Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Joanne Arnott: World Poetry Day 2009, Part 2

I attended a reading recently in which two of the three performing poets stated, "when I say ‘our father,’ I don't mean mine." This accepted stance of poet as fiction writer, promulgator of artful lies, is very far from what i love about poetry. Vitality and truth are, for me, the main values in literature. Is this an effective vehicle for vitality and truth? This is the measure I use against stories that come my way, poetry made or received.

I travel the world (computer chair traveller, for the most part) for two reasons, out of curiosity, and to find succour.

Most of my research is driven by this need to find succour, from unbearable tension and pain, within myself, within my family, within my local community, within the world as a whole-- searching out stories and thoughts and ways of channelling information, that will allow for the truths of our worlds to become possible for us to assimilate, to damp down the poisons and poke holes in the walls, to open out into a safer space and a more empowered and nuanced embodiment of the world. I am alive, and in the world, and have an effect: that is about all that is for sure.

The motivation that i call curiosity is much more fun, but no more effective: the surging forth from my place, motivated by a powerful desire to know. This passionate, basic force of life leaping forth is the driving force behind much human creativity, and the dance between the two—passionate desire and dread, need for succour— familiar through all the ages of human storytelling and extant in all forms of human literature.

The title for the poem, "a night for the lady," i found on a poster for an event in honour of imprisoned Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and the first poem that i wrote on it's basis is quite brief: weaving heroic lovers Sovann Macha and Hanuman from traditional Cambodian lore (and other Asian traditions) with a deceptively folksy quote by Iranian ex-pat author, Azar Nafisi, and a slip of conversation with (if I may use the term) my beau, articulating my emotional optimism in one of a long series of love poems in this way:

a night for the lady
(building bridges)

I always had a hankering for the security of
impossible dreams.

Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

sovann macha
& hanuman
diving for joy

began in opposition—
he charged with building
the bridge to lanka

she charged with keeping
the waters open
running free

do you feel pursued?
not nearly enough!

they say the chase is
better than the catch, but i

the two

Image adapted from photograph by Margery H. Freeman at

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