Getting to Know – Alima J

with
Ferrick Gray

Alima has been with us in Poet’s Dream for some time now, and her work has been greatly admired and appreciated by many. It has been my privilege to ask Alima some questions about her poetry, and her thoughts about poetry. I know you will enjoy getting to know — Alima J.
 
 
Today we see a lot more use of technology in many aspects of our lives; the computer, phone and tablets being just a few tools now at our disposal for producing our work. Tell us about your process: Pen and Paper, computer, notebooks … What is your preferred method of composition and why?

Electronic devices have evolved rapidly over the recent years and I now own a PC, laptop, netbook, tablet and a mobile phone and a back up mobile phone too, just in case the main one ceases to work; not that my life depends on it, but if someone is trying to call me and can’t get through, it causes pandemonium.

Of course the pen and paper has its advantages, but in many ways the electronic method outweighs it, and we all have our preferences.

My personal favourite is my tablet. I can switch it on and off whenever I want or need, can’t say the same about my sleep patterns though. Which is why the tablet is a must. It’s convenient, it’s practical and quiet, unlike the PC where you have to wait for a few minutes to turn on or update and then be stuck in that place for a while and everybody knows your using it. My laptop has its many advantages but it still requires a surface, like a lap, and then you begin.

As for my mobile phone, its main purpose is to make or receive calls and messaging/emailing friends, families and colleagues. I don’t feel the need to have every social app on it and as it’s a smaller phone than most have, it does strain the eyes, I don’t want a bigger phone because it won’t fit in my pocket or small compartment of my bag. The tablet wins hands down for everyday or night use and therefore perfect for writing my poetry.
 
 
Some people will write occasionally or perhaps a few verses now and then, but will not think themselves a writer or poet. Was there any particular time when you realized that you should continue writing? Did anyone or anything influence you to excel in this area?

I remember when I was in nursery, I loved rhyme, listening to teachers read out loud and as I grew I wrote rhymed poetry. I was encouraged by teachers and they enjoyed my verses but I cannot remember them now.

There were a few occasions in my high school that I wrote as part of class assignments. Once I wrote a monologue and Miss W was impressed by it that she told me to stand up and read/perform it. I was so nervous but I gave it all I had and they all applauded.

On a second occasion, I wrote a story but didn’t think anything of it, then a friend of mine walked up to me and asked, “What was that story about?”
I replied, “What story?”
Then she said, “You wrote a story and Miss F read it out in the staff-room and all the teachers clapped and they’re talking about it.”
I was quite shocked and to this day I’m still wondering which story.

When I reached sixth form I wrote a piece and the next lesson, Mr ? (I can’t remember his name), he started to read it out loud in class and laughed at the funny bits as he read it. He then commented, “That’s how you inject comedy into your writing, not by writing a knock-knock joke in the middle of it.” He smiled and nodded at me as he put the book down. I don’t believe I forgot his name.

When I think back on those days, I feel emotional and also regret that I hadn’t kept all my written work.

There were many points in my teen years, apart from wanting to be a film producer I wanted to be a writer which was more do-able, so I thought. Hang on … I was a writer but didn’t have the gumption to pursue it!

I wasn’t able to continue schooling for personal reasons. My parents decided to move and so my writing stopped although the passion was still there, burning slowly.

I later began college and Miss T asked me what I wanted to do. I told her I wanted to be a writer but I don’t know how to go about it. She encouraged me to contact publishers with my work and I told her it’s not that simple. But to find out exactly how to, I joined the Writers’ course. Cost me money and a lot of hard work but I learnt about the publishing world and it is tough! I didn’t get to complete the course, mainly because my printer broke and subsequently I broke too.

Let’s not end this on a sad note. Last year a colleague had asked me to read what’s on the screen and I began to read it in monotone. Then he told me to stop and wheeled his chair back and said to read it again, then my jaw dropped as I knew what was coming, because I watched him prepare it. I read it in true Queens English and when I finished, he said, “keep that date in your diary.” I went on to narrate a play in a theatre. I was behind the scenes so as I came out, my friends who were there, were surprised because they didn’t recognise my voice and accent. I then performed a solo of my own poem with props too! One of the most exciting things I did, but I must admit, I was very nervous, most people were shocked, because I’m a nervous wreck when it comes to public speaking.
 
 
All of us have reasons for writing, but often our inspiration is very different. Are there any particular things that appeal to you that may capture your attention or inspire you?

I’m a story teller, I want to tell stories, I have mentioned that I wanted to be a film producer and this was because when I wrote, I saw the characters and events unfurling in my head, then I realised that initially a story has to be written in order for the film to be made so it was more of a dual passion, writing it first then watching it come to life.

I had a start and stop in my writing efforts throughout my life, nowadays I’m occupied with many things, physically and mentally, but I still want to write and I find that writing poetry is the only option. It’s condensed storytelling and I enjoy writing it.

I observe and listen, then I write. Sometimes my poetry is based on fact or anecdotes, sometimes they are fictional. At times they are reflective and can be personal, so I would say that everyday life is an inspiration.

Nature’s beauty is often inspiring and I use the appropriate picture that I have as a backdrop for my poetry and sometimes I write about the picture itself mostly in haiku form, but even when I write a haiku I’m still imagining a movie.
 
 
What would you say is your favorite or more comfortable form to write in? For example; prose poetry (free verse), haiku or structured forms. What sort of reasons would you say there are for you to determine ‘how’ you should write your poetry?

As you have seen yourself, I write in many different genres. Romance, love, horror, comedy etc., and in various forms such as sonnet, dizain, haiku to name a few. I enjoy writing poetry in all forms.

Depending on the subject or incident I will write in which I find it suitable or a way I feel that I can express it. A lot of my poetry is structured in rhyme and pattern. If I find that the free verse would be suitable for what I want to express then I would implement the form and although it has no rule, the pattern will vary depending on topic and mood.

Recently I have been studying more traditional and classical poetry, specifically fourteen line poetry. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t a fan of Shakespeare, I didn’t understand the content, form or the grammar, but that was in school. These days the classical forms have grown on me and although I’ll never match up to the masters and if I can, it won’t be soon. I’m pleased to say I’ve written a few different forms with success and I have to thank Miss K for steering me into that direction and Mr G for fueling the drive, I have a long way to go.

If the content is worth writing in classical form then I attempt it and it’s fun and challenging to do.

As a poet I am free to write however and whatever I like but I bear in mind that I don’t compromise the content with using a certain form or vice versa. I can attempt to write a sonnet and I could write a poem about a drainpipe but will I attempt to write a sonnet about a drainpipe? It’s a no to that. 😂 So there you have it, the suitability of the content and the form matters to me.
 
 
What do you think is the measure of success of a poet? Keeping this in mind, who would be some (one or two) of your favorite poets (or writers)?

Difficult question … But let me ask, is it the fifteen minutes of fame you get after showing a poem to your colleagues, would it be how many prompt challenges you’ve won online, or the endless wall of awards. Is it the thousands of followers you have on various social networks solely due to your poetry? Is it the sale of one self published book, is it winning one poetry competition with the prize being £10,000 or is it a poet who has died but his poetry still lives on, is that going to do him any good? Maybe his children will reap the benefits or maybe money doesn’t matter at all. So how would I measure the success of a poet? How does anyone?

A favourite poet? Hmm, Edgar Allan Poe comes to mind. I’m not an avid book reader, my attention span is very short so watching movies is better. Fall of the House of Usher, The Raven to name a few of his best works.

Dylan Thomas, a fellow Welsh poet although I was born in England. Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night and And Death Shall Have No Dominion among his most famous pieces.
 
 
How would you describe your poetry?

I know I’m more expressive through poetry, but looking at it from a technical point of view; when I write poetry I look at structure, content, theme and how would my emotions and imaginations be best portrayed. Poetry is art and literature rolled into one, (I’m not super academic, but hey, who’s perfect?) so I feel I need to present my writing in such ways.

For example, would anyone besides my mother want to know what I ate last night? Not really, but I had something so tasty that I want to tell the world. I’m not a food blogger, I’m a poet/writer, so I will present the dish in writing and I would want to make you see it and want it through my poetry.
 
 
What would you like readers to gain from your words? What does poetry in general, and your poetry mean to you?

I appreciate anyone who stops to read and I’d like to thank them for their interaction and encouraging comments. At times their feedback is overwhelming, in a good way. Their participation means everything and through poetry we have started conversations and thus formed friendships some of whom are there always. Without the readers it’ll be like writing an elaborate diary.

I hope I bring a smile to their faces, a tear to their eye, shivers down their spine, to name a few clichés and possibly a burst of laughter with my comedy writes. I have discovered, through poetry, that there are people who share similar experiences if not the same or all as myself.

Poetry is good for the mind and heart, especially when you have a short attention span when reading novels, you need some sort of reading material, I think so.

Poetry for me is a way of expressing thoughts, experiences, emotions, imagination and fantasies. I am very passionate and there are things lacking in me and writing and reading poetry is the one thing I find fulfilling without the limitations. I find I can say what I want and get away with it, or maybe I won’t be able to, I shall cross that bridge and all that. Perhaps I don’t want to get away with it, I want to be heard and understood, but mostly … I want to free my mind.

A favourite poem that I’ve written? I have different reasons for liking each and I cannot rate one from the other. To be honest, if I didn’t like one, would I even showcase it? Actually I have written a poem with a certain thought but those thoughts changed and I looked at the poem from a different perspective. But I do love my poem The Middle Room, very dear to me for reasons you will believe. I hope you enjoy.
 
 

The Middle Room

There is a place in my home
between the lounge and
the room where we dine,
I call it the middle room,
so did everyone else
throughout time.
A peaceful, silent place
where I sit and think,
pray, have a nap on the sofa,
read a book or magazine
with a coffee to drink.

This room that’s in the middle
is the room that imitates
the morning rise when
the light comes through
the long red curtains and you
hear songbirds in a dawn chorus.
There’s chatter and trill,
whistles and shrieks.
It’s the chest freezer that
sits in a corner of the room.
when the thermostat is off, it’s still.

The door of the middle room
is always slightly ajar and the
temperature is constant at 18°c
Perfect, snug, undisturbed.
To get away from
the sounds of the house
this room is where I’ll be.
The room that nobody goes into
unless there is something that
somebody needs, desperately,

In this room I display my collection
of fine perfumes in a huge
glass cabinet framed in pine.
My special china and crystals
all have their pride of place here.
It’s a very big cabinet,
firmly housed in the other
corner of this room.
It’s quite a big room,
but it’s smaller than the lounge
and the dining room I am surprised.
A bit like you I bet.

In the middle room
there are no windows but
there are three doors.
One in which you enter
Obviously…
The other is by the freezer.
The entrance to the utility room,
where the light comes in.
Where the washing machine is a resident
but only when it’s switched on,
it clicks, hums, spins, rocks and zooms.

In the third corner of the room,
stands a tall bookshelf against
one of the walls with all genres of books,
even my childhood ones
are standing side by side.
It’s not just books that belong here,
there’s nik-naks too,
boxes full of stuff,
stationery and toys
I’ve collected over the years.

Over the years,
this room has been used
as a fifth bedroom,
an office,
a playroom,
a spare room,
a gym? Yes.
a snooker room!
A craft room.
When I have so many guests
that the other rooms don’t hold,
they spill out into this room.

On the other wall besides
the shelf is the third door.
The third door is untouched.
No one is allowed through there.
It’s locked and has been
for nearly twenty years,
some have tried to open it,
but only when I’m not looking did they dare.
It’s a mystery to all,
many try to guess what’s inside,
some even guessed the number of the lock.
Anyone who will manage to enter
will put us both in shock.

When family and friends come to visit,
we chat and have a cup of tea,
we play lots of games in this room
even play hide and seek.
When they ask what’s behind the door?
I say…
This door is for me to open,
and only I know what’s inside.
My things are tucked safe
in the middle room
it’s where my stuff and I can hide.

©Alima J 7 Feb 2017

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