Who do I seek to comfort when I am writing a poem? Who can find some reprieve or succour in my written word?
My approach to poetry and writing as a whole has often been selfish. I am selfish. I begin with the urgency of thought or vulnerability of my heart when I pick up the pen or open a word editor. I design and modulate and raise my voice to find someone — an invisible spectator or a known or an unknown other — who can consume it all for me, digest, excrete, and display for my purpose, to exterminate my words till their remains are indistinguishable. Such an inexorable marriage of poet and poetry and reader.
I am hungry for any reader, as I seek to consume so to be consumed, without parenthesis or any context. I do not care who the reader is. I do not comfort. I do not create an experience where we can both meet and touch each other and walk through our shared emptiness.
I want to devour so to be devoured. I want to become the other so that I can know myself better, even if I provide only a limited scope for that understanding to emerge.
“Poetry is an intimate act”: The adage is mentioned in the first chapter of my handy Poet’s Companion, which further goes on to define how a poem is sharing knowledge, which seems to be another way of universalising this experience. It seems anyone who creates, gives birth, evokes the miasma of the human truth or situation is expected to display it in a way as if it belongs (to more than one).
As a reader of poetry and other things, I know of my need to relate and be a part of the verse and the punctuation — to belong in a line-break or hide in a plot device.
When I read some of the so-called poems that came from me, I recoil at the arrogance, at the self-entitled diatribe of a diminutive of who or what we call a poet in popular understanding or literary parlance.
A poet friend once said, “Anyone who writes even a single poem is a poet.” I find this quote attributed to Kierkegaard even more exemplary: “What is a poet? A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music… and men crowd about the poet and say to him: “Sing for us soon again”; that is as much to say: May new sufferings torment your soul.”
They never said who is to define what a poem is. If the decision is left to the one who writes it, it would be a futile exercise to discuss it any further. Still, I agree with a self-construed definition of such words and the meanings attained, far away from the capitalist mores of publication, reach, and popularity.
Let’s say everyone is a poet, as in everyone is capable of writing or thinking or sensing or living a poem. That should definitely upend the fallacy of a singular or multiple strands of a definition.
A song of Emilie Autumn that helped me through some bitter nights says, “The world is full of poets, We don’t need anymore.”
So, I have decided that I shall not be deemed a poet anymore. It’s yet another act of selfishness to take up a word, make it mine, live through it, use it, mutilate it, and then leave it be. But I am selfish. All my creative endeavours are built on the basis of the mythos where comfort only lies in destruction or pain. I turn it to favour me, to suffer, to pick at my gangrenous pen so to be seen or noticed or analysed and thus found.
Let us go back a little now. The day I started writing this exposition, I received a kind rejection from an editor of a digital magazine, who suggested that my work is not of a ‘snug fit‘ for them. This is something I already knew because I often revelled in being too small or too big. Too short in my much-cherished individuality, too big in the failure of my years. Like a rat that can fit into the tightest of spaces and still be the purveyor of ghastly death (mostly blamed for the black death as if death can be anything but black). A study suggested that the rat’s case may be blown out of proportions. Its complicated mathematical model pointed out the human-parasite link to be the primary cause of mortality in many affected cities.
It is for me an acceptance that what is apparent to my mind and heart is not often the whole truth. Facts change, so do emotions. So, take everything I write as a self-questioning enterprise or my agency to mould and expand my thought process.
I will be writing poems, whenever it happens. Sometimes out of habit, at other times deliberately carving words from the carcass of language to make them palatable. As history goes, I am not good with fine dining. I will also keep learning through reading and doing the unspeakable things to any poem I come to love, and perhaps go through a bit more of that companion text.
I do not know if any poem I will write can cause what I want it to release into my small world, where a comment or two can cause such a surge of pride and/or repulsion in me. Only for some time. This is the only way I have known because it is a release, and not something that I have nourished and built and kept safe. I do not think I ever had a chance.
I always sought to be comforted when that was not possible. I wanted reprieve when it could never last.
“Why live a lie,” sings Autumn as a refrain through the song. I am not going to bother with it. It is just a beginning to overcome some internalised delusions, and it has to be symbolic like everything else, to be of any significance.
This is the first in a series of essays envisaged by me called #Trash. Please bear with me as I had to get this self-indulgent piece out first; I have something sexy planned for next week. Share your opinion and topic suggestions (however trashy) in the comments. You can keep up with me on my Instagram or Twitteras well.
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they say dying by suicide should not seem like an option
(in a world where we would rather admire silent suffering)
“you shouldn’t have” “i wish you knew that i cared” —
a person is like an apple with layers of lives lived and unlived
in the course of a simplified reality
(not for you to decide or decipher),
when they die by suicide (no one commits suicide),
the core is still not empty,
in their absence, your words are not solacing,
they are empty vessels (cyanide seeds of pilgrimage)
that mean nothing to a non-existent god.
i read that there comes a time when you realize
that you do not want to die anymore
but you’re just living the memory of wanting to be unalive,
to be buried in endless despair, so as to placate
the familiar need to stop it all.
i wonder if my skin is as supple as an apple’s —
if i cut it and square it for your consumption
(social media consolations and memorials),
would it bleed or would it not anymore?
would it hurt or would my lips quiver and pause…
to the sweet perfume of a fresh wound?
my blood clots at the thought of an apple
that may not be as sweet as it may look —
so shall i choose a pomegranate seed
to bind my life and plant it near my empty heart
(no space within)?
when i wish to return to what i knew best,
i feel the pull towards knowledge that this fruit
is yet to accumulate me, still to ripen before the fall comes.
Image Source (Sebastian Black, Concerning taste let’s ask the apple: Hey apple sliced in half (muzzle). Hey you of black seeds and rotten core (whiskers,nose) of yellow skin, and stem split twain (mouth), of etc and also of etc. Who left you here on the round glass end table (head)? Are you sullying up the Eileen Gray “piece”, the Heath ceramic mugs (eyes)? Or are you, like the film of dry coffee, (pupils) adding just the right touch? Think about it. I’m gonna take a nap and if I’m sunlight when I wake up I’ll alight on you. But if I’m still just meat with arms I’m gonna move you (ears) over by the couch., 2016, Oil on linen, 60 × 45 inches / 152.5 × 114.3 cm, Unique)
Linking it up with my prompt about and on apples at dVerse later this evening
i treat white words and black smiles as one
when the moon looks like a lamp,
a river of despondent virtues
i look like a mirror, an image of an image,
drinking from the same chalice
as a millennium of systemic subversion, my stigma
is attached to my body, and
i carry it around like a baby
in a cradle, like a queer impulse
of my hope, like open eyes that
do not shut in the dark, like my skin’s
craving and engravings on my skin.
i do not mix
love (as reductive as it is) with pity, i do not change my face
as i once did, i pickle my smiles
and feed them to your glances,
i am an expression, not either, nor both,
but all at once, the first one twice, the second
in intervals of time (joined to my hip),
i am a hole to take you in, to engulf
and succumb to this impulse
to see death, in its non-binary
view — this itch to know,
and to know well,
that i am the one, who
i am, who i see,
without a mirror, without the sky,
not transparent, nor opaque,
For my prompt at dVerse Poetics this evening, where we are celebrating some amazing Black poets, as part of the Black History Month. I’ve tried to emulate Audre Lorde’s style in A Woman Speaks and used one of her lines (in italics) — “I do not mix/love with pity.”