The Reason For The Pathetic


I used to believe that poetry came to me best, most easily, when I was sad. So that, even when I was experiencing an inordinate amount of pain, even when my heart was broken and I was gulping back tears, there’d be this little voice in my head saying, ‘Well at least there should be one good poem that will come of this.’

But I was wrong.

The other day, my ex asked me why my poems are always so sad; and he wasn’t the first person to ask that question. Perhaps he was asking how much sadness must be flowing through me, for me to consistently produce work of that tone. Still, I was ready for the question, because I had asked myself something similar the night before, as new words flowed out of me. I realized, no, I don’t write when I’m sad. I can’t write when I’m sad; I’m too distracted by self-pity.

I write when I’m angry, when I’m experiencing self-righteous anger. How dare a man turn a woman away because of her sordid history, when his is ten times worse! Why would a woman put up with a man who is stepping out of his marriage?! Why do people make promises, they have no intention of keeping?

Sometimes I write out of curiousity – Why does a black widow kill her mate? How do women who are hustling and still living hand to mouth, feel? Why am I still in love with him?

Sometimes I write because there is a story and it is begging to be told, and it has chosen poetry as the route of its expression. The stories do tend to be tragedies…

I’ve been writing poetry for a long time now and I have discovered certain themes. When I was at university, my poetry lecturer who also happened to be one of my favourite tutors, pointed out that my poems tended to circle around the theme of sex. So I went back to the poems, and took a closer look. Yes, they do talk about sex, but I think they more specifically talk about the consequences of sex and the danger of sex.

But I also write quite a bit about love – heartbreak, sacrifice, betrayal, judgement – you know, all the fun stuff.

I suppose it would be nice to write stuff that uplifted people; my dad has suggested I try that. Trust me, I would love to be that girl that has people smiling after they hear me speak. But perhaps my words are the way they are, because I also don’t mind being the one to make them cry. And if a fragment of what I’ve said or what I have written remains with you, then I feel as though I’ve done what I meant to do – get you to think.


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Oyinkan Braithwaite

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May 2019
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