Diaspora and Poetry: Making yourself at home

Little Boy Blue was sent to me for free in exchange of an honest review. Thank you Jamal for the opportunity to read your work and also for reminding of the rebellion that is the Diaspora.


The word diaspora has its roots in the Greek words dia, meaning between, through or across and the speiro meaning to scatter or spread. In that sense a diaspora refers to a widely scattered population whose ‘origins’ lie in a smaller geographical location[1].

I have recently found that poetry is one of the best expressions of diasporic ‘identity’ that I have come across. I have begun to connect with diasporic poets, women and men who have no clue I exist but I still feel like somehow they are my soul-sisters and we could complete each other’s sentences if we ever met. And the Little Boy Blue is no exception, although in his interview the author, Jamal Mehmood, says he never intended his poetry to be ‘diasporic poetry’, it is the thing I picked up on! I really connected with his way of expressing the dual identities or side gaze[2] that I feel so much as someone whose home is split across two nations and multiple ethnicities.

I am obsessed with the ‘diasporic imagination’. I am obsessed with the talent that comes out of these international communities and truly believe that they are unique in their literature, art and music. For me, diasporic works of art are personal and as everything that is personal is political (#feminism -always the intersectional kind) so too is this collection of poetry. Little Boy Blue stands out in that it expresses identity differently to the mainstream drivel that lacks the language and insight to explain immigrant communities beyond the integration vs isolation paradigm (Cue David Cameron’s archaic English language classes). It is an individual act of rebellion that demands us to see identities as a third space[3], as something that is new altogether and will not be defined by the old/new or backward/forward binary of nationhood and ethnicity. Two pieces in particular brought this home to me:

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I was also pleasantly surprised at the way in which the poetry was both tender, powerful and political at the same time. This fierce tenderness is something I associate it with women poets (Rupi Kaur, Pavana, Nayyirah Waheed) and am used to men writing about other women (or daffodils a la William Wordsworth), but Jamal has taught me to not judge a book by its cover. Here is a snippet of ‘A Letter to Future Sons’ which I thought was so powerful:

‘A Letter to Future Sons’

weep, young man, weep

like your life depended on it

 

Jesus Wept

Muhammad wept

you are no messenger of God

so weep until until the walls come falling down

boy, you have a soul beneath your skin

so weep and water the ground

where your fathers are buried

for not producing enough tears

but still producing you

Jamal Mehmood


I highly recommend this debut collection, you can buy it here and check out the full collection for yourself!

[1] This definition is lazily drawn from Wikipedia, although I think that this obsession with geography can be challenged it was the most succinct one! So don’t be angry… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diaspora

[2] The side gaze is an interesting concept that explains the ability to have and view things from dual or multiple identities (Sujata Moorti, Desperately seeking an identity: Diasporic cinema and the articulation of transnational kinship,2003)

transnational kinship

[3]Homi Bhabha refers to the ‘third space’ that is not backward or forward, old or new but “ innovative site of collaboration and contestation.”(Location of Culture 1994)

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