Why I Write Poetry
Poetry, I realise, is the finest way to express myself and my fading past.
Two different lives in a single lifetime.
The first part is all memory — nebulous, therefore endangered. The second, the world today, takes most of who I am, to exist. As years went by, I feared I might lose the first, or most of it — the finer details — due to the enormity of the second. The trauma of everyday existence threatened to efface what I hold dear: the memories of my younger years.
For the past thirty years, I’ve borne the brunt of a progressive neuromuscular disorder. Two-thirds of this time, I’ve made do with a permanent sidekick: a wheelchair. It’s almost as if I’ve accessed a parallel world. Quite naturally, I yearned to express this experience.
However, I do not possess the gift of the gab. The spoken word eludes me; public speaking is my Waterloo. Prose was not it either, I felt, for memory has a transitory form: diminishing, failing, effacing, shifting, evolving. I needed a medium that best reflected this transience.
Poetry, I realise, is the finest way to express myself and my fading past. I recognised its unique ability to speak for me in ways inconceivable. Where social anxiety overpowered me, poetry became my anthem of freedom — a confession in an everyday tongue, coded with secret doors and traps. Perfect for my anxious need to hide in plain sight.
With poetry, I began to record my two lives — a memoir in verse. It hasn’t been easy. It has taken a while longer than I’ve imagined. Memory is an adamant child: you’ve to be patient. At first, when I tried remembrance, the details refused to yield. How do you know what to find if you aren’t aware of its existence?
One thing led to another, one detail to another — a slow release over time. It’s astonishing how much you begin to remember if you persist. Memory can be kind when it chooses. As the verse emerged, it became my deliverance. The horrors and joys I experienced daily, it did set free — so that I may exist, live further. In poetry, I learnt to process the tartish upsurge of sentiments I woke up to every day, to be unspooled to a semblance of clarity on a page.
I remain ever astonished by how verse takes form: a miraculous assemblage of impressions — of the past, the present, and the future — transmuted to words by a random play of grey cells and a breath-taking, inexplicable force we’ve come to call life. With poetry, I never know where I’ll end up — my kind of armchair adventure.
My poetry is also a testimony to how I negotiate the world’s expectations, and its default normalcy. In a more profound sense, it became the device to chart my story and how I accomplish what’s expected of me in return for my right to life, a privilege we’re all given.
Poetry records my gratitude for this privilege as well, a thanksgiving.
I’m often asked why I write poetry. I’d say it’s how I’ve come to make sense of my world.
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