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Living In a World of Symbols

With Adriano Bulla
Part 9

Adriano Bulla
It appears to me that your poetry, though it clearly opens windows onto the universal, originates from personal experience; looking at "Gossip of Sparrows", could you explain how you go about this process?

Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa
Well, I guess it's important for me to explain first that all of my poetry is personal...completely personal. My poetry comes from that other side of my creative nature not necessarily touched on in the creation of my icons. Those are a mystical, religious expression, not a personal exploration. My poems, on the other hand, are a personal exploration. They are the laying out of my subconscious and emotional nature. They are an impulse I have to use words, the combination of words, as symbols for my experience as a human being. How do I see my world from that individual vantage I've been given, from my own experiences?

How do I dig up and reveal those things that get buried deep inside me? How do I work through grief, anger, love, desire...lust? How can I say things to people if I can't approach them personally? But even if I could write them, call them, text can I feel safe in expressing absolutely everything I feel, without feeling vulnerable or subject to rejection? For me, these questions are answered through poetry, through this impulse I have...I have to call it an divulge my feelings in the expression of written language.

I've been writing poetry consciously since I was in the first grade, and I've kept my poetry diaries and journals with me since I was in high school; so, I have this track record of my life experiences and the ways in which I found to work through all the things I needed to work through. Because, for me, poetry does that...helps me to process and understand my emotions and reactions to things. But it also helps release a vital impulse I have, like having an orgasm, ejaculating semen. Writing poetry for me is like breathing, fucking or pissing. It's a necessary and natural human impulse that just happens, almost without my having to concentrate on it.

I hope I don't disappoint you here, but I can't really pinpoint a 'process' or 'method' I go through consciously in the creation of my poetry. I'm not one of those obsessive 'literary' poets operating according to style or procedure...'in the tradition of ' in trying to emulate the style of Yeats or Keats or Byron. That never enters my mind. I'm not coming from the standpoint of style or tradition, but of impulse; I just have to keep coming back to that word, impulse. I don't want to belittle the art of poetry by being crude here, but for me writing poetry

really is like breathing or pissing or fucking. You don't do these things because you're good at them, or bad at them. You do them because it's a natural part of the process of living in a human body. We have to do them in order to survive! For me, writing poetry is a method of survival. It's not an art or a hobby or a pastime. It's not an intellectual exercise. It's a vital part of who I am and how I express myself. Words are vital to me, and how words are linked together is vital to me. Words are symbols, and my poems are symbolic expressions of my identity.

"Gossip of Sparrows" is about more than one experience, but fundamentally it's about an intellectual love affair I'm having with a man I want to take as my lover. I want to consummate that relationship, to take him physically and fully, to break through this emotional block he is placing in front of his interactions with me. The sparrows are free. They can live anywhere they want and exist between the worlds of heaven and earth, spirit and flesh. Sparrows are symbolic of the unrestrained emotions, the heart in full flight, without fear or hindrances. They get to talk based on impulse, instead of on reason, so in this way they are more free

than human beings, who must rationalize their emotions and use logic instead of intuition. But the sparrows in my poem represent this intuition freely used and never suppressed, and are therefore truly free and represent the place I wish to be in my relationship with this man.

The sparrows also have that bird's-eye view of the human world, so they see exactly what I want from this man I am attempting to take as my lover. They see inside my head, and although my poem makes it sounds as if I have taken him fully and physically, I haven' love affair with him is purely intellectual and emotional, all in my head. But the sparrows see into my mind's eye and see this kind of fantasy life taking place there. They see the kind of relationship I want with this man, which is sexually charged and without restraint.

I'm asking myself in this poem does he know what is going on inside my heart, inside my head? Does he know what he is to me? That's what I'm asking when I say Were those chattering sparrows/ Eavesdropping?/ Did they carry my lust to your ears/ Even then? In a way I'm trying to get my voice heard by this man, this object of my desire, and say to him, look, do you know how much I want to make love to you? Do you realize how much you're under my skin?!

 Then, of course, I retreat into my fantasy world, dreaming away at the hours I could spend in bed with this man if he became my lover. I'm telling him what he could have if he let himself go...promising him this erotic fantasy. But he remains obstinate, doesn't he? Because even though I've made myself vulnerable for him...Became a virgin again, set aside my faults and apprehensions about the relationship, he remains unyielding. He is like this powerful god I'm praying to, who ultimately can't or won't acknowledge my prayers. He won't answer them, no matter how much I try to persuade him otherwise.

So, what do I do? I tell him that I know he will one day surrender. Although I'm the one who is stung with lust and feeling for him...I'm the one in this kind of agony for the present time...he will one day bring his heart to me and lay it at my feet, like bringing flowers to a lover's grave. That's my form of

symbolic language expressing how we all feel when the object of our lust or love refuses to reciprocate our emotions, and we tell ourselves, well, one day you are going to come to me! I'm telling this man that even though he has the power right now, that I'm in a position of vulnerability, that at some point in the future the positions will be reversed.

Detail from "As My Father's Eye Watches Me"/ Acrylic and Sterling silver on canvas by master iconographer Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa

Believe me, even though it may not seem like it, all of my poems ultimately take an optimistic view of the human condition. The suffering we experience in lust or love is all worth it, in the end. There is something gained, some spiritual insight, some enlightenment, even in the most terrible trials. Everything manifests knowledge, personal or self-awareness...self-realization. Love and sexuality are always metaphors in my poems for this process of coming to know ourselves more profoundly. Our lovers are Buddhas; they are our spiritual teachers because they force us to take a closer look at our intentions and convictions and state of mind. They make us aware of our true feelings and natures, and making love with them, or being denied by them, is a motivation for engaging in the higher process of spiritual liberation. That's why my poems weave together this blend of erotic and spiritual language.

The two are almost synonymous for me, because the spiritual quest is fraught with dangers and trials, and is dominated by effort, just like our most profound human relationships. And at the end of the day, our passion and lust and love provoke us to look inward, as deep as possible, until we find the truth of who we are. Our lovers are a reflection of how we see ourselves at any given moment in time, and that is what I'm trying to say to my readers in "Gossip of Sparrows".

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