I’ve often heard Sikhs refer to the mighty Guru Gobind Singh as being a ‘warrior-poet’. We’ve been patronised to death with the ‘martial-race’ term, but what’s all this poet stuff?! Aren’t they the wishy-washy middle-class types who drink expensive coffees musing the problems of the world from afar? Or perhaps poetry is some dated, unused, form of communication, no longer needed since WhatsApp arrived? Poetry is a literary art form that we admire from really far away and we often brag about how the Guru Granth Sahib is written in poetic verse, but what is the significance?
If I was to define poetry in my own words, I’d struggle. The best I’ve come up with is, poetry is the deepest connection between the heart and the written word. It’s emotive in nature and generally represents the self-truths of the person writing it. When I started to fully understand this, it made a lot of sense why the Sikh Gurus sealed this art form in the Guru Granth Sahib. Ideas are presented thoroughly through all manner of poetic devices. From the classic ABAB rhyme schemes, alliteration, perfect rhymes, metaphors and juxtapositions to complex verse structures such as the call-response of the Siddh Gosht and the free verse style of Japji Sahib. If we want to take our relationship with the Guru seriously, we need an understanding of its literacy devices to appreciate the relevance of them. There’s no accidents or coincidences, it’s all written, preserved and sealed for a reason. Poetry is in our veins and the importance to read and listen has been there since day one. Sikhs such as Bhai Gurdas or Bhai Nand Lal couldn’t help but write when they were inspired by the Guru.
Poetry has brought so many benefits to my life that it seems almost insulting to try and sum them all up in an article. Seriously. Before my love for poetry, I had a terribly small vocabulary. Reading and listening to poetry really helped me build my own database of words, as I had to look up words I didn’t know. It helped me become more versatile in my penmanship and I find myself using the techniques I learnt from poetry whenever I write anything. Whether it’s an email to a friend, or if I’m appealing a parking ticket, I find myself using the poetic techniques to make my point. As spooky as it seems, I’m purposely propagating poetry by promoting it powerfully in this article. Hopefully! But the impact of poetry on my life doesn’t end there. Writing poetry has given me a mechanism to be extremely reflective. My poem “Duality” was my way of figuring out the battle within and how best to proceed. It’s this process of reflection that helps me find the solution amongst the inner rambles. Like keeping a journal, the expressive process is therapeutic as it provides a quick and easy release. There’s only so much sweeping under the rug a person can do before the lumps begin to show.
One thing I never imagined when I first began writing was the ability to heal myself. Simultaneously I am trying to help the community by sharing poems such as “I Live for” which reinforced my life mission and the people I’m determined to be empathetic with. Being honest in my poetry enabled me to be honest with the world, whilst being vulnerable allowed me to create extremely deep connections with people I may never meet. Not everyone will always understand what I’m going on about, but I try to give the listener/reader the best chance I can. It’s for this reason, I believe that we need poets to share their writings with the world. Yes, some writings aren’t written for the world to read, but you’d be really surprised what wonders a bit of connection can do for those around you. I originally wrote ‘Book of Narvir’ for myself to help deal with my own trauma of the past. I never imagined sharing it with anyone in a million years. But I did to 250+ strangers including close family members at Saffron Mic in November last year, many of whom had never heard about my teenage years before. I hope my honesty in the shame/guilt of my endeavours took the strength away from the secret taboos of the community so others too, feel free to express however and whatever they wish.
The time to appreciate, write and share poetry is well and truly here as we as a Diaspora all seem to be coming to similar conclusions. If you need some more inspiration and convincing to write, check out Rupi Kaur (@rupikaur_), Salvin (@salsuave), Jasmin Kaur (@suhaagan) on instagram as they’re constantly posting up great pieces which personally inspire me massively. If you need a place to perform, go to When Lions Roar in Toronto, Azaadi in Vancouver, Kaur Voices in California, Lahir in New Jersey, or Saffron Mic in London (this November!). Scribe your fears, loves, dreams, aspirations – ready to share with the world. Write it to be read, write it to be heard at a Slam poetry event or spit it over a beat. Poetry is timeless and is here to stay, pick your style and let’s get free.