Poets in My
Interrogation
Room


HOWRA AL TIMIMY


“A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer... He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it. A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring.” - E.B White 

︎ 

I began to write this piece with a clear case of writer's block. Rather than letting myself descend into insanity from staring into a blank document for hours on end, I began to clean out some of my old workbooks from my junior years of high school. Flipping through my messy handwriting and unglued worksheets, I stumbled on an old truth: I - clear as day - had loathed poetry. 

I was overcome with memories of my first poetry lesson of year 7 where my dull teacher had led us to explore a poem through a stable and monotonous road that ultimately led nowhere. 

He had handed a photocopied sheet of paper of a poem from a play, read it to us, and told us to highlight as he read again. 

Yellow for the metaphors; 

Orange for repetition; 

Green for alliteration; and 

Pink for all the words that rhymed.

And that was it, there were only 4 colours in a standard highlighter pack. He had then gone on to give us a line by line analysis, so specific I lost interest and never thought much of it.  I hardly remember my lead pencil swivelling against this sheet of unrecycled paper. I never came to care for this poem, and shockingly the bland essay that I diligently put together on my bus ride home, felt forced and unnatural. And as a matter of fact, line by line, I hated every second of writing my response. It had no effect on me, nor did I care for it.

And, with that, Shakespeare became the first poet in my interrogation room.

I had put him and his colourful, alluring and soft words in a cold, ferric and grey cell and tortured them both. 

Tell me what technique is in the quote “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,” or I’ll force it out of you. You owe me a clear answer and I cannot bear the shame of failing English. With no hint of irony crossing my mind I stampeded on Wordsworth's golden daffodils and plucked the flowers off as adjectives I could highlight.

This is no way to read a poem. A poem is not one to be taken possession of and be driven into one universal reading. In fact, this is what drains the poem and sucks out our desire to merely care.  

And so, as a junior student, the word “poetry” had become a word that made me roll my eyes by reflex. I had struggled to feel the connection, see the relevance or become inspired to admire the true artistry of poetry. 

We are convinced at a dangerously young age to yearn not for independent thinking, but for spoon-fed answers of techniques, context and concrete meanings that only just drive successful marks throughout schooling. 

These spoon-fed answers have taught me nothing besides the staid taste and indestructible shape of a metal spoon. All too familiar, like the cold steel bars of an interrogation room. And I could not bear the throes of dragging Wilde back to Reading Gaol with the view of the small tent of blue, which the prisoners called the sky. Helpless would I fall, unable to hide beneath the shadows and corners of the interrogation room. 

I don't want to know how perfectly written a poem is nor how well it's been praised. A poem is not perfect, not complete, nor does it have finished pieces. Words in a poem are not seamlessly put together like a jigsaw puzzle desperate for an image. So why are we forced to disassemble and deconstruct these plastic pieces in a cloistered interrogation room where we can’t access all the jigsaw pieces?

A poem will always be a mystery we cannot define, and a puzzle that will never be completed as one clear image. Through the cracks, torn pieces, and empty spaces, we flow through the painful dimensions and create our own stories. A place where we fit in. At the seams.




︎Howra (she/her) is a first year microbiology student who loves old books, oatmeal and parakeets.︎