of the same coin. Maybe nothing cleaves the two. But regret is not the same as guilt. See the painting alongside – is it regret or sorrow or guilt?



One lesson that I have learnt from my investment related readings is this: When life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Just cut your lemons (i.e. losses) and run.

%d bloggers like this: