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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Poetic Eclectic

Samuel Turner, New York, USA comments:

Dear Ali,

Due to my job I get to read hundreds of poems, and it's something I don't often do, but after reading and discussing your poetry I felt I had to get in touch.

Your technique is fresh, your perspective is original. Your poetry is remarkable in that it holds Eastern spiritual meaning cloaked in Western poetical devices. It's like Rumi and Rimbaud in perfect harmony.

One poem we have been discussing a lot at our Editorial Advisory offices is "Neptune's Daughter".

My own personal favourite is "Nature's Pulse", it is pregnant with meaning.

So, I'd like to ask you a few questions if I may:

  1. In "Neptune's Daughter", why Neptune and not Poseidon?
  2. Why did you re-draft your poetical writing "First Loves, Latest Tears"?
  3. Which of your poems to do consider the best and why? Do you have one?

Sincerely, Samuel Turner

Dear Mr Turner,

Thank you for your mail.

I don't belong to that school of thought where the artist should give explanations for his/her art. This limits the work. When an artist allows people to infer their own meaning, then the work is only limited to each individual's imagination and not to a single artistic explanation. This adds new dimensions that even the artist could not have thought possible.

In this way a written poem, and any work of art, becomes limitless in its meaning.

As you well know in your capacity, the artistic process does not end with the artist. There is the final, yet most important, stage of communication. Thus, a great song, an unforgettable poem or a timeless painting belongs as much to the world to which it can effectively communicate, as to the person that brought them to the world.

The artist creates the noun, but the public give it the adjective: a poet writes a poem but it is the readers that make it unforgettable.

This is why poems are read out loud, why paintings are hung in museums and public walls, why music is played to a wide reach of people.

Art needs an audience, because they are part of the creative process, too.

This is also why the best works have multi-layered meanings, so that it can speak simultaneously to people from all walks of life, and reach across borders that we have sadly placed around us throughout history.

So, my initial response would be to your questions, "Why do you think I did that? What has it communicated to you?"

But I was taught that sometimes it's rude to answer a question with a question and I don't want readers to think I am just writing some fancy prose to avoid giving an answer. So I'll respond, but I want you to read my replies with this in mind: they will be technical or simple alternatives, and not definites that would limit my humble poetry and take away so many possibilities, probably some great ones, that your discussions and generous attention will no doubt have bestowed upon it.

  1. When we use certain words it conjures up certain images. I used the ancient Roman name Neptune for the god of the sea, not only to convey the feeling a boy had when he saw a beautiful woman walk out from the sea, but to give it an ethereal aspect. As Neptune is the name of a planet also, it subconciously helps to conjure up a sense of the heavens and double the imagery of this goddess that strode out of the sea as though she commanded the waves. Had I used the ancient Greek name of Poseidon, this would have conjured up furious seas and trident shaped spears, images indelibly etched into our subconcious from the mythology learned. It was not the image I was seeking.

    However, I don't want to give the impression that you need to be well versed in Greek mythology to understand that poem. I hope that everyone can pick something amongst the different branches of meaning in the foliage of wordplay.

    For example, when the protagonist in the poem feels like Apollo's son, the meanings again were more than one. Some will understand that she made him feel like a god and some will understand the imagery of the sun god and the vitality that conveys. A few, too, may realise that one of Apollo's sons was the patron god of husbandry, reaffirming the reference that, by acknowledging his existence on the beach with a wave of her hand, this beautiful woman not only made him feel alive and like a god, but also like a man who wanted her in a very human way.

  2. Simply because of the techincal way we are introduced to poetry in schools, we shouldn't forget that this was what poems were made for - to woo, to cajole, to persuade, to make connections with words and build bridges for lovers.

    In that sense, poetry is the fastest email to the heart.

    "First Loves, Latest Tears" was a personal response to someone written in a semi-poetical way. I thought I could get my message across and answer a question at the same time. When it had served its purpose, I re-drafted the writing into a poem. It was also another way of saying that sometimes second drafts are better than the first, re-emphasising the message of that piece.

    This is my own opinion of course, you may have preferred the first version.

    The best I can hope for is that you and the person it was personally addressed to will both have understood something, not to my extent, but your own.

    So, we come full circle to what your letter was really about, not what I meant, but what you understood, and this will always differ according to each indvidual and to the boundless realms of the imagination.

  3. I shall be completely unoriginal and in answer to your last question say that my best poem is the one that I have yet to write.

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