The International Writers Magazine:
I WANT TO BE WHEN I GROW UP"
Poet makes a decision or two...
often make the mistake of thinking that solving someone else's poetry
means trying to attain absolute alignment with the Poet's soul. We assume
that we need to sequence the 'receptivity' of our brain or soul or heart
to the exact rhythm of The Inspiration; on the same (muse-ical) key......
Ergo, we violently plough the fields of images and words, in search
of that sole pearl of meaning and interpretation sowed by the poet,
instead of believing that the pearl is not in the field but in us.
It refuses to dawn on us that we have been entrusted with every Pearl
from Before the Beginning - every possibility (and permutation) of meaning,
theme and beauty. The Pearls are present somewhere deep within us.
And no two pearls are ever the same. In fact, no pearl remains the same
for very long, right there within you, under the skilfull fingers of
time, they take on new skins or reveal old ones, they breed new gems,
or bleed the pain that birthed them - unearth the future, - or assemble
My pearl is what I find, whatever it may be, and, yours - yours too
is what you find.
All it takes is our believing. believing that what we hold in our hands
are pearls, even if we think otherwise.
I can spout all of this, speak so confidently and knowingly of Poetry,
and yet still breed my doubts (yes, they are truly mine, stamped and
labelled), I can still lie awake wondering if I''ll ever Be a Poet.
It is a Pilgrimage whose progress is uncertain sometimes more
like a Pil-grimace.
Not as if I Really Really Want to be a Poet though (Poetry may just
be the Planets Greatest CheatMode Fluke Overlooked
Berlin wall Linguistic algebra The ever elusive 'x'
Weapon of Mass Confusion).
I really want to be a Something Else. But Ineed to be certain first
of all that ICAN be a poet, that I'm not trying to be A Something Else
'cos i couldn't gain admission into Poetrys Passworded Places.
it always happens just after i read a great poem, especially one written
by a human being - (birdshit dropping accurately on a human head is
avian poetry, not human-being poetry) - I lie awake, committing mental
suicide over and over again with the realization of how Unpossible it
would have been for my Rod to divine that kind of Promised land, knowing
that the arms of my Inspiration wouldn't have lifted me high enough
to apprehend the skystrung branches where RealWords dwell like supernatural
I lie awake, unable to sleep. My eyes sleep, but my mind pries them
apart, splits the blinds for night to flood in.
Wole Soyinka for example, hoarding meaning, (like a civil servant's
party, or an owambe constipation), deploying soyinkanese and its mystery-eyed
samarkandesque syntax to sow ripe aches in my grey ridges. In his poems
Irecognise the Assassins of my Poetic Longing.
In all things, however, give Thanks!
Thank God for Carver and Maya, though. Okot too, and Zephaniah. They
help you refeel like a poet, leave a lifeboat behind for you, after
you have wobbled and fumbled off the Titanic
Senghor ain't bad ( i woNdER wHat E.e cUmmINGs wouLD thInk). He leaves
me straining to see Big Black Breasts on every Tree, on every Taunt
of Thunder and every Lysis of Lightning
I'm still awake.... crawling towards dawn, towards the discovery of
new Assassins. Sometimes I succeed in dreaming, dashing from juxtaposition
to juxtaposition,trying to find the connecting threads, still seeking
assurance that there is a Poet somewhere in me.
As I was going to St. Ives I met a man with seven wives. Each wife had
seven cats. Each cat had seven kits. How many were going to St. Ives?
I really wouldnt have been able to call myself a Poet if hadnt
got published. I wouldnt have been published if I hadnt
submitted. I wouldnt (or couldnt) have submitted if I hadnt
written. I wouldnt have written if I hadnt read that book
(about how to "Build a fire from your Life"), I wouldnt
have read that book if I hadnt bought it, I wouldnt have
bought it if I hadnt made a go at believing I was a Poet (ie making
a pass at Poetry), I wouldnt have made a go at believing I was
a Poet if I could do the things that other normal youngsters did
like singing, rapping and dancing
I have become a Poet because I have had to Become Something.
Now I have come to the conclusion that Poetry is, in a sense, not a
High Art, because everybody believes theyve got it in them, its
a Native of them
I write Poems too, says Everyone.
Ive got a brother who writes Poems, only he doesnt write
them for any other person than himself, he just expresses himself on
To the multitude, Poetry is Pour-etry. And tell me, who cannot Pour?
Spontaneously, sporadically, onto paper who doesnt have
content to Pour? Poetry is just the Voice, The Dialect, The Accent of
For this reason I have decided not to become a Poet. Or better still,
to Unbecome one. In other words, It is rather Unbecoming of me to want
to bend at my knees to Become a Poet.
My solace lies in someone elses words (which just goes on to prove
that I aint a Poet):
I am not a Poet, thats why I write Poetry
I am a Something Else who writes Poetry, who partakes of the Low Art
in the Lower Room, with countless other disciplineless? Disciples
The fingers of my Desire are stretched taut towards High Art, like Fiction
Literary Fiction sounds more like it
This is why I want
to be "what I want to be when I grow up".
© tolu ogunlesi May 2004
tolu ogunlesi, in addition
to being a member of the advisory panel of The MUSE APPRENTICE GUILD (http://www.muse-apprentice-guild.com/)
is the author of the just released poetry collection LISTEN TO THE GECKOS
SINGING FROM A BALCONY (oct 2003; Jacobyte Books, Australia; www.jacobytebooks.com)
available for sale online as a paperback and also in ebook format.
you can click here to see the book,view an excerpt and/or make a purchase.
Fiction pages here
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