Writing poetry within a secondary world
As I'm revising Silk Betrayal, I've reached a point in the story where at least three of those who read the earlier draft said I need to include some of the poetry I refer to--the poetry plays a key role, inspiring some of the events that follow, and the consensus was that I was telling readers how powerful the poetry is but not showing it. But that means I have to not only write engaging characters, gripping action, deep layers of meaning, intrigue, obstacles, and everything else good prose has...I have to write poetry. Not just any poetry, poetry that makes a connoisseur sit up and take notice as well as inspire the less educated sectors of the society.
Is there any question why I didn't try that during the first draft? I won't try to recreate the entire epic by any means, but at the least I need a few lines thrown in there to get the feel across. Actually the chapter I'm on now simply has some lyrical poetry from an oppressed religious group, so that's not too bad. But in two chapters or so I'll get to the actual epic, and the POV character marvels at how the different lines interact, how they play with and subvert the traditional structures. Yeah, that'll be tough.
I'm not going for any complete poems, and I don't think any form poetry with a set rhythm or rhyme would fit this culture. In some senses that makes it easier...but good free verse, even just two lines of good free verse, can be as challenging as good poetry in a traditional form. And I don't want to rely too much on the idea that what's there is merely translated--if it's translated, then I'm the translator, and it's equally my job to make the poem convey its meaning in a poetic way as the original poet. I'll fall back on that explanation a bit in my head, but to use it completely as an excuse seems a cop-out.
I grabbed a couple of books of non-Western poetry from the library the other day--I actually took them from the shelf before I even thought of them as inspiration for this. But I didn't find any Indian poetry. I'm sure I can find some translations of Vedic hymns and other religious works online (Sacred Texts, here I come). But if anyone knows of any other Indian poets, whether more ancient or even as recent as the late 19th century, let me know and I'll look into that as well.