Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2016  Vol. 15 No. 1
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back EMAN HASSAN

The Eye of a Witness

I find poetic inspiration by observing the world around me. Poetry is an act of responding to the stimuli of life, the overlap between my inner world and the external one. It is a materialization of the mechanics of the mind and the dancing of the spirit. In this intersection between the imagination and reality, energetic openings are created, catalyst-like, giving rise to my verse. Many of my poems are born from snippets, a flash of image or metaphor, encapsulating a specific energetic tension that flushes out into lyrical narratives. In turn, the act of poem-making for me is about seeking to inspire and inform through the eye of a witness, an eye that beholds untold narratives and shares them to move the reader into a deeper awareness. Acts of injustice often compel my muse, just as great beauty moves me to write, or the desire to simply paint a portrait of wit with the medium of words.

To me, poems are aesthetic objects of desire, and the act of poetry is an aesthetic compulsion “to make.” To quote the late Adrienne Rich, who perceived the art of poem-making as an act of “invent[ing] what we desire,” poetry is “an activity of keenest joy” that can “be a means of saving your life.” I have a poster hanging in my office of Adrienne Rich’s musings on writing poetry meant to her, given to me by one of my committee members, Jeannine Savard, during my MFA years. It is in and of itself a catalyst that awakens the muse, an endless inspiration. Rachel Hadas’s collection Laws has always been a trigger for me as well, a harmony between the art and cerebral dexterity of poetry.

In the words of Frank Bidart, “we are creatures who need to make.” It is this desire to make that drives my work and calls me to write. I am primarily a witness poet, and I seek to invite the reader to contemplate human implications, to soul-search and evolve. My poems need to inspire something deeper as well as entertain. The title of one of conceptual artist Jan Fabre’s pieces, “Only acts of poetical terrorisme,” featured in his 2008 exhibition at the Louvre, hits the depth of what I perceive as the function of poetry: to invite the reader into a moment of beauty and elevation, a space from which they walk away with an experiential sensation, both visceral and intangible, that moves their perception, allowing them to consider other ways of being. Poetry is a trigger and as such is often triggered by a depth of feeling, a desire, an exclamation and commentary on the tragedy and beauty around us.  


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