My Poetic Journey

By Ashleigh Mafemba

But I give respect

Poem by Ashleigh Mafemba

To the young boys and girls growing with purpose

May your lives reflect

To next generations that we can live above the curses

Your surname does not define you as an individual

Nor the mistakes of those before you…

Death will not touch you, you’re physical, mental, and spiritual

Because your name is in the subtext of the universe too.

…and best believe, God has taken this into account

Your body may decay, but the stars will remember your essence unbound.

I give respect to the ladies and gentlemen still able to dream with no retreat

Surrounded by life wrapped in suicide but remaining on course

With every day a new form of torture, you still murder it in these streets

Passion and perseverance are a lethal force

So cheers to a longer life sentences cause you to show no remorse.

Still sending my respect to the true friends that aren’t only on television

That don’t care about inheritance

Because carrying beef only causes more division

And you understand that loyalty is beyond appearance.

To our mothers and fathers in all forms that did not teach hate

For trusting the process of their seeds and watering us to become

Giving us the tools we need to create

ourselves into doctors with patience- it’s never too late to become

And reminding us that the earth is a sphere bound by the same gases so we are one.

Someone once wrote that poetry is the science of reality. The statement itself is quite poetic, what better way to define poetry than by appreciating the simplicity in one of its definitions. It is however safe and important to note that the expressive art of Poetry cannot, in essence, be truly defined. It is art, it is dynamic but it also is very relative, which is to say that it is not for everyone.

Poetry has existed for eons across time, despite human ignorance whether on purpose or not. The general populace is of the notion that poetry is confusing and difficult to indulge or understand and perhaps even write. Poetry however comes in various forms; wedding vows, music, appreciation posts, and/or Instagram captions are all poetic.  It does not necessarily have to be cryptic for it to be considered so nor does it necessarily have to rhyme or follow a specific sequence for any piece of writing to be rendered a poem. On that same note, there are several genres within poetry that one can venture into out of comfort or even experiment. They range from those that are specific to loss (elegy, dirge, epitaph, lament, tragedy) to romance and anything that sparks from inspiration (ballad, epic, fable, lyric, ode, parody, riddle, sonnet, haiku). More contemporary genres are found in music (rap, hip/hop, hymns), in film, and other varied art forms like opera and/or dance.

I will however talk about poetry from an introspective vantage point. I grew up among artistic people, surrounded by a lot of post-colonial vestiges (which to be fair is still present in this day and age) and that includes a lot of English literature and foreign music. In retrospect though, I do not feel it was entirely unfortunate that I did not grow up indulging in native literature because I am certain that my inspiration would still turn out the way it is right now, which is a synthesis of both my nature and nurture. As I mentioned before, poetry is relative, therefore, it is inspired by different things for different people, and seeing as how it does not come with an instruction manual, it, in turn, is interpreted differently depending on who is reading it. There is a cloud that hangs over poets or writers in general that they are depressive which is not entirely true, but like most poets, and I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but sombre emotion does light the greatest flame within me. It is when I reminisce on those dark moments that my creativity is at its peak.  I am unable to write in the moment that I feel any emotions, I, therefore, have to break it into pieces and write separated fragments to paint a bigger picture and this seems to work quite well for me.

As the years went by, I moved from a middle density to a high-density suburb and this became yet another greater source of inspiration (social commentary). I have always loved and appreciated a good story and the stories I hear about or vicariously experience here are incredibly rich in both negative and positive emotions. Regardless of these good stories, I find myself asking what the point of even commenting on the social situations surrounding me is, or, even merely writing anything. This leads to the question of the importance of poetry. I can only answer for myself however and say it is a form of release (that can do both harm and good-the pen is mightier than the sword) and advocacy with the hope that someone who reads my words is moved enough to make a difference along with me or at the very least resonate with the way I’m feeling- a reminder to them and myself that I am not alone. I have played my part by writing, by telling my story, whoever has heard will hopefully play theirs. I firmly do not believe that the entire world can change, especially not all at once, but it’s in all the little things, ideas, and words you think that go unnoticed. In essence, I write as a way of unpacking my thoughts, telling my story, and sometimes just commenting on things I see every day.

I do not consider myself a spoken word performer but I have performed a few times.it has been a learning curve with some performances turning out badly- I have forgotten my lines in a few and I am hopeless at winging performances. For my performances, I draw inspiration from within and other people’s spoken word performances within my creative circle.  The likes of Banshee and Apollo are some of my biggest inspirations, watching them perform and taking in their words is quite euphoric. Seeing people be themselves regardless of audience expectation –it’s a goal of mine.

Nature, Humans, anything that exists within the universe, around you, and within you can be used as inspiration if you tap into it with purpose. Another essential thing to take note of is that there is no such thing as “original” because ultimately everyone repurposes already existing elements to form words and sentences and so on. Not only that but considering that inspiration can come from other writers, it means that what you’re writing isn’t original to you.

So the next question is what then does one do after harnessing inspiration. It’s simple, you write.

The creative process however does differ with individuals. Some pray first, some meditate (in silence, to music, your surroundings). Some write best in the shower mentally or when they are walking and some even go on Pinterest to both harness and create.

My creative process varies with my mood. I am guilty of being lazy sometimes and on those days I record. But usually, I walk around with a little diary and pen that I collect sentences in case inspiration tries to catch me unaware. The fact of the matter however is that after writing, I’m hardly ever satisfied but I keep the work just in case it’s possible to make it better.

Images by Ashleigh Mafemba

Originally published in the 120th Ndeipi Magazine

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