Books·Poetry Month

Aisha Sasha John: 'Poetry is theatre for freedom'

To celebrate National Poetry Month, CBC Books asked Canadian poets what the literary form means to them.
Aisha Sasha John is the author of I have to live. (Yuula Benivolski)

April is National Poetry Month. To celebrate, CBC Books asked poets the question: "What is the power of poetry?"

Aisha Sasha John is a dancer and poet. Her sophomore collection, Thou, landed her on shortlists for the Trillium Book Award for Poetry and ReLit Poetry Award. Her latest is I have to live, a collection of poetry shortlisted for the 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize.​

"Poetry is theatre for freedom — our freedoms are a function of intimacy with our limitations. Poetry dramatizes the fact that we have free will to exercise in a very limited context: our finite, definite lives. Also we have all this subperceptual programming that governs most of what we do, including how broadly and accurately we're able to perceive. I've used poetry to try to identify the beliefs I'm operating under so that I can cut the fallacious ones out and better know the world.

"Making poetry books has allowed me to time-travel, and my books have functioned (incidentally) as tools of self-divination.

"As a reader of poetry, I've gotten to graze the infinity of our collective wisdom and experience. I sort of feel as if I've written everything that I read — I think we all do. A work transmits the energy its creation required. The imagination of other realities and other subjectivities that poetry produces in us is legitimate life experience. Poetry builds empathy — and expansion. We become aware of our vastness — and that's how and why the good stuff sort of hurts: the knowledge of our oneness/infinitude can be difficult to experience when we're being programmed to buy things and then die.

"Poetry reminds me that there is nowhere to go. Good poetry (like good music, of which it is a category) teaches us how to sense and feel better, transporting us to now and here."


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