I had a vision now.
It wasn’t a vision.
A man in a striped shirt stood in a line.
His hair looked like yours
So I thought of you.
Fuck I prolyl should’ve messaged you back
After I asked for and you sent me that photo
Of your baby. (“Today I could aspire but I want to nap”)
Toronto poet, choreographer and performer Aisha Sasha John’s third poetry collection is the absolutely thrilling I have to live. (Toronto ON: McClelland & Stewart, 2017), a book-length suite of lyric poems running lengthwise across the entire stretch of being, exploring the physical, the sexual and the spiritual. Composed as a poetic diary, I have to live. is an incredibly sensual and deeply personal book, and sketches out across titles such as “Something softens me,” “I sleep in a room.” and “When I leave here I don’t know where I am.” to “What’s the big fucking deal about,” “The landlord said he lost his phone.” and “How much of your body is in your head.” There is something memoir-ish, even “confessional” in her first-person poems, carved as a combination between lyric essay, storytelling and myth. “I am low and found; I am high and found.” she writes at one point. In another part of the collection, she adds: “If I’m wrong / If I’m wrong – who gives a fuck? // I have to live.”
Oh I feel great.
Ya I feel grealous.
I have ten minutes.
Today I want clarity.
I understand the next book cover
To be my tiny little ear so
If you want more instruction, note:
I already told you
To lie on the ground or
Sit on it.
It can’t be
All the time. (“Happy Cup”)
The poems in this collection revel in the phrase and fragment, held together as a single, extended book-length declaration of story, personality and theatre; a declaration of standing firm, resisting when required, and being attentive to whatever might come. This is an open-hearted, no bullshit collection of hefty, articulate, funny and sensual poems. One of the more striking poems in the collection, originally published in The Capilano Review, is the sequence “In August I visited my Gran.” that includes:
On the television
A woman carves from a stack of rice krispie squares
I feed cut watermelon to my grandmother.
I am low and found; I am high and found.
When I read that part to my mom over the phone she
Cries. It’s sad
I put my ticket there on her Visa.
The next day my cousin sends me a message.
I read the message.
Then what I do is call my mother.
Now you don’t have any more grandparents!