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At peace with the past

We all ride the crests and troughs of life and create memories along the way, often reliving and replaying our memories in the journey of life. If our past has been happy, we cherish it time and again as happy memories. But if life throws us curveballs, we find the past hard to embrace.

We carry our past with us, but each of us deals with it differently. Some strive to accept their past through music, some through art. And there are some who make peace with their past through poetry. Explaining how poetry can be cathartic and can help make better sense of the past, poets Punam Chadha-Joseph, Ranjani Murali, Rochelle D’silva and Rochelle Potkar bared their souls at the session The Way Things Were: Decoding the Personal, at the second edition of Bengaluru Poetry Festival.

For Mumbai-based poet Chadha-Joseph, poetry gives clarity of thought and the strength to accept the past. A stanza from her poem, A Dash, that she recited at the session voices this emphatically:

There is no perfect Life, but some moments do define

Things that make me happy, with which I must align

Can I then embrace pleasure without any guilt,

Believing in the convictions that for myself I have built?

Following the festival, Soulveda caught up with Chadha-Joseph to understand her take on poetry and past. Reflecting on her recital, she said, “Poetry purges my mind of all the clutter, which can be inhibiting. Through poetry, I’m able to relive many moments in my life, both good and bad. I tend to romanticise the good times, but in retrospect, the bad times too don’t seem drastic anymore.”

“Through poetry, poets find the strength to not only face their past, but also make peace with it. And in doing so, they make their past a comfortable fragment of their present selves.”

Like Chadha-Joseph, performance and spoken word poet Rochelle D’silva too finds the courage to relive and comprehend uncomfortable moments from her past through poetry. Rochelle’s poem I Have Perfect Bottle Opening Hands is one of her attempts at dealing with past love, heartbreak and pain:

If I had known

The last time I held you or saw you or kissed you

Would be the last time,

I would have held you longer, closer, harder

Pressed against my memory like the roots of a two-hundred-year-old sycamore

Trying to break free from the concrete pavements that line the streets of my mind

Explaining the underlying need to find a sense of release from the past, D’silva told Soulveda, “I have always used poetry to make sense of the world and my experiences. Once the poem has been written, it is as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and I feel like I can breathe again.” She further shared that her poetry comes from a place of deep discomfort and over the last seven years, it has helped her become a person she is comfortable with.

Perhaps, no one can explain the weight of the past we carry better than such poets. Better yet, they find acceptance and release in the verses they write. Through poetry, they find the strength to not only face their past, but also make peace with it. And in doing so, they make their past a comfortable fragment of their present selves.


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