e.e. cummings, bhakti poetry and the individuality of the universal experience | pessoa, ginsberg, anaïs nin

in my undergraduate degree, i studied western poetry, and one of the poets i focused on was the beguiling e. e. cummings. in the past two years, i have been exclusively exploring eastern poetry in my postgrad, and it is only recently that i have begun to see how the two apparent different worlds and approaches illuminate each other. one of the elements i am most interested in at the moment is the process of individualising the universal experience; or how to express the universal through means of individuality.

this, with relation to cummings and bhakti poetry: cummings, a pioneer of experimental poetry, created his own language, which functions, i would maintain, like an authorship stamp: he used conjunctions as nouns, rewrote linguistic rules, introduced spacing as verbs etc. his poetry addresses themes looked down upon by other avantgarde poets of his time (and our time!) such as love and nature, yet it is the creation of his own language and the erotic notes of his poetry that revolutionise and freshen the apparent cliché of his subject matter.

similarly, bhakti poets, who write about ‘common’ topics such as love and separation, revolutionise these universal themes by pinpointing the object of desire to be God, and by introducing eroticism as worship. and, their authorship stamps (example: Akkā Mahādevī’s Chennamallikarjuna – more on this later!) distinguish and establish their poetic voices as individual in the context of universality.

fascinating how the experience can be both universal yet unique as it expresses itself individually through us, and how marvellous the intricacies of language and poetry are, how beautifully they thread us together through traditions, genres, times and worlds! 🤍

sidenote, i did use the word ‘cliché’ as a convention, but i don’t believe in clichés exactly because of this reason.

part of my #poetrybeautyseries, in which i share my favourite poetry lines and muse on their significance! on pessoa:

to me, fernando pessoa is one of the most fascinating poets to have graced this earth. he created 81 heteronyms for himself – meaning, 81 different characters or identities he assumed while writing. each had a different personality, background story, style. in awe with the mind-blowing imagination of this beautiful man. here’s a fragment from ‘discontinuous poems’, which he wrote as alberto caeiro, and which is grounded in a non-dual view, in my opinion. planning to make a video about him soon 🖤

on ginsberg:

although this quote is well-known, its context isn’t! it’s an excerpt from an interview with Ginsberg from Writers Digest, edited by Bill Strickland (p.47), in which he talks about the importance of expressing yourself without caring for validation or recognition.

“It’s more important to concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness. Take (William Carlos) Williams: until he was 50 or 60, he was a local nut from Paterson, New Jersey, as far as the literary world was concerned. He went half a century without real recognition except among his friends and peers.

You say what you want to say when you don’t care who’s listening. If you’re grasping to get your own voice, you’re making a strained attempt to talk, so it’s a matter of just listening to yourself as you sound when you’re talking about something that’s intensely important to you.”

to live, to cry a little, to bring a touch of beauty

the last few days have been tender, and last night i was happy to reconnect with a friend from university whom i studied film with. we exchanged kind words as well as poetry. after we both shared that we warmed each other’s hearts, i found myself thinking how much i treasure these brief moments of connection, yet how i often don’t enjoy them fully because i generally am so immersed in my mind palace and narratives, so overly focused on my insecurities, internal drama or questions of right and wrong that the beauty of life passes me by. i mentally noted a line i could have seen in a poem, ‘to bring and receive a little beauty to and from others is enough’, and i scribbled this quick poem this afternoon. 💗

to live
to cry a little
to bring a touch of beauty to others
to keep my heart soft even when i’m scared
to feel my childhood’s wounds with tenderness
to share my mind with fullness
to come to understand the world with my fingertips
what else is there

maybe i’m alright as i am 

layla curled her hair when she was sad

today i read out a poem about a dear friend’s struggle with an eating disorder at the feminist x writers collab open mic, which raised money for SEED, a charity dedicated to providing the necessary support and guidance for people who suffer from eating disorders.

it was very humbling to watch my friend fight and overcome her pain. her bravery is inspiring, raw and real.  my writing doesn’t do her story justice, but i hope it will help inspire others and it will shed light on how real eating disorders are and how heartbreaking it is that they can be dismissed so lightly.
to my friend: i’m so grateful you are in my life. all my love and light to you. you shine ✨



layla curled her hair when she was sad


layla curled her hair when she was sad

and picked at her food with clumsy fingers

“one more bite”

i used to urge,

and she would shake her head with a smile.


layla counted the calories in her food when she was sad.

“i think i’ve lost weight again”, she would say,

looking at her feet.

i counted how many crisps she’d had in my head

as she pushed her food with her fork.


layla wrote poems when was sad.

when she read me a poem she wrote about food,

i tried not to break in front of her.

i wished she could see how kind,


and brave she was.

i wished she craved to fill herself

with the gentleness she carried for others.


layla cried when she was sad

and i held her tightly.

“why do i treat myself so horribly”

she whispered in my hair.


when layla was told that she would end up in hospital

if she lost any more weight

she vowed to be as kind to herself

as she was to others.


she struggled for four months

to fight her mind and her belly

and she cried and hurt

as i stared helplessly.

but when she picked herself up

she held her head high,

like a warrior.


today layla curls her hair when she feels grateful

and she sends me photos of clean plates.

she tells me she feels hunger with bright eyes

“i’ve never felt hungry before.

now i crave hot-boiled potatoes.”


“i felt full

because i fed my brain the wrong things.”

she tells me softly

as pride floods my heart.


reading out at the feminist x writers open mic