Poetry

The Castle of Adolescence to Womanhood

My castle stood strong, so long
towering over green pastures
but

was

now

crumbling.

Rock

and

brick

broken
off more than I could count or contain
damage settled in,
leaks dripped from my eyes, unseen but rippling.

Wish I’d made time to restore my inner walls, build a fort
thick and firm with a watchtower to combat future attacks,
defend against enemy insecurity that had sieged then

Stormed in, firing cannons loaded with lack of confidence
flaming arrows lit with lack of self-belief
alongside an ally army that revelled in stealing hopes and dreams.

My

corroded

walls

tumbled.

It took many years of rebuilding                   Let us rage against our inner enemies.
but my castle, newly restored                        Let us vanquish our voice of negativity.
is more resilient and beautiful                       Let us hold our turrets high in radiance.
than it could have been before.                    Let us never forget that we are enough.

Shaniqua Benjamin

Line Up

You’d struggle to pick him out of a line up.
He looks familiar, like the others,
blending into a blur.
Doesn’t stop you judging:

Disgusted by low hanging jeans exposing tracksuit bottoms – an extra layer of flesh for long nights he knows the grind won’t stop;

Frustrated at constant hats that crown his head and wishing his feet would walk in something other than trainers – comfort and concealment in his domain;

Unnerved by glint of gold in his mouth, shining against darkness he’s clothed in head to toe – a glimmer of light in hell he’s living in;

Terrified by a hood covering his face and plaited hair – allowing him to hide from a world that hates him;

not as if he has put on a costume to spark terror
set people alight in their own homes.

He may have dangerous traits
but don’t we all have the devil in us at times?
He’s rarely a danger to the world at large
unlikely a danger to you,
unless you treat him like nothing
lower than gum stuck to your shoe
waiting to be flicked into rubbish,
because no one wants to be considered meaningless
simply cos they mean less
to you.

Shaniqua Benjamin

Insecure Poet

I was going to keep this to myself, as I prefer to deal with things on my own, but writing helps me deal with things, as well as making my voice heard. I want all parts of my journey to be documented, not just the ups, but the down moments too, as they are what make me stronger in the end. There are also those out there who may share my experience, and I never want anyone to feel like they are alone. I feel like that too often.

My insecurities have been rearing their ugly head recently, leading to a lot of inner struggle and fighting I’d rather avoid, as it’s dragging my mood. It seems like all the positivity I was riding on a couple of weeks ago is draining away and I’m hating that – I know I’m a bit PMS-y, which is never a good thing. But I don’t want my insecurities to win; I know they’re the devil’s lies.

My biggest insecurity is about my poetry, which is an annoyingly recurring theme. I fall into the trap that I always advise other poets not to do, which is comparing myself to others. I find myself doubting my poetry too often, even when I know that it is God-given gift and that I am actually good at what I do (I seriously struggled to type that, as I never want to come across as arrogant or egocentric; I also struggle with self-praise) – I’ve developed a lot as a poet over the years. However, I still find myself thinking that I’m not good enough – good enough compared to who, I don’t know.

I don’t think this has been helped by quite a few rejections recently; an inevitable part of an artist’s career journey, but always scathing nonetheless. I remember asking esteemed poet, Anthony Anaxagorou, about rejection and he said that it never gets easier; you’ve just got to keep pushing through. Nevertheless, it sometimes feels like pushing through is all I am doing, but I’m regularly getting pushed back by blocked walls.

It’s tiring, especially when it begins to feel like you regularly have to pay money to get your art noticed to carve out a career in poetry (when not earning a whole lot of money yourself) by submitting to competitions (that you may not win) or buying tickets for open mic nights (sometimes not getting a chance to perform). I understand the arts are underfunded and under-respected, which is unfair in itself and part of the problem – it can get real tough on artists.

Like I said, rejection is inevitable and I’m learning to deal with that as best I can (God lets everything happen for a reason). Being a creative can be gruelling and I can deal with that, as I’m no stranger to putting in work. However, what I’m most struggling with is feeling alone as a poet, like I don’t fit in anywhere in the world/scene/community of poetry. I’m not snappy, punchy or verging-on-rap-rhythmic enough, so I don’t fit in the spoken word poetry world. My poetry isn’t very obscure with lots of long words, so I don’t slot into the page or wider poetry world either.

I’m kind of just there; floating. Being told I’m great by some, but that I need to be a lot better to move forward by others in the world of poetry. I find myself wondering if my growth will ever be good enough or if there will ever be enough space for me to fully break through. Sometimes I wonder if I should give up on a creative career altogether and pursue something that will be easier on my emotional and mental state, because maybe I’m too sensitive and not strong enough for this. I do still take a lot of things personally, even though I am trying to deal with that.

What is for sure: I love art and I’ve only ever wanted to be a creative. I also don’t belong in this world and never will, so why should I expect to belong as a poet? I just don’t want to let these insecurities bring me down.