by Imtiaz Dharker
In the poem ‘This room’ I wanted to suggest first of all that some kind of constriction is suddenly falling away. The walls of the room could mean different things to different people, and I hope when you read the poem you will find something in it that you can relate to your own life. Very often people try to trap us inside the box of a word, a label, a definition or an expectation. The box could even be self-imposed, our own limited idea of ourselves, the structures we build up around ourselves to keep ourselves ‘safe’ – nationality, religion, social barriers that keep others out.
The poem is about a moment when the structure falls away. The room is personified. It breaks out of itself, out of something suffocating. The image of ‘cracking through its own walls’ could suggest an egg and something about to be born into the light. The lines are short and broken, the sounds sharp.
Instead of falling, the everyday objects in the room take flight to unknown possibilities. ‘No-one is looking for the door’ because doors have become irrelevant. There is no need for one conventional exit when so many openings have appeared.
Perhaps I was working towards the idea that a person or a whole culture actually becomes stronger by opening up to the outside instead of closing inward.
The poem ends with a feeling of amused dislocation and a final moment of celebration in the last lines
‘In all this excitement, I’m wondering where
I’ve left my feet, and why
my hands are outside, clapping.’
(Just an extra note: I started writing this poem when a ceiling in my house in Bombay actually fell down. I should have felt terrible about it but I didn’t. Afterwards I gave away all the things I owned in the room and that gave me a great feeling of freedom).
You could also see this as a poem about writing a poem, when the writer steps away from an experience and looks at it from the outside, from an odd angle. This is the moment of celebration.
As often happens at one of the Poetry Live! days, a student added something else to the poem. She said the words ‘this room’ could apply to the room of the title and also to the ‘room’, the space, at the end of the poem.
That’s an example of how important you are as the reader and how a poem can grow in your reading of it.