What’s more interesting than the mind?” he asked. It was rhetorical. I smiled, for we shared a sentiment. His conviction was clear in his voice; I couldn’t have convinced him otherwise even if I’d disagreed.
It was well past midnight; I sat on the balcony, letting my eyes wander over the distant streets, occasionally returning to the notebook my best friend had given me, talking to one of my favorite writers and poets.
The excitement had been building for over a week when I asked him if he would be willing to talk to me about his perspective on life and discuss his book of poetry and prose. Although I was not sure if he would even see my message, let alone respond or agree to this conversation that will now end up in my archives and be reminisced forever.
Many seem to assume that poetry is a dying art form. I do not know if this is pure conjecture or supported by statistics. However, I believe that poetry is simply evolving. 21st-century poetry may lack the rhyme schemes and fancy vocabulary we are used to, the kind of poetry we used to dissect in a literature class to understand if the words were in fact, metaphorical.
“Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely that when others see us, they know exactly how it should be done.– Rudy Francisco, Helium
“The funny thing about magic, of course, is that the more you learn, the less you believe in magic.”-Phil Kaye, Date & Time
Modern poetry has evolved to reflect more on itself and society. It is often based on simple and understandable associations that we can easily identify with; it no longer needs to be dissected but is embraced for its artistic expression and emphasized emotions.
In other words, today’s poetry is gaining traction because it appeals to the majority. That’s probably why we follow pages dedicated to poetry on social media or share a line or verse with a friend or loved one. Don’t you think? Talking to one of your favorite poets, however, is not something you experience every day.
Although no words can do this moment justice, I would like to share here an excerpt from our conversation for the benefit of all poets and writers, as well as myself.
Suhaib, when did you realize you wanted to be a writer? Can you tell me about the path you took to get there?
I never intended to become a published writer. I believe that the process puts tremendous pressure on publication, which could have a negative effect on the natural flow of creativity. As for the beginning, my best friend passed away in my early 20s, and I turned to poetry as a therapeutic outlet.
I’m so sorry. Can’t imagine what that must have been like for you.
Yes, I was with him for a few weeks before he died. It was not unexpected; we all knew it was coming because he had a lung tumor, and by the time they diagnosed it, it was too late. At that point, there was nothing that could have been done except to be there for him. But I had difficulty processing the grief of his passing, and I really did not want to resort to the old ways.
What do you mean, “old ways”?
Self-destructive behavior. One could easily blame the wrong group of friends for being a rebellious, troubled teenager, but that’s not how it is. Behind most, if not all, cases of substance abuse or violent behavior are people who are simply hurting and do not know how to express themselves. And so they resort to self-destructive means that only worsen the situation. I did not want to deal with the loss of my friend in this way.
So I took some time off and buried myself in solitude and prayer. This seemed like a healthier way to process my feelings. During this time, I wrote down in my journal what I was feeling. It was a way for me to calm down, something I could turn back on when I felt like I was drifting off. Some of it I wrote down in a notebook, but most of it I jotted down on my Blackberry.
I’m sure it was deeply personal and remained in your journal…
Yes. But one day I shared some of my poetry and prose on my personal Facebook page, and I was surprised by the response I received. Many came forward to say that my words resonated with their own experiences.
Knowing that I had provided comfort to at least some made me want to share more. Because often when we are going through a difficult time in our lives, there are moments when we feel like we are alone. Like no one understands us, not even our closest family members or friends. But I have come to understand that even in our loneliness, we are never alone, but connected to many others who feel the same way.
What made you decide to publish a book?
When I started sharing my poems on Instagram, although I did receive a lot of positive feedback from readers in different parts of the world, there were also some people who claimed my work as their own and shared it with their own name stamp on it.
This was troubling at the time, considering I had not been sharing my poetry on social media for long and had a very small following. This triggered insecurity and fear in me, and to try and resolve this, a friend of mine suggested that I self-publish the collection in a book to give it some copyright protection.
In retrospect, however, I would like to point out that focusing on these fears only magnifies them. It is always best to turn your attention away from what you fear and resolve it from a place of calm and confidence.
Does that mean there are poems you do not share with your readers because of the fear of them being replicated elsewhere?
Well, to be sure, if I’m suddenly inspired to write a short poem, I’ve made it a habit to Google it. And if I find that anything out there even remotely resembles what I’m thinking of writing, I discard it or leave it in my journal as something private. The other day, for example, I was inspired to write a short poem and noted it down to expand on later. But my intuition told me to Google it, and to my surprise, one line of the short poem that I had written down turned out to be part of a ’70s song by James Swanberg.
If you think about it, our thoughts are not entirely our own. They could be influenced by books we read, music we listen to, movies we watch, our conversations, or something our grandmother said two decades ago, right?
Yes, it may be that I heard the song or came across the lyrics at some point and they were buried in my subconscious.
Here we talked more extensively about the collective consciousness and how you and I share similar thoughts and ideas and can draw inspiration through this unifying force of shared beliefs and norms. It was fascinating, but I am not going to go into collective consciousness today because it’s extensive, and we will have to come back to find out what changed Suhaib’s mind about publishing 🙂
So the first copy of the Emerald Companion that I published was in 2019. And that was rushed and not something I was proud of. It was strictly for copyright protection. Even though the few people who read it loved it, I felt like it was too small a collection for a book. So I did not promote it and just made it available on Amazon for anyone interested.
By March of this year, however, I had written much more to add to my book and also made all the necessary edits to finally have a version I was pleased with. After revising and expanding the book, I was inspired to sketch out a new cover, which I had a professional draw out for me. When I was done with it, I republished it on Amazon.
Let’s talk about Emerald Companion, the book title, and cover. Is there a story to that?
I have an emerald gemstone ring that has been with me since I started writing poetry. Everything I write and have written is connected to an experience that mostly happened when I had my ring. So it originally inspired me, but also reminded me that emerald is the color of the heart chakra.
Since poetry comes from the heart and is close to the heart, I chose Emerald Companion as the title for my book.
The cover was inspired by a tree that I have meditated next to for at least an hour or more each day for the past two years. The roots represent the subconscious mind and the branches represent the conscious mind. The sun and moon represent the masculine and feminine principles of each person, with the masculine representing consciousness and the feminine representing the subconscious.
The birds on either side are messengers, from the right and from the left, of the good and the bad that we experience; they all have something to teach us. The emerald in the center represents the seat of the soul, the heart, and when this is pure, it keeps everything in balance, including impulses, intuition, logic, and reason. That is why I added a balanced scale with the heart and the brain.
I was intrigued by how these elements came together on the cover to symbolize your journey. What are your intentions with this book? What do you wish to convey with your poetry?
The book is essentially meant and organized to be a companion for the reader’s heart in their journey of healing. So it begins with Fall, where we have all been; a lonesome period where you end up being by yourself, that leads to Solitude, and in our own company we find ourselves, and in finding ourselves we find God, which is what leads to the next chapter: Faith. Once faith is restored in the Source of all things and how immense and deep God’s love is for His creation, it diminishes despair and creates hope for a better tomorrow, leading to newborn Desires forming within the person.
But this time, the desire has a foundation of faith, so we find ourselves easily attracting the things we want, or rather focus upon. This leads to a Rise, rising in a state of consciousness, going from despair, guilt, and shame to inner peace. And then Love. The highest form of which is pure and unconditional, but the chapter also has some writings related to romantic and conditional love.
In essence, I have organized it in a way with the hopes of spiritually uplifting the reader and is a quick read so it can be read from cover to cover in one sitting and hopefully make a positive impact on the reader’s life or state of consciousness for that period.
Do you intend to publish a second book, and if so, when can it be expected?
It really depends, I don’t write for a living, and I want to keep it that way. If I have written enough in a year to compile another book, then I will. If not, then I might just revise and expand on the existing book.
When I wrote to you, I said, “As writers, we see the world differently. We perceive life as elaborately as we write” I would like to know your perspective on this.
This is very true, but I would say that the same is true for painters, musicians, or any other artist. As Da Vinci said, “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
Both, however, feel and think deeply, giving form to unheard, unsaid, or unseen images, words, or sounds that are deeply rooted in all of us. And when we encounter something that feels like home, we feel more connected to each other, it makes us feel less alone.
Now that we have had this conversation, I have come to the conclusion that the poetry you create gives a remarkable impression of you, as an individual. It was a pleasure talking to you, Suhaib, thank you for taking the time.
One last question before we wrap up this conversation… We have established that one does not have to be published to identify as a writer or poet. What would you say to someone who is not aware of that and feels overwhelmed or pressured to publish something?
I think first of all we write poetry for ourselves, at least for me and nearly every poet I’ve ever known, it’s therapy. It’s a way of bringing some order to our inner chaos. As for sharing, I think it’s worth it if it puts a smile on even one person’s face. It’s a beautiful thing to know that your words can be a means of comfort to strangers regardless of time and space. Whether it’s a collection of poems or a single poem, it doesn’t really matter.
It’s like Alan Watts said, you can’t be an “aspiring writer,” you’re either a writer or you’re not, and if you’ve written anything, then you’re a writer...