Darshana Suresh: I started writing poetry when I was going through some very difficult times. From then and until now, it has been a way for me to yell my pain into the world, a way for me to release all the hurt and all the ache I’ve been feeling in a way that can touch others, as well. Poetry, for me, is a beautiful way of connecting with other people, of healing and bleeding alongside them. There’s something special about knowing that people out there, strangers with their own lives and own wants and own hurts, identify with how you’re feeling. There’s just – something so utterly human about that, y’know? And I think we all need it, that connection. That knowledge that maybe we’re not as alone as we thought we were.
F: You self-identify as mentally ill. How do you think mental illness affects the healing process? Would you say that your mental illness has shaped your perception of love and heartbreak in any way?
DS: I think my mental illnesses shape every aspect of my life, and it’s only over the last few months that I’m really coming to terms with what that may mean for myself and my recovery. It especially colours my view of love because it carries a lot of worry and baggage with it; about whether anyone can love me despite my heavy and despite my blue, about whether I really deserved to be loved. Being mentally ill is also largely the reason I need and desperately seek healing, but it is also the reason I still fully do not know what the word means yet; I am much better acquainted with heartbreak, something that seems magnified ten fold because everything hits me hard enough as it is. I think my mental illnesses definitely have the most impact on my writing, too; it is the reason I started writing in the first place, and it has been a constant companion through multiple heartbreaks and even more loves. It is also the reason I often resort to themes of healing and regrowth in a lot of my poems. I hope that maybe if I write about it enough, it will start to become more of a reality – for myself and for others, too.
F: Your poems are very tactile and sensual. As a self-identified queer woman of color, how do you explore themes of sexuality in your work?
DS: I think a large part of it comes from the idea that even if I don’t write explicitly queer or explicitly bisexual poetry, my work is still inherently ‘queer’ because I myself am. That realisation has, I feel, freed me a lot; it means that I put less pressure on myself to write poetry that needs to encapsulate who I am and instead I just write. A lot of my poems that do deal with themes of sexuality are very personal ones, either dealing with my coming out or my realisation of the fact that I wasn’t straight. I know I have a lot of readers who are not straight either, and this is one of the biggest reasons I try to write as much queer poetry as possible. There’s not all that much of it out there, so seeing things that you can relate to, knowing that other people have been through the same things you have, knowing that they understand— it’s things like that that would have helped me a lot when I was struggling to accept who I was. Visibility and representation are so hugely important, and I would like to think that I am doing my part by writing about my own experiences with my sexuality.
F: What message would you like to send to your readers who might be struggling with their own sexuality?
DS: You’re gonna figure it out, lil flowers. It’s hard and confusing and painful and sometimes you’ll just want to cry because you don’t know, but you’ll figure it out. And if you don’t – that’s okay, too. You’re okay, you’re you, and that’s what matters. I want you to know that you are not wrong. You are not a sin. You are not unnatural. You are brave and strong and miraculous and whoever you are, wherever you are, I love you. I love you.
F: Racism is another issue very close to your heart, particularly racism against Indians. Do you think your experiences with racism have influenced your poetry? Do you feel compelled to use your poetry as a means of calling attention to racist and oppressive power structures?
DS: My experiences with racism are certainly less obvious in my poetry, purely because it is such a personal thing that I am still very much coming to terms with. I think I would like to write more work that specifically targets issues of race and oppression, but it is something that I struggle with; the poems that I have written about these issues are straight from the heart, are like displaying my insides for everyone to see, and they take a lot out of me. However, I find it important that I (and other writers of colour) call attention to racism in our work – if not as a way of writing back, at least as a way of letting other people of colour out there know that they are not alone and that we are all fighting this together.
F: What would you say is the most rewarding thing about being a poet?
DS: The connections. With other poets, with the kind souls who continually read and support my work, with other people who relate to me in some way or another. Other than that, it’s the poetry in itself. For a long time I was lost and wandering, lost and confused, lost and lonely – but poetry looks like turning around and seeing the lights that never flicker off. Poetry sounds like the voice that always lifts you up when you think you’ve got nothing else left. Like the moon lending you a hand when you can’t find your own anymore. Poetry is like coming home.
Darshana Suresh is an 18 year old self-proclaimed poet residing in New Zealand, where she is currently studying psychology and English at the University of Auckland. You can most often find her falling over her own past or wistfully dreaming about all the places she has seen and all the places she has not. Poems that wrench her heart out and leave her tender and trembling are her favourite kind. She has previously been featured on The Rising Phoenix Review, and more of her work can be found on afterthelonely.tumblr.com