Hello, dear Pub-goers, poets and friends – it’s Marina Sofia here propping up the bar today and getting all the drinks hopelessly muddled up. But then, muddle or mongrel are my middle names…
Who among us is fortunate enough to have a very clear, single-minded sense of identity and belonging? Who has never felt torn between cultures, languages, genetic heritage or conflicting roles and ideologies? I am strong and independent, but I am also a loving daughter. I am wild and creative, but I am also a mother who can respond to her children’s needs. I express myself best in Shakespeare’s language, my nickname back in my country of birth may well be ‘the Englishwoman’, but I will never be truly accepted as a Brit.
Today I am inviting you to ask yourselves questions about your multiple identities and allegiances, about your sense of belonging. Based on the work of poet Bhanu Kapil ‘a British national of Punjabi origin living in Colorado’, whose first book The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers, published back in 2001, was an interesting experiment at the intersection of poetry, interviews, memoir and diversity of voices. For four years she would accost strangers (mostly women of Indian descent in America, India and the United Kingdom) with a list of twelve carefully chosen questions. The full list of questions are available at the front of the book, or online here. They were designed to provoke much thought and soul-searching, but also unrehearsed responses, ‘an honest and swift text, uncensored by guilt or the desire to present an impressive, publishable finish’.
She then added her own reflections and reactions to those responses and has created a beautiful work of poetic prose, an examination of love, longing, the physicality of memory and the difficulty of placing oneself in the world, in relation to our loved ones, our unloved ones, with our own culture and history, but also our desires for transcending our environment and achieving something new.
The distances between my body and the bodies of the ones I love:
grow. They are limited by coasts. I have a few questions to ask, but
I do not know how to break the growing silence. I breathe in the
salty mist, walk back along the wild, shifting edge of everything.
So I would like to invite you to reflect upon the following four questions. Two of them have been taken directly from Bhanu Kapil’s list of questions, two are my own. Take the time to think through each of them, but you will find that one will speak more to you than the others. Pick the one that means most to you and write a poem, a short piece of prose, a flash of insight into yourself (or feel free to put yourself in the shoes of someone else, if you prefer).
1) Who are you and whom do you love?
2) What else are you, that no one has seen before?
3) Describe a morning you woke without fear.
4) What lingers when all is said and done?
Here is an example of conflicted identity by Mihaela Moscaliuc, originally from Romania and now living in the United States. In her poem ‘Dreaming in Romanian’ she says:
I want dreams that don’t wade into yesterday’s waters.
I want dreams in the American idiom…
dreams with popcorn plots and slick endings,
dreams with heirloom seedlings, dreams
never in need of translation.
If you are new, here is how this works:
- Write a poem based on the prompt and put it on your webpage or blog.
- Click the Mr. Linky button below and enter your name and direct web address (URL) to your poem.
- There you will find the list of others playing along, read them, tell them what you thought of their poem.
- If you use social media to promote your works, include the tag #dversepoets or @dversepoets so we can find and promote you as well.
Hope you have fun with this one and look forward to seeing your answers!