What’s Poetry to You? Face to Face with Soul-Probing Questions
‘Interview with a Poet — Pseu Pending’
Friends know I’m a private person. I was uneasy when Zay Pareltheon, owner and editor of the juried publication The Howling Owl, first suggested the interview. I ended up loving the thinking process prompted by his straightforward questions.
(updated for clarity)
Zay: For you, poetry is…OR… Poetry is not…
Seu: … I got to the point of deep frustration — or was it deep awe? — not writing the tremendous emotions I wished to convey in a few words without going into a lengthy historical explanation. I started condensing my thoughts. Empathy has an enormous impact. To this day, this is how I see poetry.
I haven’t written a single line in pre-designed poetry formats since English Literature classes — not till decades later. Yet like many, I’ve been experiencing poetry since birth. To me, poetry didn’t start with English or any verbal language.
… You can imagine I fell off the chair when I saw my name among the 30 chosen as “Some of the Best Poets on Medium” in an article on the official Medium blog, even though the said article generated controversy. Nothing to do with this interview, but accolades aside, it immediately prompted humbling soul searching, as your questions do.
When I think of modern and contemporary art’s evolvement, speed and motion propagated abstraction. Modern-day poetry correlates. By that, I don’t mean speed in writing. Modern life advances subversive forms in poetry but emotions are always the core. A lot to explore and I’m not there yet.
Zay: When you write poetry, what is the source of your motivation?
Seu: Witnessing injustice, and experiencing intangible and tangible beauty and dichotomies motivate me. There’s poetry in plight and pain, but also in exonerating the sublime.
Having lived both as a majority and a minority birth invaluable insight into cultural and social misconceptions, often generated by the continuum of colonialism — people colonizing people and people colonizing nature, born out of a false sense of superiority.
Living in contrasting cultures, I’ve witnessed the aftermath of modern wars, the results of diaspora, and human greed in controlling others — I’m not talking about materialism here (we enjoy modern comforts, don’t we? nothing wrong with that).
Rise above the noise and we might see clarity. A long way to go.
Onto sublime tangibles: Food! Sensual, visual, cultural, and emotional. There’s absolutely poetry in the culinary arts…I came up with the term culinary poetics a few months ago and subsequently found out someone else used it in a book title. Oh well, no conflicts, different approach and interpretation.
Zay: What habits or processes do you use when you write poetry?
Seu: Habitually thinking things through starts the process. So do photos, walks, and seeking excitement in the mundane. So much of internalized research surfaces at times. I see poetry in visuals and situations not needing words to legitimize. When this happens and I write about it, I’m a mere messenger. A gratified messenger.
I tend to see metaphors. Living in a world of censorship heightens the sense of it.
Poetry to me is recollecting and giving form to otherwise abstract emotions. When we wish to immortalize these emotions, we express them in a media best suited to our sentiments. In the case of literature, in as few and as many words as necessary, no more, no less.
Zay: What determines success for you? What makes you say, “Yes, I got this.”
Seu: When my words say exactly what I want to say — the emotion I want to convey. When minds link on the unspoken. And when readers respond — not necessarily known to me — with their interpretations reflecting themselves. If my words have an impact — no matter how small — on someone’s thoughts, that’s the biggest satisfaction.
Like reading an artwork, reading poetry — good poetry — requires looking into the layers for deeper levels of interpretation, not only of the immediate surroundings and the familiar but those of the “other”. Yet, like art, it’s desirable to start with a luring facade.
(See complete interview)
© 2023 Pseu Pending (Seu)