So what’s your poetry about?

A couple of times this week, I’ve been asked what sort of poetry I write. In the spur of the moment I told them that I write about the politics, human rights, identity… that stuff. But to be honest, that has been a very recent occurance. When I first started writing poetry I wrote for the words. How they felt and sounded and how I could fit them into shapes and rules. How I could make someone read in rhythm, or how I could twist the meanings of the sentences so they were seeing double, or even triple. I wrote about my feelings, sure, as an angsty teenager, questioning the world; why? But I also wrote commentary on things I saw or read, or expanded on the meanings of the things I saw or read.

Yesterday however, I was flicking through the contents of a poetry book and noticed just how much was about Greek gods. A subject outside of the me me me. Of course, all writing becomes personal somehow, but recently everything had become so internal for me, which was different to before.

I had started out talking about others. The stories were never about me, really. Not completely. A character, if you will. It became a way to express my opinions or my emotions in a way where a reader perhaps would not understand what I was saying. It was an outlet for expressing the things I wanted to say but couldn’t, things that I thought were taboo for me. Philosophy? No. Criticism? No way. Love? Absolutely not. But they were hidden in those symbolisms and metaphors. And for me that was freeing.

The creativity stopped during uni and, anyway, no matter how hard I tried, I could never write about politics or anything relating to the fact that I was Uyghur. Part of the reason, I think, was that I couldn’t move past the idea that I needed to somehow explain what Uyghur was. Why? Not sure. Because no one knew what Uyghur was? But why did I feel like I had to explain myself in a poem?

Poetry relating to romance was even more difficult. A good Muslim girl like me? I couldn’t know what a boy was! Yet down the line, ironically, that was what got me out of my writing rut. Connection. Comfort. Empathy. Being open to onesself. Being honest. I guess this is when my writing became more personal. Intimate. Naturally, I found myself writing about being Uyghur, too. There was no need to explain; I was the explanation. I needed only to get my feelings across. And so I wrote about me, which evolved to writing about my people and how they suffered, how they could triumph. Our human condition. Who knew writing about love meant to write about all of life? Everyone, I guess.

The right answer, perhaps, is all my poetry is about love. While my inner sappy emo hippy girl can say that without flinching, the one that has to deal with the outside world cringes on those four letters. It halts in my mouth and grabs on to my tongue so that I cannot force it out. Habit, I suppose? But I wrote about nature because I loved it, I wrote about humanity because I wanted to help it, I wrote about being because I wanted to understand it. Sadness and anger and delight are elicited from those we love or those who hurt the ones we love. Passion, yearning, obsession, apathy – for another, for country, for God, even. The human psyche itself; using words as a tool, lens and road for exploration… surely it all comes back to varying degrees and types of love.

It might take a long time for me to actually say that word out loud. But it will be a constant shade of ink in my writing. That one terrible instagram filter I will always use haha.



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