In conversation with Neha Sekhon on life cycle of a wildflower

SFU student reflects on love, anxiety, and cultural identity in her new collection

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Life of a wildflower photographed with a plant and a glass tiled wall in the background
Inspired by poets like Rupi Kaur and Atticus, Sekhon seeks to appeal to poetry enthusiasts of all levels. Photo Courtesy of Gudrun Wai-Gunnarsson / The Peak

By: Max Lorette, Peak Associate

SFU student and poet Neha Sekhon pours her heart and soul out in her self-published poetry book, life cycle of a wildflower. This book explores Sekhon’s coming of age story in an easily digestible way, all the while being heart-wrenchingly sad, celebratory, and hopeful. It features short form poetry and stylized letters reflecting upon various kinds of love, personal anxieties, and cultural identity. Inspired by poets Rupi Kaur and Atticus, Sekhon’s poetry appeals to both the seasoned and unseasoned poetry enthusiast. Upon reading her work, it’s apparent how much care, love, and vulnerability went into this collection, which prompted me to interview her and ask some burning questions.

Responses have been edited for concision and clarity.

P: I can tell from the way that you’ve written a lot of your poems that you put a lot of care into editing and revising them in order to get your ideas across. Could you walk me through your process of taking a poem from its first to final draft?

NS: Editing was the hardest part of this journey for sure. Because of how long the book has been in the works (over three years) a lot of them look very different from what they started out as, which is amazing to see because it’s evidence of how much my writing has grown. I am now in a position where I can get the same message across but in better words. Because it was self-published, the editing was very pressure-inducing; there was no professional editor to tell me that something was wrong — it was just me and my sisters reading it time and time again, hoping we weren’t missing anything. I will say that on a non-grammatical level there is comfort in poetry because almost every line can have a double meaning, so even if it might seem one way to one person, the next ten can read it and see something totally different. I guess that’s the beauty in this form of writing.

P: What was the process like in structuring the order of your poems and letters?

NS: I didn’t want chronological because I wanted everything to be mixed. I never wanted it to seem obvious that some pieces may have been written at a much younger age; I wanted it to flow. I also decided to stay away from the progressive chapter idea because it felt dishonest to an extent. Though I have been through and grown through many seasons of my life, I am not a fully formed being of full confidence and security. I can have a life-is-great day and then wake up the next morning feeling crushed by my anxiety and not knowing what I’m looking ahead at. I wanted it to come across as one giant letter, to flow as one piece, wavering in and out of different experiences and emotions.

P: A lot of your poetry centres around the concept of love, romantic love, heartbreak, familial love, and self-love. Could you walk me through what all these various kinds of love mean to you?

NS: This is an interesting question because love is probably the emotion I’ve struggled with the most in my life. My relationship with it has always been strange, I guess. Self-love was foreign to me for much of my childhood and adolescent years. They were so unfortunately shadowed by insecurity and shame and self-doubt that it left such little room for self-love. Familial love has always been so strong for me. It is in my programming, in my bones and blood, to carry family as my highest priority. My parents and sisters and onward extension have been central to my upbringing and, even now, continue to be so important to me. That definitely had roots from a cultural standpoint. When it comes to heartbreak, I believe that it can truly be caused by anyone: partners, family, friends, or yourself. So writing about those experiences and different forms of heartbreak helped me work through ones in the past and attempt to understand ones ahead of me. The book definitely helped me start to understand my relationship with romantic love; how I felt about it, how I wanted to feel about it, and how others feel about it. It helped me explore and see through my own fears and doubts about it.

P: What do you most hope that your readers will get out of your writing?

NS: I hope that they can relate to it. I loved writing these pieces because I knew that what was a letter to a version of myself could, to someone else, be an expression of their past relationships. I wanted to write something people felt. I wanted people to feel heard and understood because books and poetry did that for me. When a poem can put your loneliest moment into words — it’s so powerful. I hope at the end of the book they can feel something, whether understood or reflective; I hope they can walk away with a piece of the wildflower.

Currently, Neha Sekhon’s poetry collection is available for purchase on Amazon.