Different Language

MirrorMaking the rounds online is Pooja Nansi’s commentary on the need for poetry on our shores – read it if you haven’t yet done so!

‘Young people of my generation seem more passionate than ever about ensuring our country is a reflection of all that we have to offer, but we are also struggling to talk about issues that are difficult and won’t fit into a neat box. We don’t know how to work with things we cannot easily define. We are a society in love with pie charts, acronyms, data, neat slogans that help define and neatly explain our concerns.

But there are things in the world, in life and in the human condition, where the most real things – like questions of belonging, identity and loss – cannot be quantified, neatly packaged, or sometimes, even named. This is also why Singaporeans don’t read poetry.

Poetry demands that you suspend yourself in uncertainty, it asks for meaning to unfold in its own time and this can be incredibly uncomfortable if you are used to constant certainty.

But it is precisely in situations where we are forced to struggle with the unknowns of life when we tend to turn to poetry. It is no coincidence that poetry resurges in difficult times like war or times of complex human emotions, like weddings and funerals. Poetry exists to give us language where we have none.

Poetry demands that we feel instead of think, to sit in questions rather than rush for answers. It asks that we recognise no two people live in the world in the same way, the same poem can mean vastly different things to different people and neither meaning is “wrong” or “right”.

Poetry demands that we examine all the contradictions, even the ones within ourselves. We cannot hate without the capacity for love, we cannot grieve if we do not feel joy, and we cannot build if we do not first tear down.’

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