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  • Writer's pictureAisha Salaudeen

I tried writing poetry, it didn't go well.

Updated: 5 days ago



Last year was a time for enduring difficult experiences. 


I resigned from a well-paying position at one of the world's most prestigious media organizations. The first half of the year was spent wallowing in extreme financial hardship, while the second half involved making two documentaries outside my comfort zone, working with clients in unfamiliar industries, and attempting to write what I considered really bad poetry.


This story, however, is about the poetry.


I love poetry. My first meaningful encounter with it was in 2016 when my then-boyfriend, Fu’ad, now my husband, gifted me Key Ballah’s collection, "Skin and Sun." It was life-changing. I was instantly captivated by the deep, profound nature of the words.


A poem written by Key Ballah
From Key Ballah's collection of poems.

That year, I attempted to write poetry but failed miserably. It quickly became apparent that mastering poetry, as Key Ballah had, required years of practice and was far more challenging than I had anticipated.


My second significant experience with poetry was in late 2017. My friends Lola and Sam were in their poetry-writing phase. They wrote about their lives, their emotions, and about Nigeria.


I enjoyed their work and, inspired, tried my hand at it again. However, after weeks of struggling to conjure up imagery and metaphors, I found it unbearably exhausting. So, I resigned myself to being their cheerleader from the sidelines.


In 2018, I discovered Amir Sulaiman’s collection, "Love, Gnosis, and Other Suicide Attempts," at Fu’ad’s house. Once more, I was stuck on the words and tried writing poetry again, only to fail. Poetry demands an emotional investment. While I could engage with other art forms, poetry remained difficult.


So, I gave up again.


Until November 2023. I told myself, "One more try. Just do it," and so I did. Compared to my previous attempts, this effort felt slightly easier. I involved my friends for accountability; I wanted quitting to be difficult. And it was. But, ultimately, I gave up again.


My husband, Fu’ad, isn't thrilled that I've abandoned poetry. The struggle with imagery and metaphors is still exhausting. It seems poetry isn't for me, at least not for now.


However, to ensure the poems don’t go to waste, I've decided to publish all of them here. I'll share one each week until I've shared them all. If any resonate, it’s likely because Ruka stepped in with helpful comments. I'm immensely grateful for her encouragement and deeply sorry for giving up despite her support.


Here's the first of many.


***

Who are you?

Why do you leave

When you mean to stay?

Why abandon the thing you want to keep,

Holding your breath when you mean to breathe in?


Why do you pretend to hate,

What you love? 

Don’t you know that living in denial

Is a different kind of pain?

Like pulling the hair out of your skin,

Or scratching it with a razor’s edge.

Who taught you that it’s okay

To leave and stay at the same time? 


And who will teach you that it's okay,

To stay and not just return,

To love what you love, openly, fiercely,

To set yourself, finally free?


***


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