Functionally Dead was able to catch up with Regina Kabir, 78, on a recent Sunday morning while she was slicing into mangoes. She sucked the juice off her aged fingers, annoyed, and turned to us with a frown on her face.
“Please tell my grandchild to stop including me in their poetry,” she was quoted as saying. “I know the saying is ‘write what you know’, but have they considered writing what they don’t know? Are you even earning money from this?”
When we told her no, and that some poets even resort to paying submission fees in order to be published, she stepped back from the pan and held onto the counter for support. “It’s pay-to-play?”
Regina’s eyes widened. She took out a mortar and pestle and began to grind the chilli into a fine paste. “Why are you paying to get your stories submitted? Who is the arbiter of these truths?” She paused to breathe and stared at us in disbelief.
When asked about her thoughts on poetry as a whole, she gave us a dismissive wave and a snort.
“It’s all rubbish,” she said. “Should’ve asked my daughter to send them to law school instead, like her cousin Gerald did.”
What did she think about the Millennial-slash-Gen-Z tendency to use trauma as a narrative tool?
“I don’t understand this obsession with trauma." She shook her head. “My life was pretty traumatic. I walked to school barefoot and back. With blisters on my feet, even.” She pointed a knife at our photographer Billy Boy, who jumped back in terror. “I could’ve bragged about my grandkids to my peers if they’d written something else. Anything else.”
Regina pointed at the ominous portrait of Jesus above our heads and sighed wistfully. “Jesus didn’t write poetry. He healed people.”
Maybe poetry carries the capacity to heal people.
“Yes, but not through descriptions of my ‘weathered smile,’ that’s for sure,” she said, stomping on a cockroach while Billy Boy screamed. “My grandchild lives in an apartment in London that her father pays for. How is she oppressed?”
We tried to inform her about racial microaggressions, but she shook her head.
“Now you’re just making up words.”
After our kitchen chat, we retired to her quaint sitting room, where we asked her about her thoughts on the mango as a literary device.
“It’s delicious,” she said thoughtfully. Her cataracted-eyes looked pensive as she mulled over our question.
Unfortunately, the interview was cut short after we informed her that her grandchild spent more time on Twitter arguing about critical race theory than actually writing their elder-fetishizing odes.
Madeleine Tomasoa has a crippling disease that makes them write fruitlessly ‘for a living’ and ‘for fun.’ They are from Jakarta, Indonesia. Twitter: @madeleinetms, Instagram: @kerentm
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