PARALLEL by Noor

In the other universe I am

             white, skin    

bandaging my body. Always

I’m born a wound. Look

how I gape. Look how the skin is an

afterthought. I’d like to probe, now

underneath: examine the darker

tissue, that which shrieks & festers, the loud

and unallowed secrets of muscle & bone.

 

In the other universe

I am an alchemist. Watch me

turn            white

to wound to knife watch me carve

my face into the surface of the full

moon. In every universe I break

my god             -given body into something

closer to black, riot       against

what was given at birth— a name          

& what else       what else could I seek to be

but this un-    gender, seething in the

dark? what else was there to do, but cut into the murk

of flesh     become larger than

a body—

 

What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?

 

I think that there’s an issue with the way we approach the term “emerging poet.” Too often, it’s in the context of this idea that until you’ve got a book published, you’re still emerging, or maybe another way of saying that is transitioning, into the “poetry world.” The issue I take with that sentiment is it assumes a lot about what makes a poet a poet, when in reality that’s a very subjective thing to say. And what does “the poetry world” even mean? I also think it’s sometimes used in a condescending way, which irks me, because honestly what “emerging” means is “working your ass off.” Getting ahead, getting work published, developing an audience/following, making it so your art is well known and sustainable, getting recognized, with awards or just by name--whatever your goal is--requires an intense and tenacious grind. When I hear the term “emerging poet,” I imagine a poet who is literally stuck under an enormous amount of sand or muck, who has to fight tooth and nail to emerge into the light and not suffocate under the weight of what’s in their way.

 

Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?

 

Well, if we’re going off my previous definition, then yes. I am ambitious and grind every day to hone my craft, make connections, and grow as a poet so that my work can be better known and my art sustainable. Not because I’m some newbie and need to qualify my status as a damn good poet.

 

What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?

 

Hard work but also luck and connections. Also, I’m of the opinion that even if you happen upon 5 minutes of fame, if you don’t carry yourself respectfully within the poetry community, your recognition will eventually turn against you. Especially in the QTPOC poet community -- we’re so small, and are already facing so much wrong in the world. If you come into spaces disrespecting other poets, in the context of writing or otherwise, you’re not going to find your place in it.

 

How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?

 

Well, if you have privilege it’s going to help you find your way into the community, into recognition, etc., way faster. That is true because a), the less marginal your identities are, the more seriously your voice is taken by the mainstream, the easier it will be to find those connectiosn and opportunities I alluded to earlier. But also, b), it’s logistically harder to devote the time and the energy to craft and networking and grinding if you’re also disenfranchised socially.

 

Then, too, there’s the issue of individual power dynamics in the poetry community (as opposed to the structural issues I was just talking about.) There’s a lot of privileged people who already have an easier time getting that platform and are doing real damage by erasing the voices of those who are more marginalized. This can manifest as blatant bigotry in art and interpersonal interactions, or as speaking (writing) over the voices of those who need to be heard.

 

In the end, QT/POC poets are out here taking these Ws left and right! It’s important to acknowledge that these are capital Ws. Our feats are doubly monumental because we’ve overcome all the other mess that comes with being a marginalized person making art, and still, here we are, excelling and thriving.

 

What does community mean to you?

 

Community is the word for the people who hold you as a writer and a person as you embark on this very difficult, very personal journey. Members of your community can know you personally or just support your work by existing in the same writing world. I don’t know everyone in the QTPOC poetry community, for example, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t all interacting, directly and indirectly, by virtue of this deep connection we share. Everyone in a community has a different experience of their identity, but in the end I believe that our identities bond us into something that is bigger than any individual could be. Community is powerful in that way. Community is also messy; community can harm when it doesn’t hold people accountable or when it erases those who are marginalized within it. I don’t think community is just the subset of people in this world who are always good to you or always do the right thing. Families are communities--as dysfunctional and harmful as some of them can be.

 

Community is so crucial. It can be a lifeline -- for some, the only lifeline -- in this heavy work of poetry. In the best case, community, especially for QTPOC writers, is what grounds the work. It’s what keeps poets from feeling alone or as if they’re writing in a vacuum as they dig into their interior in order to write their truth.

 

 

 

NOOR is a poet who writes to survive. He is also a Callaloo, Watering Hole, and Pink Door fellow, and all his friends’ teita. His work is hot like a tater tot and appears in Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Winter Tangerine, The Black Napkin, Crab Fat, Wusgood, Yes, and Maps for Teeth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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