Poetically Speaking with Karuna Riazi

poeticallyspeaking1Karuna Riazi is fond of tea, Korean dramas and writing about tough girls who forge their own paths toward their destinies. Besides pursuing a Bachelors in English Literature, she is an online diversity advocate and blogger. Her debut MG, The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, will be released in 2017 under Simon and Schuster’s new Salaam Reads imprint.

Today Karuna is talking about finding her own path to poetry.

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My Path to Poetry

I am in love with the idea of poetry. I have little verses tucked away, like strands of hair behind an ear: written in the margins of a long abandoned school notebook, trailing down a peeled off Post-It note that previously graced the sacred insides of a library book.

I grew up engrossed in Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer” and felt a tangible tingle down my spine observing Emily Dickinson’s “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass.”

My world grew colorful, in sharp bursts of realization and sunlight, as I became exposed to Rita Dove and Gwendolyn Brooks and glorious, full-voiced Maya Angelou. The words glittered and jostled each other and I strung them up my arms and layered them about my neck like they were jewels.

I wanted to be able to do that, too. I wanted to be able to pluck out perfectly faceted phrases that made you shudder, made you want to shout and fling yourself back in the grass and stare up at the balmy sky and cotton-clump clouds and feel utterly alive in every sparking, seething vein of your body because someone has put every feeling down into words that you didn’t even think of parsing out so finely.

I nudge words together like magnets, seeing which will snap together with the admirable alliteration I particularly enjoy – and which will disappointingly, laughably press back, offended at the idea that they could possibly have anything in common.

I haven’t been able to find the gift yet that I so admire in others. I feel like there is more to it than experimentation and liking some words more than others (in the best occurrence of favoritism there might be).

At least, I’ve reached the point where I understand that poetry can be for me.

My domain is novels. I’ll never be able to devote as much time to individual poems as I will into entirely shaped books with outline-spines of romance and adventure and intrigue, and that is entirely okay.

My main fear is a lack of beauty. If there is anything I hunger to see in my words, it is a lush, tangible aesthetic: a visual rendering of the feelings that teem through me and that I always associate with the turbulence of being an adolescent. So I try and experiment and like some words more than others and sometimes wonder if I’m going about all of this the right way.

What helps me carry on is the fact that I’ve seen how the beauty of the poem can seep into the density of prose. Nova Ren Suma is a master of it, as are Laini Taylor, Shveta Thakrar, Sarah McCarry, Holly Black, Roshani Chokshi, Anna-Marie McLemore and so many other glorious writers bringing a jewel-like charm and well spun beauty to stories that already glisten and gleam.

Their words reach down into my chest and wrench. They show me that it can be done, it should be done, that there are people out there who know how to balance the sublime meter of poetry into the often unfettered extents of prose.

It can be done. It should be done. It is just a matter of finding the right way to string the words together and the right amount of heart to mete out between my fingers and offer up for the magic to happen. Perhaps this is the awkward stage where I need to want, very, very badly, and watch the masters I so admire at work on their craft, and stare up at the balmy sky at some point and feel utterly alive in every sparking, seething vein of my body and hunger for a way to let all of that spill out on paper.

This is my path to poetry. It unravels with every new voice I stumble upon that lingers in the corners of my mind and tugs the corners of my lips up. It sprawls against my feet and nudges, insistently, when I’m turning the pages of a book that embodies everything I want to be – and want to continuously, constantly indulge myself in no matter what form of media I’m currently consuming.

Perhaps one day, it will unfurl to the point that I will be able to say, too, with appropriate charm and a little twinkle in my eye, “I am a poet. And I know it.”

But that day is not today. At least, though – at the very least – I know that I want to reach that day. I want to be able to unfold stories over my lap and point to the fire, glowing threads that make up their intricately crafted tapestries.

And for now, I continue to bask in the sunlight glow of poetry’s hope and beauty and occasional brisk blue sorrows. I continue to be reminded of how important it is to be so utterly alive, in every sparking, seething vein of my body, and hungry to become more and express more and know that there are others who feel the very same way.


Thank you Karuna for this thoughtful post!

If you want to learn more about Karuna be sure to follow her on Twitter: @karunariazi

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