I’ve always had a fascination with the written word. From my literary lust as a child to my obsession over lyrics, I’ve known that words, especially those in print, hold such a captivating power! They can produce joy, disappointment, heartbreak, wonder, suspense and more… All within the time it takes for your mind to process it.
When I was 10 years old, my cousin and pen-pal wrote to me with a Thanksgiving poem she had penned.
I was floored.
It was good stuff! At least I remember it to be good stuff, I could hardly believe that 9 year old Alisha had written so eloquently. At least it seemed eloquent in my decade-old mind. I determined to do the same, to churn out poems that would make me feel eloquent. Poems that tugged at the heart. So I remember writing three. Three pieces that touched on nature, Christianity, and my move from New York to Texas.
I’m sure I have them tucked into some drawer or file in my room, but I dare not retrieve them. Just thinking about them makes me cringe. I won’t get into the details… But let’s just say that I rhymed “New York” with “metal fork”. Yeesh.
When I was in middle school, some of my cousins were in a Christian hip-hop group and I devoured their lyrics, writing and re-writing them in school notebooks, fascinated by the way they seemed to flow. I had aspirations to become a rapper myself, trying to pen my own lyrics. I won’t get into those details either.
Then came high school. Somewhere between my Junior and Senior years, I tapped into a deeper reserve. I found a well of complex emotion, sentiment, and the stuff that feels. The stuff that made you want to cry when you fell and scraped your knee as a kid, or held captive your breath as you viewed a sunset. The stuff that isn’t really emotion and isn’t really sentiment, and yet it is sort of like emotion and sentiment.
And like a volcano that isn’t dormant anymore, it exploded and overflowed onto paper.
I wrote and wrote and wrote. Lines and couplets on scraps of paper that are either long gone or tucked loosely into a red folder I keep on my bookshelf. Alliteration and rhymes and free verse and form. Some of it was good; most of it wasn’t. But I found that poetry gave me an opportunity to step out of myself and view myself as a third party. Except I was a third party in the know. I was altogether separate, yet connected to the person who wrote verses and rhymes.
The curious thing about poetry is its layers. Now, some will tell you that good poetry should not be ambiguous, but I dare to disagree. Yes, I think poetry should convey a message, but that message is not always direct or explicit. A good poem takes you beyond the surface, beyond what is verbally written, and invites you to explore the shadowed catacombs beneath the surface of versed city. A good poem draws you in and makes you feel.
My poetry is my attempt to understand. Understanding myself, understanding the world, understanding God. Understanding the place where my brokenness is touched my Christ’s completeness.
I’ll post some of my poems from time to time. Not because I hope someone will magically find them and print them in some magazine. But because I think all of us want to be known. Not just through status updates or tweets. But to be known. I think we all have a part of ourselves that wants to scream and shout, “Look at me! This is the real me! Not the mask I put on every morning! But the me who hurts and loves and is messy! Sing it out, OneRepublic! I want to give all my secrets away!“
And frankly… This is the best I know how.
“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”
– T. S. Eliot