This blog post was written by mentee Sabrina Persaud on our November poetry workshop with poet Amber Atiya.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with poetry over the past few years. I’ve always thought that a poem had to be written a certain way for the reader to really feel what the writer felt in that moment. I used to dedicate a lot of my time to poetry, as do many of us, and there came a point when it was the only thing I would write. My slight pessimism towards poetry stemmed from my own writing. There I was with dozens of stanzas doodled in my books and typed in the note section of my phone, but it didn’t mean anything to me. I was forcing something out of myself that I wanted to be both beautiful and effortless but I, as the writer, knew that my words hardly ever rang true to who I was.
Amber Atiya struck me because she did not have to try at all. Our craft talks typically last forty five minutes, but we went over time just to listen to her as much as possible. Amber shared a poem with us that I still cannot forget. It was based on a food stamp application form, and her answers to the questions were always along the lines of, “No, I’m hungry.” She did not have to say much for us to hear what she had to say. I was taken aback because I would never imagine that you could take something like an application form and make it poetic. By doing so, she brought a certain familiarity or humanness to the form. Amber was also generous with the advice she gave to us. I remember one thing she told us was to jot down whatever comes to mind. A single word could inspire an entire piece. She also told us that sometimes we get attached to the things we write, so we don’t really see that it does not come together. This resonated with me because it helped me understand why I felt so off about my poetry. Her poem was so simple, yet so significant. A penny could drop in that room and you’d be able to hear it clearly because everyone was so quiet. We were all in awe of her and everything she had to share.
I walked out of the workshop feeling hopeful about poetry again. Amber showed me that poetry is everywhere, and I don’t need to force myself to find it. I was cynical towards poems because I forgot how to write authentically. Now, I see that if I’m going to write a poem, I do not have to force it out. It will come naturally because it’ll be my truth. I admire Amber not only for her honesty and sincerity, but her ability to connect with others through her work. When people hear her poetry, they are familiar with the sorrow or frustration she’s describing. Amber doesn’t only write for herself, she focuses on bigger issues in the world that many of us can relate to. I think that’s what makes an extraordinary writer. My cynicism towards poetry is now replaced with something brighter, something promising, and it’s all because of Amber Atiya.