content warning: this article has a mentions of social disadvantage, and suicide.
I get asked a lot, “How long have you been writing poetry for?”
I respond, “All my life really. I think in poetry.”
Not a lot of people know that I experience synesthesia - a phenomenon where you can experience somethings through other forms of senses. In my case, I can see music, experience/taste words, see a sense of character or humanity in inanimate objects based on their shapes, etc. (I also am neurodivergent as fuck, but we’ll explore that in a different article)
Not until recently did I decide to unpack what ‘thinking in poetry’ means for me. Because it’s not like every thought I have fits within a rhyming scale. Or that I am actively composing lyrics in my head every time I have any thoughts. But there is certainly a certain significance with which I perceive the world around me.
I want to invoke the wisdom of Audre Lorde that commands the phrase: Poetry Is Not A Luxury. She states:
“It (poetry) is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”
It’s beautiful writing, sure, but what does it mean for me?
Personally, as a way of life, poetry (similar to queerness) is a tool that explores possibility. It really challenges me to sit with everything I know and constantly re-examine my beliefs and values based on newer knowledge and lessons.
The biggest disservice one can do to themselves is to stop oneself and/or others from dreaming, imagining, look for prospects that make them happier, bring a greater sense of joy, satisfaction and content in their lives. And poetry, to me, is a wonderful way to go about on that journey. I have a deep sense of search within myself to truly live a life that brings a genuine sense of joy for me and everyone else around.
I suppose I am poetry more than I am queer.
This exploration of what brings one the ‘genuine sense of joy’ is what I mean by when I say that I think in poetry.
At the age of 27, I am much happier and feel safer in my body and the immediate surroundings of my home, even though my bank balance and financial assets are lower than when I was 23. I have no savings, and I really live from month to month, ensuring that I can pay rent, afford some food and fuel, and navigate ways of paying bills.
I am certainly not sure of how or what brings that sense of well-being and happiness in my life currently. Or rather, the sense of threat that I used to feel constantly in my life feels more manageable.
Blame it on my resilience or my mental health medication. I do think that they help.
Part of what I think has contributed to this renewed sense of happiness is the intentional objective to live, feel alive and be as curious and open as I can.
Medan Giddings in her work The Women Could Fly talks about how people don’t get conservative over time, and instead they get tired. And when you’re tired, people tend to be more agreeable.
There is wisdom in that thought. For myself, and many of my peers, burnout and complete exhaustion to the point of hospitalisation, chronic illness or total failure to function is at our doorsteps, if we aren’t there already. That belief in a better world and to engage with change through art, policy, organising and advocacy, the urge to do more, to do better, to take on more things, to keep aware, to think even more critically is powerfully pervasive.
I mean, fair enough, right?
At this point, with the global erasure of the rights of women, trans and disabled folk and children across intersections, not doing any of these things (or something!!) feels like giving up. Rest is simply not an option.
I have been in a state of burn out since 2017. I am burnt out right now as I write this. I know a lot of my friends and community, some even significantly younger than me who have chronic illnesses.
Rest is simply not an option.
Even if it were, we do not know how to rest in a way that that rejuvenates us, revitalises us.
Becoming tired is very common and really understandable.
I have read that particular essay by Audre Lorde that engages with poetry several times over 2022, and what continues to shock me is the potential of possibilities within our lives to survive.
It’s helped me think beyond capitalism. Beyond carceral feminism. Beyond our struggles, displacement and my own colonisation. It’s also helped me realise that shifts and changes that can lead to us living better lives are slow and often not a smooth journey. “Success” (in some instance) can be as simple as doing your best to show up and being present.
This also means that not being “successful”, burning out, lacking the capacity to uplift yourself or others is not “failure” as such. Because we are already at a point where our capitalist and patriarchal driven definition of success is impossible and inaccessible, and a majority of us are punishing ourselves for not being able to do better.
Being able actively think of possibilities, navigating shifts, applying newer and smarter ways to live better lives is a lot of fucking work, and for the most part, requires a lot of privilege. And if you are in a position to do it, it should absolutely be your way of life and responsibility.
To me, at this point in time, I am curating a life where I am stepping away from wanting to die constantly, and instead stepping into wanting to live intentionally. And not that it has particularly improved my mental health and wellbeing dramatically, but it has offered perspective on what can fill me with joy and a sense of worthwhileness.
For now, that is enough. That sort of poetry. That kind of queerness. It gives me a lot of hope.
The fact that I then go on to write and perform poetry is just an added asset.
Let me know your thoughts
love and truly yours,
Naavikaran's De-Colonial Living is a community-led publication. The vision is to re-distribute wealth to IBPOC trans and gender diverse creatives to build sustainable storytelling practices. Your support, subscription and dollars mean a lot to us, and is thorough appreciated!
Thanks for sharing. Cannot wait to read and listen to more of your poetry and art xx.