This post is the third of a new series, highlighting talented artists whose work I admire.
I call it ‘3 Question View’ because it’s limited to three questions (Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three) and it’s a rather truncated inter-view, designed to elicit three compelling answers from each artistic mind.
3 Question View – Shaista Tayabali
Writer and Poet, Lupus in Flight www.lupusinflight.com
I’m quite envious of your delicate touch with words. You conjure evocative imagery with just a stanza. What brought you to poetry as a way of expressing yourself? In your writing, how do you feel about the economy of poetry versus the expansiveness of prose?
The art of economy is a discipline I learned at university. Up until then, I had been a fairly indulgent prose and poetry writer. My composition of language was often deeply emotive, highly subjective and heavy with the influence of romance and Keatsian turns of phrase. Often, but not always. There has also been a trend in my writing, since childhood, towards describing a snapshot visual, and towards epiphany. I began university with the shadow of a complex illness already threatening to obscure me, so I was determined to excel.
This proved difficult for two reasons – I liked to answer questions in my own merry, meandering way, and I did not know how to edit myself. My Professor, Simon Featherstone, taught me this: “The line that you are most attached to, is the line that has to go!” In learning precision, I learned economy. And I think, perhaps, my poetry has begun to adapt to my rather fragile body. These quick brushstrokes of poems serve me well in and out of hospital.
Delicacy aside, though, sometimes I yearn to write a tome in the style of Tolstoy; an epic blockbuster of a novel packed with 108 Dickensian characters. Yearning is what we artists and writers do best!
The Names of Things
gazes out at me
behind the window frame;
Half content to be
in Billy Collins’ world,
half wishing to be me –
Cross legged in the evening sun
drinking rose petal tea.
I can name the Yellow Rose,
the frilly Poppy, the Bee
longing for that same tea;
the half-eaten bruised cherries,
the guzzling, drunken, blackbird feast.
Deep in the shadows,
lazy snakes of ivy curl
and the wind is a Tempest again –
I walk among the unnamed things
the secret, hidden lives,
I pronounce the names of Latinate things
and trip on the words
and smile –
snow in summer,
stars in spring,
where the herb garden sings.
When you begin writing a poem, do you focus on an image? A phrase? A song? What inspires the act of picking up the pen?
And roses will grow
And perhaps we shall walk
And reminisce about the snow
And kick up some leaves
And weave up some dreams
While the world passes by
My father and I.
I love ‘The Year of Yes’; it’s deeply inspirational. It speaks of great positivity, despite the challenges you face with lupus. How has keeping your positive energy and happiness been instrumental to your life and your writing?