Voices, No Boundaries- Nahal guest columnist- aaduna in exile spring 2021 issue, Vol. 10 No. 1


Voices, No Boundaries

(This category is a new feature for aaduna)

Guest Columnist

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP (photo provided)

Anita Nahal, Ph.D., CDP  A professor, poet, flash fictionist, and children’s writer, Nahal teaches at the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC. Her third book of poetry, What’s wrong with us Kali women? is due for publication by Kelsay Books in August 2021. More on Nahal at: https://anitanahal.wixsite.com/anitanahal

Poetry Imagined and Reimagined 

By Anita Nahal


This is my maiden column with aaduna, about which I am thrilled as aaduna is one of my favorite creative publications. I begin, Poetry Imagined & Reimagined with a discussion with artist and writer, Michael D. Harris. This first column centers on the styles in which poets write in, and the reasons that impact their selection. What draws poets towards writing in a particular style/s? And how do their chosen approaches assist in expressing the depth of their words, emotions?


“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”

~ Maya Angelou ~


A deeper meaning, a deeper questioning, a deeper response is what poets seek from the pathos of their heart, mind, and soul in telling their stories. In the process they express themselves in a plethora of ways and forms; free verse, haiku, rhyme, prose poetry, soliloquy, ekphrasis, epics, ballads, sonnets, onegin, limerick, spoken word, expressionist, surrealist, and so forth. There is no one kind of poetry, nor one way to have it written. Creativity is subjective, therefore, there is no right or wrong. Critics who reject poetry (or any writing) are not searching for a great poem in my opinion, they are searching instead for a poem that fits their thinking. Poets put themselves through an immersive journey and the heart of a poet, or any creative person, can be like a walking bruise, never fully healed…never fully understood...but still it keeps going on a quest, a mission, always open to love, passion, and hurt, always seeking answers, new ways, always trying to improve, hoping, dreaming, thanking, praying, loving, caring, crying, forgiving, screaming, silent, digging, flying, shinning and calming. A poet can change the world and it all begins with an idea, or a word, or as Robert Frost said, with “… a lump in the throat…”

Painter, poet and associate professor emeritus, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, Michael D Harris, when talking about his writing style says, “For some reason I have always been attracted to free-verse with occasional rhymes and emotional associations. I like imagery and emotional metaphors and similes. I write about emotional issues that I cannot express in my painting and photography.  I tend toward an economy rather than prose in the work. My main inspirations early were, This is My Beloved by Walter Benton and Cane by Jean Toomer.” 

Michael is a remarkable artist and poet who is powerful and direct in speaking to the immense issues of our times, on history and roots. His insightfulness in comprehending the layers of life are portrayed with incredible creativity. And he seeks out the depth of those elements both in his paintings and poems, which sometimes are very sensual as well. Here are two examples of his free verse poems on two very different themes:

Lips on a Butterfly


           A mouth full of promises

          fruit and fire

          the eyes of a siren,

          she stands lean, tall

          like a cinnamon tree

          sliced mangoes for lips

          dripping juicy and fresh

          tastes from the tropics,

          hot humid coastal nights full of salt air

          sounds of the dark Atlantic,

          and the faint scent of its mysteries and misery,

          her tongue is a tide

          a force sweeping men out to sea

          She is the whims of Yemanja

          the sweet breath of Oxum      

          a wet kiss imagined from boyhood   

          come true.

          She walks a Samba    

          laughs as only beauty can      

          flit away,

          a butterfly with lips

          oh, those lips!

          full of promises

          fruit and fire

          and I wait and pray

          for her honeyed tongue

          to wash me out to sea



          beije-me mortos

          beije-me à vida!



* * *

Covid Diary: No Place for Old Men

(For David, Pellom, Maurice, and Louis)


That butcher is cutting heads


with fury and cleavage.


like tear gas

burns our air,

better days from




week after week

leaving only memories and old photos

and we burn and bury

our young lives

alongside old friends.

This butcher


is cutting lives up

into smaller pieces and

minced hope.

Hearts crack like bones

and each phone call threatens

more mayhem. 

* * *

Also sharing here, a couple of Michael’s poignant and striking artwork that are poetry in themselves. Michael reimagines art in very injenious formats and the result is dynamic. Michael Harris’s work has impressed me for many years and the fascination continues.

M. D. Harris, East Ponce, 2018

M. D. Harris, Face to Face, 2005, mixed on paper

This is a reinterpretation of an ad in Parade Magazine from 2004

Stylization is very personal and oft can also be very political given the issues of the eras in which poets live. Who can forget the lyrical, haunting voice of Phyllis Wheatley, or the imagism of Ezra Pound, the confessional poetry of Sylvia Plath, or Langston Hughes for his melodious jazz like rhythms in his poetry, or Walt Whitman for his free verse, and Robert Frost’s profound comprehension of human nature? And then, Maya Angelou, a people’s poet with her dramatic, inspired evocation of the human spirit, or Emily Dickinson, the poet who said it in a few words, many times in paradox, and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s descriptive style and of course Shakespeare’s rhetorical, elaborate metaphors. I would be amiss not to mention Rabindranath Tagore’s great commentary on life and social justice or Pushkin for the use of the ongein stanza, emulated later by Vikram Seth in his novel, The Golden Seth. And my father, Chaman Nahal for his highly rooted imagery of the Indian landscapes in the few poems found in his novels. 

In my own writings, I have experimented over the years with a multitude of styles and themes. Increasingly, I find myself leaning towards the spoken word, prose poetry, ekphrastic and surrealist to articulate my emotions and thoughts. For example, here is one prose poem of mine which is appearing in my forthcoming third poetry collection (Kelsay Books, August 2021). The book is titled on the name of this poem. This poem has also been published in FemAsia, April 2021.

I would write every day, all day, all night, if I didn’t have to sleep! Besides my son’s love, poetry is what I thrive on each day. If I don’t write, I feel restless. 

Poets are analogous, I believe. Our similarities are more than our differences. Writing styles and words can be varied, diverse and myriad, yet the idea/thought/word inclinations of poets seem quite comparable. 

Please feel free to write to me at, anpriya87@gmail.com with comments, suggestions and if you would like to be showcased in my thrice yearly column that coincides with aaduna’s publication schedule.



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