He thinks I should be glad because they

Aisha Sasha John

copyright ©2017 by Aisha Sasha John

Like the idea of Aisha. I am not the idea of Aisha.

I am Aisha.

You I know you

Love the idea of Aisha.

I am not the idea of Aisha.

I am not the idea of Aisha.

I am Aisha.

Notes on the Poem

Aisha Sasha John beguiles and surprises us again with this selection from her 2018 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlisted poetry collection I have to live. The intricacy of these simple, straightforward looking lines is revelatory, with intriguing alterations in meaning introduced via line breaks. In fact, John launches into this even before the conventional opening of the poem in the first line, starting instead from the poem's title. Enjambment is a poetic device whereby a sentence or clause continues beyond a line break. We've examined this in a previous Poem of the Week, "Present from Ted" by Margaret Avison from her 2003 Griffin Poetry Prize winning collection Concrete and Wild Carrot. You don't have the full meaning of a line in a poem using enjambment when you reach the end of the line - you must continue to the next and possibly multiple lines. Interestingly, this review of I have to live. views the opening line of the poem both relative to and leading from the title and as a standalone line, and remarks:
"On a certain level, this treats of the anxious difference between being and being seen. But the opening line taken by itself appears ominously correct, too: the idea of Aisha is not Aisha, and it is in likeness to this dissemblance that one is as oneself."
As John the poet and John the persona of Aisha in this poem tussle with self and idea of self, how the words are articulated or can be articulated cycle through affirmation of self, self-awareness and awareness of self relative to others' awareness and perception ... a dizzying spiral into and out of self, all in just a few words. How one retains a sense of self and trusts others - or doesn't - is cleverly captured in these lines: "You I know you Love the idea of Aisha." Can the first line stand on its own? Is it "You, I know you" (and can trust you)? Or do "you [just] / Love the idea of Aisha" ... and you don't really know Aisha at all? In an act of poetic legerdemain, Aisha Sasha John deftly and crisply offers a sharp, timely statement about self and idea of self in an era when sense of self is layered, blurred and possibly misunderstood or actively distorted by others.

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