Poetry: The Voice out of the Darkness

Writing

Growing up as the youngest of five in a household torn by parental separation, abuse, aggression, and poverty I didn’t have a voice. I lived under the safety of desks and the company of stuffed animals. The turmoil I witnessed in our household was as turbulent as my own internal world. My under the desk world was never enough to give me reprieve from the darkness that was consuming me. At 10 years old, I attempted suicide.

Surviving the attempt made me feel all the more frustrated with life. Why couldn’t it allow me to escape? I felt trapped in the darkness. I had no way of letting it all out. Speaking about it made me feel unsafe and guilty. I didn’t trust a simple narration. It was too straight forward. It opened me to ridicule and my family to criticism. The only thing I could do was to keep silent and to keep people away. Every day was painful. Breathing was labor. Life was a deliberate activity. Then, one day in English class, my teacher introduced poetry. I was 11.

I didn’t understand much about poetry. All I knew was it allowed me to tell a story without being direct. It was a form that allowed concealment in its brevity and imagery. At 11, I found my voice. I poured my heart in verse. I got myself a notebook and wrote. It was nothing magnificent, but it told my story. It allowed me to speak within the safe confines of concealment. I believed then that the only people who would understand the words were people who cared to understand.

Twenty years later, I am still in love with poetry. It still is my primary voice. It still, within its brevity, holds my heart—no longer concealed. I read poetry as much as I write them, if not more. As I get acquainted with the various forms, I find that even in the shortest of lines, poetry conveys a depth that only its form can capture.

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A Haiku in its 5-7-5 form can carry enough mystery as a 10 stanza poem. As I revisit Basho’s poetry in Penguins Little Black Classic: Lips too chilled, I am caught by how a few words resonate with me.

Come, see real

Flowers

Of this painful world.


In my new robe

This morning –

Someone else.

Beauty and fragility juxtaposed against a painful world, the newness of the day and the roles we may play is captured in 3 lines and a handful of words. This was poetry to me. It contained in its density and brevity both a lifetime of darkness and world of hope.

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This too is reflected in Emily Bronte’s poem A Day Dream which I read from Penguin’s Little Black Classic, The Night is Darkening Around Me. She wrote:

‘O mortal! Mortal! Let them die;

Let time and tears destroy,

That we may overflow the sky

With Universal joy!

‘Let grief distract the sufferer’s breast,

And night obscure his way;

They hasten him to endless rest,

And everlasting day.

To thee the world is like a tomb,

A desert’s naked shore;

To us, in unimagined bloom,

It brightens more and more!

‘And could we lift the veil, and give

One brief glimpse to thine eye,

Though wouldst rejoice for those that live,

Because they live to die.’

Each time I read poetry, I am reminded how this form saved me and continuously reconnects me to my own voice. In 2008, I thought it was time to write about my relationship with Poetry. I wrote this as a tribute to the one that saved me.

Poetry

By Iphios©

she caught me by the net

and never did she let me go.

swimming in the ocean

of chaos and waves

i tire my arms and legs

fighting the currents

to shore

and fail

i did.

i lie in the chaos:

supine.

tortured by sodium on open wounds

fatigued by failure

my thoughts drawn blank

my spirit fading in the depths

there she found me

casting her net

and catching me

in the faintest glow of light

i found her nets sturdy

whispering life into my fading spirit

embracing my frail flesh

and kissing my wounds gone.

and in that moment

she sang me her name:

“i am poetry,

and you,

my dearest sailor,

my poet.”

She caught me by the net

and never did she let go

never did i love another

but her

over and over

again.

I find, that my poetic voice may come and go, but poetry, in the 20 years I have known her has never failed to coax me out of my darkness and soothe my turbulent soul.

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