In The Epiphany of Loving: A Selection of Poems by Maryam Abdulrehman, I found an eclectic mix of penned thoughts ultimately formed through a long struggle to understand self-pity and unwavering sadness. In her introduction to the collection, Abdulrehman wrote that in penning these poems she realized self-pity was one of “life’s most venomous poisons” that directed the soul to “self-destruct under the guise of the self’s’ moral compass and voice of reason.” She further explained that together with sadness’s more mischievous twin – doubt – the self-exploration left her feeling very disorientated as she crafted meaning from her feelings. “I felt that the true nature of self-pity was to make you loathe not only others but yourself until it renders you hopeless, helpless and stationary while the world hurries on forward like characters in a busy novel,” Abdulrehman shared.
Her newest collection of 23 confessional poems weave together to create a narrative that is both accusing and interrogative. In one poem, “For Your Consideration,”Abdulrehman addresses an unseen opponent in repetitive pleas for understanding. In her poem “Conversations Past,” unnamed racists warn her not to think she is intelligent and tell her:
“[…] you’re only good for one thing
That is to be a slave
To live in servitude
To make entertainment for us
To do the work that we don’t want to do […]”
“[…] We are smarter than you think
We have a secret weapon and I know you know what it is
You see our emergence from the ashes time and time again
Is because we believe in our Maker whom we love more than anything […]”
Her tone is often one of a brooding monologue, like one might find in a journal, diary, or confessional. The theme of the collection is also deeply pained and intimate. There is no frivolity to be found here aside from the abundant simple rhymes. While most of her poems are written in a universal voice, there are a few that break away from this mold. “Empire of Faith” for example, certainly evokes a deeply feminine feel as Abdulrehman writes:
“You say that I am not free when you see me
You say that I hide and take no pride in being me
You find it strange that my beauty is not thrown upon a stage for you to see
You are afraid of that and unknowing of how to be […]”
While the poems do not use any dialect, slang, foreign words, or stress any specific cultural details, I sensed scars from a deeply pained immigrant and “outsider” experience. The subtle shift in mood from the first poem to the last was so slight I almost missed it. While the collection aimed to wrap up on a lighter note, I still set down the collection feeling guiltily melancholy for indulging – like one might feel guilty for indulging in a good cry.
Abdulrehman’s fight against self-pity was hard won, though she notes that other battles are still to be fought. She further shared her newfound hope in her ultimate anticipated victory over sadness and angst. “Now when life’s difficult moments arrive I try to remind myself to not give up on hope because it is in me to hope,” she confessed. “I try not to give up doing good in life for life is for living.”
She reminds others to not give up on who put hope in their hearts, live to live, and strength to believe. “Be thankful to who favoured you with strength to believe,” Abdulrehman says. “Gather strength, gather hope, gather faith and reach.”
The Epiphany of Loving: A Selection of Poems is available through Amazon.
Janet Kozak is founder and COO of the PR and communications firm Resoulute. She’s an entrepreneur driven by business insights and boundless creativity. Janet’s most interested in women-owned business development and social causes including public health issues and domestic violence education in Muslim communities. She founded an online advocacy and support group, Muslim Women Against Domestic Violence and Abuse, and also recently spoke on the topic of financial abuse at the 2nd International Conference on Women’s Empowerment in Karachi, Pakistan. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.