Ideas can spring from anywhere. Sometimes we even can’t follow the trajectory of our own thoughts. As tobacco is trampled down in a pipe with a thumb, ideas as well as emotions lie buckled under the weight of time, but can crop up during a creative process. For instance, as regards creative process in poetry, we can see what Wordsworth (Lyrical Ballads, 1798) spoke of it, “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotions recollected in tranquility.” The idea is still in vogue. Dr Joseph Murphy (The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, 1963) also says “Subconscious mind…is the creative medium.” Julia Kristeva in her treatise, Revolution in Poetic Language (trans. Margaret Waller, 1984) believes that good poetry is an eruption from the unconscious or semiotic processes into logical order of language.
The sub-conscious or the unconscious is the pivot around which the poetic process revolves. Our imagination like an invisible hawk flits from idea to idea ever-modifying itself with murky shapes, sometimes with a belt-and-braces mechanism, at times targeted, to swoop down over its prey–the final destination of the idea or the poem. The creative process remains the same, values of poetry and approaches to those values, however, keep changing with the elapsing time.
‘Asians to watch out for’ served as the theme for this issue. As it appears on our website, I quote verbatim: We take our name from Yellow Peril, a term coined in the 19th century, to describe the perceived menace of Asian migration to Western countries and colonies, such as Australia. But are Asians still dangerous in Australia? Or are Asians in Australia the “happy migrant effect” writ large?
We had invited poets to contribute as per above theme. Picking a theme may impel a mind to apply wit and memory in the apparel of rationality, while writing a poem would predominantly demand inspiration to justify its existence. A paradox? No. Perhaps, yes; but in the same fashion as Longinus spoke of in his On the Sublime, which suggests that art is nothing without passion and vice versa. Accordingly, we provided our contributors an opportunity to use the chisel of their art through our theme, wherefrom emerged, as I could witness, the tones and colours of their inspiration.
Some poems bristled with ideas from the era of Modernism, still not untouched by Romantic allusions. Others wafted with the fragrance of Post-Modern versification. Some beavered away at their art as if trying to undo scratches from the melamine. Some poems leave you panting for more. For instance, take a few lines from Ramon Loyola’s poem, To Be a Landscape, which throws light on the emotive winds that shake the vessel of human bond in guise of deportment (a kind of rejection?): There in the distance/ The church spire stands/ And judges my predilection/ For strange, unholy deportment. It continues at another stanza: I do not seek asylum anywhere/ But in your minds and gentle hearts/ I do not long for refuge anywhere/ But in your welcoming arms.
A giant philosophy, pluralism, like an octopus with its four pairs of sucker-bearing arms swims through cultural milieu to embrace as much as possible, but philosophies are not translated into action up to the hilt. The grey area exists. It’s where the Marx’s concept of alienation and/or Existentialistic idea of estrangement emerge. Our theme addresses this grey area. So do our poets.
Let’s see how Nadia Rhook in her poem, a centre place, touches upon an identical phenomenon: two men, upright, before Sun Yat Sen/ his walking stick aimed down to earth and off to heaven/ … the stick directs me away from the Dr’s gaze, away from these friends/ to a cloudless blue sky/ … as if looking up might pry this city apart/ might split white wings on grey cobbled stones/ or, I’ve seen this city’s axis/ a centre unto/ the middle.
The same idea of alienation in a different twist is shared by Adam Aitkin in his poem, In the Billy Sing Bagdad Bar-and-Grill, when he says: I’d heard the director didn’t need an Asian to play him, / young Billy Sing, Gallipoli’s finest sniper. Like Albert Camus’ protagonist Meursault in his novel The Outsider (L’Étranger), one of our poets, Zola Gonzalez Macarambon alludes to estrangement in her poem, Flat 3, Cobain Street: El demonio de las comparaciones has one brown eye, / and another a pale blue – earth and sky witness sin. Zola approaches ‘devils of comparison’ between the house at her home country, Philippines and her current dwelling at Melbourne.
Roots help mighty oaks to stand. But the branches, leaves, twigs and flowers don’t deserve disdain because we chant anti-root slogans. An oak is a complete unit encompassing all its trunk, boughs, offshoots, blossoms, catkins, acorns, roots etc. Love, not hatred, is the eye to see and absorb the beauty of these oaks. Pluralism demands this.
With the identical thought, I shall end here with my poem on our current theme:
A PORTRAIT OF AN OUTSIDER
Eyes–curved inside with the burden of
Dark spots translating hope into despair,
Eyelashes along with eyebrows brooding
Over thorns of poverty, ’bout to bleed.
Lips–like dried river banks, cracked like dead soil,
Two petals meant to peck, snog Adonis,
Lie un-kissed in the pit of helplessness.
Hair–lifeless, lie curved on shapeless shoulders,
Crinkled like a dried page in the store room
Of oblivion; an old graveyard of
Memories lies strewn with pale, lifeless leaves.
Body–a forlorn hill of bones, endeared
By skin as if a canopy with some
Flesh-patches painted on its drifting sand.
Topless, she sits under scorching sunbeams,
Breasts, hanging against their will, flesh-less, dry
And a baby like a lizard clings to
One breast, her mouth sucking life out of it.
A portrait of an outsider in huge
Gallery of insiders gleams with the
Colours of laughter sprinkled lavishly.
The outsider jumps out of the portrait
Only out for few moments she observes
Her portrait minutely an’ finds that she’s
Playing on a harp at Lake Eyre, S.A.
Singing songs of un-aging love an’ care
For whole mankind from the east to the west,
Her fresh crooning locks hum in a chorus,
Her scarlet dress shimmers under moonlight,
Her lively eyes see, show glimmers of hope.
She turns to laughing, mocking insiders,
They also gaze at the portrait again
But they laugh this time louder than before;
Noise Deafening, she sinks into portrait,
As she can’t leave to her country ’cause she’s
Frozen her soul in the portrait for good!