Contribute a verse! That’s the message from my friend and fellow blogger, Dev Samaddar.
So I’ll try. (Read on!) But first, some background:
Dev’s irked by the hype he’s hearing lately about “being unique” and “developing your own style”. He thinks there’s way too much emphasis on this notion. He challenges it on his website, DevSamaddar.com.
It’s true we’re all unique. Dev gets that. Poet and fine-art photographer that he is, he sees it as well as anyone. He’s written eloquently about our uniqueness and its importance.
Dev’s point is that we tend, here in the West, to obsess over uniqueness. We struggle to sound like no one else, to say something no one else has ever said, to write something no one else has ever written, to do what no one else has ever done.
In this struggle, it’s easy – paradoxically – to lose our own voice. Our real voice. Not a strained, stilted voice constructed in pursuit of bogus originality.
Dev insists (and I agree) that authenticity is more important than being unique.
“Whatever you do,” he writes, “someone else is doing it too, or has already done it. Well, how unique can it really be? …
“Perhaps, then, instead of obsessing over uniqueness, focus on beauty. So what if it is not unique? There can be two beautiful and similar things, can there be not? Or three? Or four? Or hundred!
“There are billions of stars in the sky. All twinkling points of light, visually (and physically) not that unique. Do we complain, Oh all the stars look the same, how boring? It is that tapestry that makes it beautiful. …
“Contribute a verse. Contribute your verse. Your verse may not be unique. It may not stand out. Don’t worry if it doesn’t. It’s not a solo recital. It’s a choir. And your verse, or voice, is still required.”
Count me in! Moved by Dev’s appeal, I’ve decided to contribute not one, but three verses. Each consisting of four lines. Each line consisting of letters that rearrange to spell “contribute a verse”.
Will that make my poem unique? Probably not. Lots of people write anagram poetry. Some of it is far better than mine. But here it is, in my own, my authentic voice:
Contribute a Verse
A recent, obtrusive,
reactive, true snob:
notice a subverter —
suave, reticent Rob.
Rub, not eviscerate
(eviscerate to burn)
veracious ‘n’ better,
not cauterise verb.
I, cavernous better,
observant, true ice,
beat censor “virtue”.
Taunters bore vice!
The meaning of this poem becomes clear as we reflect on its different sections.
“Suave, reticent Rob” is an archetype. A “subverter” and “true snob”, he stands for the pressure we each come under to be unique-at-any-cost. The name “Rob” adds irony, since this pressure robs us (if we allow it) of real authenticity.
We’re warned not to “eviscerate”, “cauterise” or “burn” our “verb” – that is, our verbiage, our authentic voice. It’s something we instead must “rub” (massage and gently cultivate): This is “versacious ‘n’ better”. (Veracious means truthful.)
The “I” of verse three represents each one of us, as we reach to expand without limit into the best we can be (“cavernous better”). Our true self (“observant, true ice”) thus defeats the censors who taunt us with bogus uniqueness, misrepresenting it as a virtue rather than as the vice it really is.
There you have it! Here’s hoping my simple poem does justice to Dev’s profound insight.
Let me note, in passing, that today (April 1) is the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. It was founded in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets and will be celebrated, all month long, with special poetry events. (Look it up! I wouldn’t kid you about that!)