Nawaal K. (19) started writing when she was twelve and hasn’t stopped since. She often finds it difficult to balance her passion for science and prose but is (slowly) making it work. Body Without Organs is (so far) the only literary magazine she’s submitted to, and although she’s never really considered writing a book of her own, you’ll be able to take a look at some of her poetic attempts on her Instagram page, @flxw.d. She hopes to see you there.
My Short and Indifferent Reflection on You Leaving Me for No Bloody Reason.
When you left I told everyone I was fine and then lay in the grass in my backyard for four hours straight / so yeah it probably wasn’t my finest moment / or the healthiest coping method / but that’s not the point / see upon reflection I have a bone to pick with you / or more specifically a rib / see this is where I dig up the roots / I click rewind / Tell Eve ‘he can’t see beneath the surface but there’s a revolution in your hips’ and together we break the bond in Adam’s shared rib / and I’m muttering ‘how’s that for no strings attached you f---- / see it’s all about reflection / lying on my belly in my backyard / like a snake in the grass / poised and ready to turn everything upside down if it means getting to start over / getting to use my own damned rib / ready to shed this skin / become a body that isn’t nostalgic for your hands but only the songs it can move its hips to / so I bite the apple / I become the serpent / I turn my backyard into Eden / I shed my skin / I bite the apple / the universe rewinds / I bite the apple.
A Conversation between Nawaal K. and Courtney Felle
1. Hi, Nawaal! It’s so lovely to work with you again (Nawaal’s poem “And everything went up in flames.” is in Issue Four). While reading “My Short and Indifferent Reflection on You Leaving Me for No Bloody Reason.,” I found myself thinking about other recreations of Eve I’ve seen, how often she’s represented, misrepresented, twisted, and made into something new in literature. I was especially reminded of Ansel Elkins’s poem “Autobiography of Eve” and its last three lines: “Let it be known: I did not fall from grace. / I leapt / to freedom.” How does this poem both take inspiration from other religious or literary versions of Eve and create an entirely new character for her to inhabit?
Hi, Courtney! Thanks again for an incredible opportunity to be a part of this journal. To answer your question, around the time I started writing this poem, I came across, quite by accident, a poem I had previously studied at college a few years ago now. The poem which ended up being part of my final coursework is written by Margaret Atwood and is itself written from the point of Helen of Troy, whose character is completely redefined and modernized, an idea neatly summarised in the poem’s title “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing.” With renewed interest, I decided I wanted to write my own poem where a character is fashioned into something unexpected. The Eve in this poem is both inspired from this idea and another poem by Kate Llewellyn where she reveals that Eve “wasn’t kicked out / she walked out.” This stark rebelliousness coupled with idea of modernity helped me to create my own re-imagining of Eve—after all, what could be more modern than the Teen Angst™ following a resentful break-up?
2. Maheen “really enjoyed reading this version of a teenage, infuriated Eve, and the contrast between the biblical imagery and the swearing and the brashness was really fun and relatable in a strange way.” This poem certainly feels to us like a distinctly teen narrative, rebellious against the problematic systems we’ve inherited and willing to burn them down, but it also uses imagery from an ancient, established myth to accomplish this. Can you speak to generational tensions here?
Thank you, Maheen! A “teenage, infuriated Eve” is exactly what I was going for. The act of lying on the grass of a backyard for “four hours straight” showcases the vulnerability and unpredictability that comes along with being a teenager. I also hoped to create parallels and contrasts throughout the piece. As you’ve already mentioned, there is a contrast between the use of biblical images, ideas of purity and holiness, against the central character’s anger and vindictive criticism. However, I also attempted to draw a parallel between the situations in both instances—while I’d be hesitant to call it a myth, I like how you’ve described the well-known story of Adam and Eve as “ancient and established,” and that’s exactly how I see the situation described in the poem, the well-known story of boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-date, boy-breaks-up-with-girl; except now a new ending is created where girl learns about the importance of independence and is able to challenge social paradigms for women that started long before she was around.
3. The representations of sin and pain in this piece are complex: the poem seems to suggest that pain allows for recovery and growth, that it can be a blessing in disguise. The backyard doesn’t truly become Eden until after the pain has settled and right before the fall, just for the purpose of the fall; biting the apple is an act of reclamation. Can you describe these philosophies of pain and sin more?
I think that pain, through recovery, can definitely be a blessing in disguise sometimes, and I’ve tried to show this in the poem, through the way in which the central character is initially pained and frustrated, but her recovery leads to a raised awareness of the importance of self-worth and reflection—a blessing in disguise. Her future is quite literally waiting for her in backyard, only this time she/Eve is alone, and is comfortable, even optimistic at this fact.
4. In addition to all its mythological context, this poem has the personal storyline of a breakup, a failure to cope well, deep and unique heartbreak. How do you view the act of writing such vulnerable, confessional poetry, and does that change if you plan to share the poem with readers?
I have an immense amount of respect and admiration for anyone who can write and deliver confessional poetry. Ironically, it can be quite difficult to put feelings and thoughts into words, and hence may be used as a way to measure a person’s progress in identifying, accepting, and dealing with what they’re writing about. It can also be quite an odd experience, that you are essentially offering up your deepest thoughts and insecurities for inspection and criticism, and even odder or perhaps frustrating when your writing can be analysed for literary devices and symbolism when you’re simply trying to make sense of your own feelings. Of course, when shared with others, confessional poetry can also be used to help others make sense of their feelings and aid in raising awareness to and bringing about change to issues of politics, societal expectations, morality, and more. I think then it also becomes a challenge to decide to share your writing with others, as your thoughts are now up for debate but can also cause positive change. Despite this, it can be argued that there is something special and sacred between a writer and their poetry, and when shared this can be lost and the words begin to lose their impact. This, of course, may be relative to each person and I believe that as long as the words are yours, only you can take away their true meaning.