Back in August, I was pleased to publish the stunning ‘Post sanity’ by Sheffield poet and singer Anamoli Meraki in one of our weekly Fresh slots. This month, I was lucky enough to catch Anamoli for a phone interview, as well as bring you three more of her thought-provoking, emotional poems. We talked about writing, performing, mental health, and a creative solution to religious violence…
AM: I don’t know – actually yeah I think so, when I was little I used to make stories up and write stories. I was really good at rhyming, but didn’t know I was good at it – you know when you’re a kid – I just thought everyone found it easy as I did. I remember being in nursery and picking up on rhyming, and absolutely loved doing it. But I was more of a sporty kid, so I didn’t really sit down and do anything academic, because you do that at school all day and shit – I just wanted to run around and use my energy up so I didn’t get in trouble!
KG: So was it the rhyming from early on that led to specifically writing poetry?
AM: No, it was not. Like I said, at first being sporty was all I was into when I was a kid, but later on I started to journal – you know like dear diary shit? So I started doing that, and every now and then I’d write a poem if I was angry. I’d seen a counsellor, and they suggested I’d do that. I didn’t even know it was a poem at the time, I’d only read Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes! And I still don’t know what poetry really is, that’s why my poems are the way they are. So I just carried on writing it. Then I was in rehab, and to keep out of trouble I’d carry on writing in there. Some of the other patients said what I wrote was good, but I dunno it was just something I did. Then one day someone who was a poet came to the house to pick someone up, and this girl said “Oh Anamoli’s a poet, you should read some” and I had to read it out loud. I’d never wanted to show anyone my poetry! Anyway so she made me perform it, and I hated it, but then she made me go to ROMP [Rotherham Open Mic Performance – a regular spoken word night in Rotherham, South Yorkshire – ed.] and I did something there, and everyone was amazed by it. Then I went to Gorilla [a regular Sheffield spoken word night – ed.] and did a different poem, and everyone liked it, so I knew it wasn’t just the one. It went from there and everyone was cool, and a bit mental like me! It’s good to have a platform to tell your story without being told you’re lying, or you’re in the wrong to say it. It felt a bit good, and it seemed like it was actually helping people. I went to the open mic nights to listen to other people, because it helped me get out of the house – it was the only time I’d get out of the house. I’d do it and the response was always really nice, but once I did my “Dear Mowgli” poem, and wasn’t sure I should do it – but after I did it this lass came up and said “you just saved my life” – I said “I think you’ve got the wrong person love!” But she said she was about to put an end to everything, but what she heard in my poem gave her hope. That was the point where I was like, I have to keep sharing what I’m writing, and I have to keep writing – not only is it keeping me sane, but helping others as well.
It is NOT your fault.
You are not a piece of shit
You did not bring it on yourself.
You are a baby, you are not a slut.
You ARE pure
You are not the dirt that covers you
You are not the junk, the spunk, or the filth that has crawled inside of you.
You are not that roaming bar of soap
You are not worthless
You are precious and you are irreplaceable
You are priceless
And you are not for sale
You do not have an attitude problem
You have a heart for justice for others
You have presence
You have a purpose
And you have every right to stand up and fight for yourself too.
You are not too loud
Secrets are sometimes meant to be told
Secrets are not a measure of love
And that was not love
Dress how you want to
Clothes do not cause crime
I am sorry I didn’t fight him off
Maybe he has flashbacks of that night haunting him too
There is no such thing as good people and bad people
All people are tainted by their own individual life experiences
All people do good things and all people do bad things.
Look for the good in people and learn to love them.
Not everything you have been told is true
Don’t believe everything you read in the news,
The truth is inside you
You will know when you find it
Never let anyone make you believe you are less than
You have already amounted to something.
You do not need the approval of others
Trust your gut instinct
Mowgli is a made up name.
It does not mean anything
You are not trapped in this Jungle Book anymore.
I love you and I am setting you free.
KG: Do you feel differently when doing poetry readings compared to singing on stage?
AM: Yeah, I do. Yeah, I think for both of them I have to put on a bit of a persona, I suppose, to be able to do it. With singing, I feel like I can hide behind Nye [guitarist] and the music, and most of the time what we’ve been doing so far is other people’s lyrics – so I can be emotive about it and put myself in the story, but it isn’t mine. It isn’t 100% my emotions, and I don’t feel as vulnerable. But with my poetry I’m always quite aware I’ve told people about my life and some of the stuff in my poems my therapist and doctors don’t even know. But I’m trying to focus on producing my own tracks, and doing backing tracks for my poetry, so I’m feeling more confident on stage, and so it’s more emotive. That’s what people are looking for, and it’s more interesting when it’s like that. Even though I’ve had good feedback on poetry, it always feels like no one wants to hear what I want to say. But music – everyone loves music! I’m less paranoid about people losing interest in what I’m saying or thinking “oh she’s writing about the same thing again”. But the short answer is – I hate performing! I like writing, and sharing, but I’d rather not know people are listening. And I don’t have to see their response, or talk to them before I’ve calmed down after – I don’t like to come across as rude. I always feel quite insecure when I’m on stage.
KG: Do you have any favourite words? Or words you don’t like?
AM: I like the words “ostracise” and “zealous” – those are my favourite words. I don’t think I’ve ever used them in my poetry though, but they’re my two favourite words. I can’t think of any words I don’t like. Obviously I don’t like the n–word and I would never use it, that’s certainly not a favourite (laughs), and I’d struggle if I heard someone use it. I might use it in my writing as something someone said, but I’d not say it myself.
I’m fragile and invincible at the same time
Chest puffed out, head held high, strutting through town
I WILL get in your face and aggressively examine your frown
like “why the fuck you tryna be looking me up and down”
“take a fucking picture bruv. what? you think I am a clown?!”
Fragile and broken inside the cracks begin to show
tight creases form in the folds
and crack between extremities and closed palms,
of screw-faces and shirt sleeves crumbled up baring arms
bare arms, bare fists,
bear teeth, and bare tongue lashings
It’s started now, there ain’t no stoppin
I’ll threaten to fuck you up like it’s going out of fashion
Tell me stop and I’ll get more aggressive
I’ll push you, provoke you, and prod you some more
til you have no other option than to forcibly bury face into the cobbled floor
I’ll kick and scream and keep asking for more
“come on then, come on then you hard bastard”, use all ya force
break me, fracture me, bust up and bruise
kick me, restrain me, give me all your abuse
scorn me and mock me and remind me how shit
this existence I created for myself is.
You see my ‘symptoms’ as an unnecessary blanket I use to keep me warm and secure
your tired of my sob stories, I’m an attention whore
you won’t pay attention , much easier to ignore
stuff it back it, swallow, come one swallow you whore
you say my word vomit’s messy and smells a bit dogey
and i am just paranoid right?, you aint trying to dodge me
and sometimes lifes hard, and i’ll be happy if i’m busy
yeah sometimes lifes buzzin, but it makes me feel dizzy
Like when i am high as a kite, no substances involved
I feel like the most powerful invincible thing in the world
An immortal being trapped in a corrupt system whoms soul has been sold
well not sold to but birthed by devil worship and paedophilic souls
There is evil out there and I am the saviour
but I can never quite remember how I am supposed to save ya
the medication I am on is like a memory eraser
regardless of how many vivid dreams, voices and messages may enter
My mind is like a snowglobe of mixed jagged pieces
floating around in an ocean of brainwashed thinking
telling me how to be me and how to act like my spirit aint shrinking
maybe you should have just hugged me to begin with.
i am invincible and fragile at the same time
so many different paced things going on in my mind
wanna conquer the world not just plod by and survive
and if i can’t do that, well I want to die.
yes that settles it then;I just want to die
it’s exhausting being fragile and invincible at the same time
an oxymoron in a vessel colliding towards each other at full speed without a rewind
the residue left will be a messy find.
Looking for an outlet, looking for a release
the only way I ever see me finding true peace
is to put my destiny in your fists and let you ‘give it’ to me.
or provoke my liver to fail with peak-shaped mounds of drugs
and drinking vodka to forget and rum to give me courage
to be petty enough to mention some of the damage
and nervy enough to suggest, maybe, you should have hugged me to begin with.
KG: What moves you most to write?
AM: My emotions. I’m a very emotional person, I feel things very intensely, and sometimes the only way to get things straight in my head, sometimes I can’t identify what I’m feeling if it’s just a very strong emotion, so I’ve learned to write it all down and it turns into poetry. I’be written a letter to my doctor before and it turned into a poem! That’s the biggest thing that moves me. Literally just being emotional. That’s why my poetry is usually most of the time about myself, not observational stuff.
You told me I do not need to ‘rescue ‘ her
as if I know for a fact,
that the instruments she is using to sail through her own stormy waters,
are harming her in ways she can’t see.
You say it as if I know her better
than she knows the intricate details of the gust of winds
that fill her very own sails .
As if all that hot wind and air
of her past
and her before
and predestinations of life lines before her;
are the truth,
and not some lie that she has meticulous spun
from the wisps of cobwebs
she has stumbled through on her way to this place.
You say it like she had control of the weathers
and climate in which her roots were formed and her habits learned.
Like she has control over the cobwebs
that have already become hardened and plastered to her cheeks
by the salt in tear drops that have leaked from the weathers within her
and drenched the delicate tissue of her face on their slippery decent.
“You do not need to rescue her”
Your voice rings in my ears.
As with tinnitus a violent shake of the head is not enough
to shift this tacky noise sticking to my eardrums.
Like somebody else’s chewed up spidge on the sole of my shoe.
The moistness in your words begins to evaporate
and they harden and pierce through to the fibres of my soul.
Fibres that are littered with tears
“My heart bleeds for her”
I tell you
but not because I feel a pathological need to ‘rescue’ her
Not because I believe I am better than her
Or know better than her
or even know.
My heart bleeds because I have compassion,
it’s in my bones,
in my fibres,
in my being,
in my heart
in my soul.
Your vision may see it as a deep seated injury
perhaps as a result of something that has happened to me in my past.
But know this:
Some of us are not in it for the rescue glory
we are painfully aware that this shit is gory
but if no one is gonna lend a hand, when another is in need
or incapacitated or drunk or a has mind which mental illness choose to feed or to breed.
Then we are never, ever, ever, going to ever see
Communities, or Boroughs or Countries in peace.
So if my very own fibres chose to nag, pull, tear and bleed
compassion for another who may have some particular need
I’ll ask what I can do for them, and if I decided I want to.
I offer to do what it is, I am able to do.
From a chat on the phone, to some food or a brew
There are plenty of small things that each one of us can do
but don’t bother to offer if you don’t mean to follow through.
There is no need to damage another soul for the sake of you
There is no room for pride or a pathological need
to be chasing after the rescue glory.
So if by now you still don’t understand,
let me break it down one more time , but this is the last time mind.
I don’t give a fuck what you think the motivation is behind the way I live
The point that you think I have a motivation at all, is enough for me to just stop to think,
and to realise that someone, somehow, will always think bad of me.
But if I aint got no haters, then I aint making moves at all
and just taking breathes disturbs particles that are airborne.
like breathing in oxygen forces the carbon dioxide out, but that shit helps the trees to breathe
so though you may be disturbing the peace, simply by breathing, you are meeting a need.
So no, I do not need to rescue her, that is true.
But breathing is something that I do need to do.
KG: What is the best advice you’d like to give everyone – whether it’s about writing or life in general?
AM: Just do it. If I can do it, any fucker can do it. I found out I was dyslexic and had ADHD at uni, which explained why I was trying to stay out of trouble in childhood. The only skill I was taught I could do is throw shot put and discus; it’s all I thought I could do because it’s measurable and quantifiable. But emotions and writing and things – the only way it’s going to change in the world is if people communicate and share perspectives. And don’t hold back on emotions. Even if you don’t learn anything from your writing, do it – plenty of my poems don’t have happy endings. No one should ever be told to shut up, or that their opinions aren’t valid. And everyone’s right in their own way because you know how you feel – so just write. Tell people your problems. Communicate with people – because you never know. I’ve made some absolutely brilliant friends through poetry, and it’s helped me stay well. If I could give advice it would be that. There are three certainties – being born, living for a certain amount of time, and dying. So we gotta live. If writing helps you, or helps you feel supported or validated, do it. Even terrorists, suicide bombers deserve to have their own opinions – they’ve been brainwashed, so maybe if anyone else had spoken to them first, not the ones who brainwashed them, it wouldn’t be this way. Cults target vulnerable people. We just need to do some poetry workshops with them instead, don’t we?
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard an idea as fresh as that one. Anamoli is a brilliant poet (and singer), and if you think so too, you can check out her pages on Facebook: Ms Anamoli (poetry-focused) and Meraki (her band with Nye).
If you would like to submit work for a weekly Fresh spot (every Thursday), or put yourself forward for our monthly poetry profile Fresh: Featured, you can find out how right here.