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A Dead Poet's Society

Asim Khan performs 'A Dead Poet's Society'

"This poem refers to my time on the writing programme; it contains many of the lines from the 1989 film Dead Poet's Society." explains Asim. "At the time, my reason for attending Warwick was not to learn how to write, but rather, I saw it as a final attempt to resolve why I felt I had lost the fun from writing."

"I think any person with a deep love and respect for language, one that they have felt almost religiously devoted towards from a young age, goes through a literary phase of fear and inadequacy and dread that sucks the joy out the process and diverts that once useful creative introspection into something altogether different, unwholesome. In truth, I was in a strange place, almost the dark opposite of writer’s block - I was writing for the sake of writing. And it’s not a good place to be alone. Voiceless, staring into a void. Writing, I find, is a mostly solitary pursuit of a kind of personal perfection. When it gets mechanical, the brutal attrition can really mess you up, similar in many ways that a 9 to 5 job that you just don’t enjoy will...

"I think at some point, whilst in workshops and through talking to writers/poets I admired, it became important for me to break out from the illusory solipsistic funk that was crippling my writing experience, and instead recognise the importance of community to my writing, of reading someone else’s words to share their conscience (and how it works in reverse), of words as tools, to not worry over the fun and misery that entails anything you are willing to dedicate yourself towards and just embrace it naturally like birdsong, which I had long assumed was always joyous…

"Warwick has a fantastic community of writers, each at different stages of their development, each inwardly brave in their respective journeys. As a human being (and it’s nice to be reminded of that on a humanities course), it’s heartening to know there are others out there, real people, who you can physically talk to, who share your goals and tribulations, who get just as stressed over tense and syntax and punctuation whilst writing or reading, and yet who you know feel just as electric as you do when that one sentence comes together - that same feeling you had when writing your first poem as a child but were too shy to tell anyone about. I am grateful to the people I have met at Warwick, truly/always/onwards…"

A Dead Poet's Society

Poor Puck, Poor Robin, Poor Captain:
Our spirits meeting at a critical juncture:
Like roads diverged in an autumnal wood:
Asim KhanMuted by the onset of rainfall:

Tell me what to feel?
With my grim breath of quiet desperation:
Slumped, in the dust of Millburn’s little chairs:
Lifted sometimes by the calloused hands of Ulysses:

O Captain! My Captain!
What do we stay alive for?
In these austere times you say to go outside?
And learn to fight, to dance, to strive:

I am a student of many moons:
You, the gypsy poet of birds and Wisdom:
My naïve voice that day behind the lectern:
A course shaped by the Holocene:

In the film, women swoon; why do they swoon?
And he will die; why does he die?
Reaching for a crown of thorns:
That pricks the flesh of restless stars:

Holy: I am taken by Coventry:
Holding a balloon and Keats’s odes:
Dark/wet/melancholy:
Standing on a table in a sweat-slaked classroom:

The verse of grass and stones and buildings:
Is sung in the space within:
I am amongst sentimental rich kids:
There are many captains! Thinking!

The truth is, the days seize me, Nuwanda:
And, between reading Rilke and Lorca:
There are times I want to die also:
There are times I can’t sleep:

And I write:
And I am heavy bored:
Chewing the bark of broadleaved trees:
Just waiting…


Asim Khan is from Birmingham, England. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in various print and online journals.