Ankit Raj Ojha
I toy with words on my phone in between lectures and am poked by colleagues: “Why can’t you just relax?” In my defence: I do relax; words are one of the ways. This I tell them. They are baffled: “All these poems you write, for free? You do have a job. Why not get a life too?” I half-reckon then abandon the urge to tell them that it’s often the way work and life are perceived: pigeonholing sires the need for the elusive work-life balance. As for my equation with poetry, I do it for the same reason birds fly, fish swim, and infants cry: the inescapable requisite, and the sheer joy and gratification it brings. It’s true that I look for paying magazines to rationalise the urge, but not always. It is a relief when words done for free make me skip meals. I recall Joey Tribbiani’s words: “There are no selfless good deeds”. The self here is the chance to be myself, if I am to repeat the cliché. So it’s no longer the point of something being a good deed or not if it is second nature. I think of the people deemed “a joy to be with,” and wonder if they are like poems. I long to be one, to attain a state where the person ends and the poem begins, where the two bleed in and out of each other until equilibrium sets in and the two are one; it is one.
Expression is one of the greatest joys of being alive. When pondering over the person’s end and the birth of poetry, all I can hope for is an osmotic flow that melts the fence.
Ankit Raj Ojha is a poet and assistant professor from Chapra, India. He is the author of Pinpricks (2022) and editor at The Hooghly Review.
Ankit’s essay is the winner of our Featured Essay prize and was awarded £20.