…because a flower without sun
will perish in a selfish sea,
tell her she’s lovely
because a flower without water
will drown in the world’s heat,
tell her she’s lovely
because this is the flower
you crossed meadows,
just to keep.
Dhara Singh first crafted this poem in an unlikely place. Hours of subway commutes provided a reflection space she filled with a home for her thoughts, and the beginnings of Tell Her She’s Lovely were born. Although Dhara has a writing background, she describes the experience of writing poetry as a new type of endeavor.
Tell Her She’s Lovely inspires the chronicle of a journey to not only a new path in life, but a rebirth of the self. Many pieces, such as “Why We Label” focus on casting away the gaze and perspectives of others in order to look inward for empowerment. The poems illustrate processes of transformation and self-awareness with vivid imagery.
Broken into three parts, Tell Her She’s Lovely chronicles the revelation of a courageously honest identity by a resilient protagonist. In “Conflict,” the first section, the recognition of a growing transition begins. The poem “Roses” evokes soft images of solitude and peace that slowly become challenging. A comfortable environment, where “time ticks evenly” changes into resistance: “when I start reading, /you flip the page, /current of intentions, /pushed against space. The resistance becomes more concrete and aggressive in “Full Fledged”, and the subject of the poem is “rushing to survive in a crowd” but “killing what you need as you go”, an apt metaphor to describe a grueling experience of survival in a difficult environment.
When we arrive at “Confront”, the second section, the battle of self-determination begins. Self-compassion and growth is not an easy process, and the narrator grapples with tumultuous inner and outer storms with vivid imagery. In “The Phoenix”, it’s “The world who tells her she died” and “for a creature, whose present is so beautiful/we always find a way to persuade her/she’s eternally ill-fated.” Questions related to self-awareness come to mind. How important is a past life? Do we mark it ourselves as a new beginning? Or is it determined by outside forces?
A shift occurs, however, with the poem “Pour”, as the narrator begins her journey, planting the seed of rebellion despite opposing forces: “Pour this madness/into an empty vase/nourish its potential/to birth beauty/through every cry/of/rebellious fury.” This poem makes way for the title piece, “Tell Her She’s Lovely”, the beautiful center of the collection that starts to grow and bloom flowers. The narrator focuses on essential compassion and nurturing to nourish the flower while recognizing the difficulty of trials faced by the self.
The unique portrayal of growth as a separate self that needs to be nourished gives “Tell Her She’s Lovely” an important place in modern poetry, where young voices are gaining recognition and solidarity in spaces not traditionally occupied by South Asians. Instead of focusing on the self as “I” or a lone struggle, having the self be seen as its own character tells a relatable story, one empathetic to the self as well as the reader.
For Dhara, it was important to bring others along on this journey of self-love and empowerment. Vulnerability and strength travel side by side in the collection, and the importance of that honesty invites the reader to join in as an observer and perhaps even a participant-but “Confront” also shows the wisdom of letting in (and out) certain conditions that could leave a mark when the true self is emerging. Subsequent pieces grow the self-confidence and awareness of the subject, who deters forces that try to influence her until a deeper awakening occurs.
When we arrive at the last section, “Peace”, the self seems to learn that peace does not mean complete tranquility, but an ability to stay centered and strong in the midst of storms. All of the transformations have led to certain realizations, but we can recognize that the complexities of the self can still coexist. Certain lines from “Healing” demonstrate the ebb and flow of inner conflicts, the words emphasizing softness and kindness:
“to kindle our spirits/we must welcome sunlight/and open the curtains/to experience a world/outside of temporary despair.”
The healing powers of nature also reassure the self that there is beauty in imperfections and contradictions:
“fonder over freedom’s mist/however, fenced you are with caution and care, /bloom/for you deserve a sister of Eden.”
We come to the end of the journey in this section, but Tell Her She’s Lovely encourages us to find a new path. In “Souls that Crescendo”, appreciation for the long process of awakening creates an excitement for more new beginnings. “When I see the glimmer/ of souls teaching one another/the ones beginning to crescendo/behind our silent backs/I think of the beauty the rest of us hold on our/faces.”
When we reach the end of Tell Her She’s Lovely, Dhara’s message to encourage taking leaps of faith and practicing self-compassion against all odds isn’t surprising. By demonstrating compassion in such an honest way, her poems describe radical transformations and how ultimately fulfilling the truth can be.
For some, there is a disturbance within that only needs a push and some direction to the beginning of the road. And sometimes, we don’t know that another road exists, or if the compass within us is an anchor or a chain. For the ever-changing self, learning what makes it lovely is the key.
Dhara Singh is a full time financial journalist and the author of Tell Her She’s Lovely, An Anthology. She’s a New Jersey native who while grappling with an unorthodox career transition from banking into journalism, along with a heap of inner conflicts, would write poetry on her four hour train rides to work. After landing at her dream journalism program at Columbia University, Singh decided to take a leap of faith and intertwine her story of conflict, confrontation and peace into a book. As an author and life coach she hopes Tell Her She’s Lovely will inspire other women to take transformative risks in their life and trust their inner compass.
You can purchase Tell Her She’s Lovely at: https://www.amazon.com/Tell-Her-Shes-Lovely-Anthology/dp/1650835604
Find Dhara’s coaching services here: https://liferesume90dayselfpublishing.lpages.co/tellhersheslovely/