I don’t know how to write effective poems. The ones with punchlines, I believe heartbreak is an essential to know that a poem worked. Much like a science experiment. Two drops of love, a glass beaker full of concentrated emotions (dilute ones don’t react better with short phrases) and a stirrer of grief, are all it takes to make a poem which changes its colour slow enough to help a reader know that it has finally ended (disclaimer: in titration quantity is important). A good poem is a good reaction. But there will be days when whatever you want to say will fall flat on your skin, burning you and only you. You will measure how much it can burn by placing your pen on paper long enough to start a fire, but (there is always a but) even though it will seep through the page, leaving behind a hole, you will still spill it carelessly (cut your sentences short). Other days when you finally see everything you have made , a beaker( isn’t this the only euphemism for heart?) will break of too much heat, shattering into pieces. But like any good poet, you will try to hide it. Keep it in your bag so that nobody can see your mistakes (it’s only a mistake when someone better than you notices it). And then after so many hit and trials, you will finally think, “it looks better.” You will search for a place where you can actually show how beautiful your work has been. Perfect. No miscalculations. Just pure results out of perfect quantities of elements mixed together. You think meter and rhyme is important, and see how you have let your poem engulfed by it. This is how you have known to make your poem readable/reachable. You will then notice the sentence “experimental work from emerging writers are accepted.” You will think how it’s a good omen. You will read the submission guidelines, like any other science project. “Don’t send anything that doesn’t resonate with you". And you will find yourself thinking, “how does anyone write what he doesn’t believe in?” You see it’s is during such times you must remember that writing is sometimes like the experiment you did in school where silver deposited on the inner walls of a test tube. It can be mirrored, you see. It can be mimicked too. You will start reading the do’s and don’ts while hitting that send button. “Bring us your best and polished work”. But then you will find yourself wondering how you have acquired this language which isn’t yours in the first place, how you have learnt writing after reading and reading and cramming grammar rules, learning the difference between their and there and they're yet sometimes when you write about your first kiss, you do not know if you belong to them or if they are the place where you knew what loving felt like. You are an ESL learner. You still download the pdf's of grammar mistakes that websites publish for free. You still fumble when asked, “tell us why your work is a good fit”. And every time you wake up, you confuse morn with mourn. Syllables and intonations confuse you. You aren’t fluent and you notice this when you find yourself searching “synonyms for despair.” But you will be naive/courageous enough to actually take this leap of faith. “So what if I am not good at English, at least I tried,” you will have a pep talk with yourself. And once you are ready, a final dissertation on how to write a poem, you will again hit that send button. And as soon as you do that, a message will pop up, “we charge a small reading fee of $10.” The last time you checked your account balance, it showed ₹157. But you will still proceed ahead with payment gateway asking you for your account details. Of course you will know the error message. The thing with not earning at an age when your peers have their first job letter is that you refuse to ask for money from your parents. “What do you need it for?” they ask and you find yourself struggling to say, “for a poem.” Words don’t pay enough. And when they do, there is always someone better than you in constructing those phrases which voice out what you have felt. Yet when your parents agree after a lot of convincing (how do you coax them if not by saying that you are sure of getting it published), you will pay and wait for few months. Now, the thing with manifesting what you want is that it’s a game of probability (God doesn’t play dice, remember) and science, I tell you, is merciless. After months, when you will have waited patiently, reading articles about law of attraction and manifestation, always thinking about your acceptance mail before going to sleep, you will hear your phone buzz. A notification will pop up “ you have a new mail.” You will open it and the first word you will notice is “unfortunately”, you won’t read the entire mail, but only the last lines “You are a thoughtful poet with keen observations, but your challenges are experience and language, but we wish you luck in placing your work elsewhere.” The thing with failure is you always need a closure. So you will scroll through their website, clicking angrily on the section that reads “poetry" and go through every poem. You will wonder what separates them from you, and when you will reach the author bio, you will see “MFA Awards,” “Poetry book published,” “Mentions of websites” that you can never think about.
You will then know why your voice doesn’t attract editors. It’s the incorrect punctuations, lousy metaphors, overused words (love, days, time, despair, like, and, because...). Representation matters only when you are fluent enough in languages that your tongue doesn’t get the hang of. Nobody compromises their readership for a person who hasn’t learnt to talk in a dialect that doesn’t differentiate between आप and तुम. You will not be robbed of a chance (there are million websites to house your poem), but this rejection will always haunt you. You will then learn that not every experiment works, even when you do it with your idea of precision, even when you will be almost close to the result, almost perfect, almost beautiful, almost everything you never dared to be. Your hands will forever tremble now, you will no longer believe in your voice( isn’t being heard the only purpose of voice, doesn’t a conversation require atleast two persons). You will search how to write effective poems and when names you can never think of becoming will appear, you will see why things don’t work out with you. You want to be Kaveh Akbar, Ocean Vuong, but afraid of writing your own name in bold. You believe that the only way to exist is by finding how your name is one letter more, how when you write Bharti, you mean “ways to write like Emily Dickinson.” You don’t own your name and the world starts forgetting you, one syllable at a time (remember how your name is just two syllables). And the thing with world is, it only remembers the footprints, never the person and you barely consider yourself one.
Bharti Bansal is a 24-year-old student from India currently pursuing Data Science. Her works have appeared in magazines like Aaduna, oc87recoverydiaries.org, The Sunflowers Collective, Two Drops of Ink, Blaze Vox, The Woman Inc, Cholla Needles and in the anthology The Yearbook of Indian Poetry.