All the poet can do today is warn. That is why true poets must be truthful.-Wilfried Owen
What a month it has been.
We may dedicate one month to celebrating poets and poetry, but for poets, as Mary Oliver puts it, “poetry is a way of life.”
What does it mean for poetry to be a way of life? For me, it is a way of *seeing* into the world around us. A way of reading between the lines, the space between steps, the silences between exchanged glances. The way a leaf twirls to the ground after a windstorm. The way the sun glimmers for a brief second before being obscured by the clouds. The way the rain slants under street lamps. The way anger rises in the throat, like a blunt knife.
This is poetry of every day life.
There is poetry in the extraordinariness of ordinary moments.
There is poetry in frustration, in faltering, in flailing.
So what does it mean to celebrate poetry?
To celebrate life.
April was a month of celebration, contemplation and creation. It was a month filled to the brim with conversations about poetics, negotiations around words and their power, and late nights of flurried writing.
There were many gigs, from kicking off the month with the Rowers Reading Series (and reading new work after a long time) to the Fiddlehead’s Writing with Mother Earth Workshop with the incomparable Mahlikah Aweri, to performing a collaborative poem at MoonVerse (Aga Khan Museum) with Laboni Islam and Lamees El Ethari.
I had purposely taken a break from performing and reading, because I was working on new material, and because it takes a lot out of me to be on stage and recite words that are the product of my own pain.
The default mode for most writers is to be huddled in their rooms and offices, working in the privacy of their homes, spilling their guts onto the page, and tentatively stepping out into the sunlight of the world when we are ready to share. Even then, there is great risk. It feels like life and death, it feels like we are bloodletting on the page, and then preparing ourselves for our words to be discarded like yesterday’s newspaper (yeah, newspapers are still in circulation). It’s not harsh, it’s the nature of the world we live in. A society of disposability, a hashtag-able reality, where if you’re not trending, you’re not relevant.
We write anyway. Because that’s what poets do.
It’s what we’ve always done. It’s what we will continue to do.
And it’s what brings me to the work of mentorship. If there’s anything I can do, it’s to show up for my mentees in ways that people have showed up for me, and in ways they hadn’t. To keep my ego in check by actively supporting and working with writers who write differently than I do, and who teach me in ways I could’ve never imagined– this is the real work.
So as we move into May, I will take new poems and experiences with me, and keep searching for moments to extract poetry from every day life.
A gift for you, for getting this far: