My Poetic Journey
The first time I wrote a poem, I was five years old. It was a silly scribble of four lines about hills, that neither rhymed nor made much sense, to be honest. Yet, that is where my tryst with poetry began. The journey since then has been eventful, to say the least. Through school, I wrote constantly, filling up notebook margins and back pages with odd verses during class.
Eventually, I began to use poems as an outlet for my pent-up emotions – I wrote every time I was angry, confused, or hurt. Tackling feelings through the written word felt like the most natural way to deal with them. Somewhere midway through college, I stumbled upon Sarah Kay. Until then, I hadn’t even considered the spoken form. I was hooked! Soon, I began to attend open mics in Chennai. Meeting performers and discussing poetry with them inspired me to learn more about it. From writing it for catharsis, I slowly began to appreciate poetry as an art form. I sought out written and spoken word poems online, often spending hours on Poetry Foundation and YouTube.
The more I consumed poetry, the more my writing style evolved. I began incorporating imagery and metaphor, borrowing ideas from my favourite poets. I wanted to transcend from emoting to creating. In the time since, I have like to believe I have developed my own distinct voice, that a piece of me always exists in my poems.
The Poetry Retreat
While attending a poetry performance in Mumbai, I met Rochelle Dsilva. I had almost decided against going that night, but in the last moment, I went anyway. I am so grateful for that decision, because if not for that encounter, I would never have heard of a writers’ retreat especially for poets.
You see, one thing I regret in life is not studying literature (poetry) in college. I have often fantasized about going some place where I can discuss writing with other people who revere it as much as I do. The Poetry Retreat simulated that experience for me, albeit for a short while.
Spending five days in the company of poets was a pivotal event that altered my relationship with poetry. Until then, I could only write when I felt like it. At the retreat, sessions and prompts forced me to push beyond my comfort zone to create when the moment demanded it of me. I drew inspiration from the beautiful space at Saraya, from the poems our mentors read out to us, from conversations at the retreat with other fellow poets and from their work itself.
In between sessions, we discussed our favourite poets and spoke to each other in verse. We critiqued and complimented each other’s writings, and even read poems at mealtimes. In short, the retreat was nothing short of a dream to me.
One of the most important skills I picked up was learning to edit my own pieces. Before then, my first draft was often my last. I was too attached to my original creation to alter it. Through the course of the sessions, I learnt to disengage from my poem emotionally and instead, appreciate it for its independent existence. That helped me put out my best work.
With the help of my mentors, I wrote and edited three poems that eventually made it to the shortlist of the 11th Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize. For that, I will be eternally grateful. It made me believe that my poetry could be more than a hobby.
(Aashika Suresh is a sunlight seeker, coffee lover, poetry aficionado, and a perpetual paradox. When she's not looking for the meaning of life, you can find her trying to write a story with her unicorn pen or sheepishly stuffing her face with chips.)