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On writing that kind of poetry

I had a meeting with my poetry workshop instructor a few days ago and we talked about all the poems I’ve been working on for the workshop. She is a beautiful, insightful human being who approaches my work with so much respect and sincerity that I can’t help but believe in myself, in my words, in my capability as a poet. It is what I need. To believe that there is something unique within me that is worth telling, worth creating, and worth sharing.

She made me realize that I need to be unafraid of putting more of myself in my poetry. Of exploring my background, my experiences, my approach to life.

She suggested I take a theme and work with it, write smaller poems, a collection, explore different aspects of my experiences, my childhood, my obsessions, my histories. They don’t necessarily have to be about me, but need to be rooted within me, have a strong sense of where they are coming from and why they are being written.

I want to explore the political, the spiritual, and personal in my poetry. It is a difficult mixture, but I know it’s all connected in the way I approach the world around me.

There are memories of Pakistan, of childhood, of immigration, of longing, of being lost, of anger, of love, of discovery and of wonder. I have so many questions and fears and so many unresolved experiences to look back to.  I will craft them. I will bead them into a thread gently and sincerely. I will relive. I will go back and go forward and look within. I am realizing how much more bravery it takes to write a poem that is closer to the heart, that is honest, than a poem that is merely written to play around with words for effect.

I will write ghazals and I will talk about wearing shalwar kameez on the skytrain. I will talk about the time I tried to reread the letter I had written in Urdu only to realize that I no longer could.

There is a quote from Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet that comes to mind. Rilke is a kindred spirit. He gets it. He puts to word what I didn’t even realize I was trying to say, and yet I really needed it to be said.

Write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty – describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sounds – wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories?

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