When I am at readings I introduce myself as a poet and a writer. That’s right. Poets are in a class unto themselves — no disrespect to my proseies. I too write prose but I was born a poet. Why the distinction? It’s simple (poet) logic. All poetry is writing but not all writing is poetry. But come to think of it there is a poetry to all language, to every written and spoken word. Therefore you could say that all writing is poetry — with some clearly being better than others.

What I’ve learned about myself over these last five years is how much I’ve grown to love subtlety. Those who knew me back when would appreciate the irony. A string of failed relationships with ambivalent young women left me vexed by all things ambiguous. I became rigidly dichotomous. Everything had to be this or that. Tell me where you stand girl. You love me or you love me not, which is it? I went through the fire of love lost and self-hate and came out severely burned.

Then I healed and began loving myself. I met my wife, got married, started grad school. Slowly I was becoming someone who accepted and appreciated the subtleties of life experiences. The world for me now was full of the beauty of nuance rather than bland absolutes. This was a rebirth for me as a person and as a poet. Before, my poetry was rife with binaries and stilted rhetoric. It tried too hard to simplify the world as opposed to explore its complexities.

Over the last couple of years I’ve begun using subtlety more in my poetry and writing. I’ve used this tool to dig deep wells of meaning to drink from. And there I found myself, kneeling and drinking right next to my readers. It is important to know that subtlety is not only a tool of the poet. It is also the end game. Poets must use delicately complex language in order to illustrate how delicately complex the world is. Even if one is done exceptionally well only half the work is completed.

Therefore, good poetry (and writing) leaves the reader feeling satiated. Profound poetry, however, leaves the reader pondering big questions rather than carrying away the false impression of having been fed.

To put it more simply, it is the difference between giving the illusion of answers and the absurd suggestion that there are but questions.

muslim. writer. educator.