A Poet’s Dilemma by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

May 30, 2013 | By | 10 Replies More

Limbs exploded,

like overcooked sausage

inside its casing,

and flooded the financial capitals

of the US, UK, and India

over the years—painting it

the color of vermillion

running through a Hindu bride’s hair

while I sat with a dead pen,

tapping my limbs,

hoping they would witness blood

drip from the fountain pen

and help me write a poem

about the mystique of outer space.

But how can a poet betray

words that take the form of tears?

How can a poet ignore

knowing what’s happening on earth,

write about the unknown aspects of outer space?


Sweta Srivastava Vikram (www.swetavikram.com) is an award-winning writer, two times Pushcart Prize nominated-poet, novelist, author, essayist, columnist, and educator who was born in India, and spent her formative years between India, North Africa, and the United States. You can follow her on Twitter, @ssvik, or Facebook.

Tags: ,

Category: Poetry, Spring, When Women Waken Literary Journal

Comments (10)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Brienne Dubh says:

    I really enjoyed this piece it’s so captivating. I can visualise everything so easily and see the colours of the tale with every line I read. I keep reading it over and getting something different each time.

  2. clara54 says:

    As poets & writers we are sometimes searching for just the right ‘thing’ to write about, when we’re being pulled from the soul to write what we’re consumed with or more importantly, what that ‘thing’ is that consumes us. I loved the inner debate of Dilemma.

  3. Dear Brienne and Clara,

    Thank you so much for taking out the time to read my poem and for sharing such insightful comments and your interpretation.


  4. Mags Ford says:

    I loved this poem and understand the dilemma so well. How can we sit and ponder over the ‘right’ word the ‘right’ phrase while the world crumbles around us? But, then from those words and phrases, a new perception is presented to us and it all makes sense somehow. Thank you for sharing your poetry and I look forward to reading more.


  5. The title of your poem caught my attention immediately – because I am a poet. Some good advice I received from a poetry mentor is that the world needs our voices. It doesn’t matter if you write about outer space or death – when you write a poem you give voice to something unique, something that only you would write. Like this poem. It doesn’t take away the social conscience that we have – but I think gives us the freedom to write poetry about mundane things – because no-one can see what we see, nor describe it in the way that we do through our poetry. I look forward to reading that outer space poem!

  6. Anne Moraa says:

    I had to read your piece – as I dabble in poetry too – and I completely understand the ‘sitting with a dead pen” and the question of what you should/want to write about. If I may offer an answer, forget the universe and the earth and everything else, focus on the word. I tend to debate on what and how I should write, but I am starting to believe the words we write are not our own truly. We are just tools to write them and be they about war and peace or flowers and boyfriends, they are words and, if they are good, that is enough. I love the piece – you made me think.

  7. Dear Mags, Kerry, and Anne,

    Thank you so much for reading my poem and sharing your opinion. I admire your vision: both words & poetry. Also, I sincerely apologize for my tardy response. I was away for close to 2 months on work with limited access to email.

    Have a wonderful holiday season,

  8. Dana Holt says:

    What a captivating poem from the very beginning with the imagery of the comparison of exploding limbs to overcooked sausage. I really liked the theme of this poem. The “dead pen” IS the poet’s dilemma is it not? When it comes to choosing content. Traditionally, poets have been made to believe their writings should be didactic in some way or contain a great reveal of nature or love. I, however, like to focus on the everyday, the mundane, that we perhaps miss in passing to the very important parts of our lives. These are the things that can surprise with insight and meaning. Your poem is wonderful to remind writers, poets especially, of the endless wonder the page has to offer and that we are only limited by our own expectations as writers. Thank you!

  9. Dear Dana,

    Thank you for reading the poem, starting this lovely conversation, and making us all think about inspiration. Yes, you are right; the DEAD PEN refers to the poet’s dilemma about writing content. I think the feeling of helplessness can make us focus on the everyday mundane which otherwise goes unnoticed by our writerly eyes.

    Wish you the best!

  10. Sione Lister says:

    This made me think of a poem How To Speak To The Dead which, among other things, really prompts me to reflect on what matters in the long run/when I am dead. Will it be the small dramas that erupt throughout my life consistently or the more ‘simple’ things, or like you say mundane, such as what it feels like to be cold or how it feels to be embraced by someone you love. I really connected with this sort of battle between what to write about, what we are told we should write about, etc.

    Thank you for your words!
    – Sione

Leave a Reply