Poetry Is Not a Luxury

flawed attempts at sensemaking during times of senselessness

‘It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a sick society.’ 

The krishnamurti-ism keeps playing on repeat. There are moments when this phrase feels particularly loud. We survive on a diet of guilt, shame, repression, therapy (over zoom now), ginseng, feng shui, and reality TV that makes the world seem weirder and weirder, Truman Show meets The Hunger Games, serving genocide in full HD display, with hair plugs, botox and VR. And the trauma-train keeps choochooeeing through.

“Who remembers the Armenians? I remember them
and I ride the nightmare bus with them each night
and my coffee this morning
I’m drinking it with them”
writes Najwan Darwish, reminding us of the long chain of violence that echoes from Palestine to Haiti to Sudan to the borders of Ukraine to our own backyards. We cannot talk about liberation without addressing the violence blocking it.

“Today, material violence gives way to anonymous, desubjectified and systemic violence, which is hidden as such because it coincides with society itself.”¹ We are internalising the violence of medieval massacre by selectively absorbing through the safety of our screens. After all, our land feels safe, right? “For a colonised people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity.” ²

But “online, we easily find ‘company’ but are exhausted by the pressures of performance. We enjoy continual connection but rarely have each other’s full attention. We are lonely but fearful of intimacy, our networked life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. Digital connections may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. They offer just the right amount of access, just the right amount of control, putting people not too close, not too far, but at just the right distance, the world is now full of […] people who take comfort in being in touch with a lot of people whom they also keep at bay.” ³

So what hope do we have to relate, to show up for, to commit to, to carry long gruelling processes with, to grieve and to persevere in loving each other when we are the architects of the distances and boundaries between us? Solidarity feels more like an abstract concept lately than an everyday practice.

“I chose. I chose to stand against your hate and not hate you, to resist your persecution and not demean you, to overcome your oppression and not suppress you, to respond to your violence with non violence. I chose to speak loud and clear for freedom and life and not insult you. I chose love to be motivation. This love is not some romanticised love that makes me submit to you and give you ‘my all’. This love is not the love that justifies and excuses your actions. This love is my strength because it conquers my fear. Only in this love we can come together to break all systems of oppression and create the new.” – Sami Awad

“In order for me to write poetry that isn’t political I must listen to the birds and in order to hear the birds the warplanes must be silent.” These words from Marwān Makhkhūl conjures the image of Sami Awad, who spoke at Apuro in June earlier this year, for his speeches are like poetry, and yet his words emerge amid the warplanes.

Peacemaking doesn’t mean passivity. It is the act of interrupting injustice without mirroring injustice, the act of disarming evil without destroying the evildoer, the act of finding a third way that is neither fight nor flight but the careful, arduous pursuit of reconciliation and justice. It is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free.

Yet the media circus is serialised clickbait torture porn amid the social media horrorshow of helplessness, the gross spectacle of silo overload and breakdown into callous viciousness – the difficulty of reconciliation is palpable.

“Si vis vitam, para mortem”, “If you want to endure life, prepare for death”. At the heart is our shutdown or meltdown when faced with death. We are so inept, we falter, we are crushed by the immensity of the unspoken.

“As they become known to and accepted by us, our feelings and the honest exploration of them become sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas. They become a safe-house for that difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.”

“The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of the differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilises us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”

What meaningful actions then can we take, as writers, musicians, as thinkers and feelers, as those privileged to live in relative safety.  What do we do with the responsibilities of our time in the sun?

We start with self inquiries. We continue with collective outcomes, harvests from atunement, atonement, grief. This is where you reach out to us and convey your burning ideas or ways in which you’d like to jump on already moving projects that are emerging from the magma of today’s madnesses. We are not able to go on with business as usual, we are also struggling, but we are trying to stay afloat with creatively making and processing and metabolising the noise and chaos around us.

We truly, scream out the question, what will grow from the tears that fall behind?



1. Byung-Chul Han, Topology of Violence
2. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
3. Sherry Turkle, alone together: why we expect more from technology and less from each other
4. Audre Lorde, Poetry Is Not a Luxury
5. Audre Lorde, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action