SELF-PORTRAIT GRADE 12
ck one, bus tickets, some mother's car, frozen orange juice crystalsspooned into the slim neck of a vodka bottle, bomb scarshiny, taut on the shoulder of one boyanother boy'spenthouseinside of which Iwas a tourist, passing
and these boys aren't full even: stuttering, wet, timidwith control.and these boys strum, nod, elasticate, convince,bury, these boys drum kits in their nose hairsfreshly beaten asses waving to a tender vancouver night froma white convertible, expletives fingered in dust, okay?the boys sat treasuring, malignant, filing cabinets fullone year youngerone lap around the block, me “holding” their cigarettesa drag is three, buzzed from one drag, thanks you canhave it back
There is something rich and lovely in the voice Toronto poet, performer and playwright Aisha Sasha John writes in, her writing/speaking voice, in her first collection of poems The Shining Material (Toronto ON: BookThug, 2011). In a collection of poems-as-address, John writes out shouting and singing and thinking and arguing unafraid, even as the fear comes through, in places, only to be beaten back by her lines. These are poems written very much to be read aloud, and her voice is here, insistent, coming through, as the back cover claims, to “work against the language of the banal.”
SELF-PORTRAIT WITH YOU
proving to ourselves weknow how tofeel good
What I find interesting about these poems is in how they are composed, nearly as notes written to the self, quickly written down, quickly caught, with such wild energy, barely contained even as the poems become shaped. Hers are poems fighting against the dark but not caught or trapped there, in pieces fighting to be heard, rippling between cultures, between English and French, between self-doubt and so much everyday bullshit. Given her past few years working in theatre and writing plays, the peformative element of the poems are immediately clear, giving her lines added weight, and a wonderful energy and immediacy.
One of my favourites of the collection the first poem, “SELF-PORTRAIT SELF-HUGGING,” perhaps the best example of a poem that deserves to be heard, written nearly to be sung or shouted. Here is a section from the middle of the piece, that writes:
and to resist makes the tension mountains, soI'm valley elegantI'm rolling green and billowing breezesshort flowers, lost petals: there's elegance to a small flower half-bareits stem bent elegant and elegant it's okay it's fineI won't endup like herI'm much more, modes more elegantmoving with gobs, dripping wetgrace.
he can't take that from me.
elegant he frustrates, switchingshit aroundignoring me inelegant, so
may I Lord please have some grace?
and if he's not there can I so elegant move unawkwardlyand if he is I'll drink the juice of that sightmister, don't say anything please inelegant. don't be inelegant.
maybe, I still want you everyday.