Poets Online Talking About Coffee: Scherezade Siobhan

Can coffee help alleviate your depression?

Drinking it? Short answer – No. Smelling it? YES! When it begins to rain inside my head, I like to bury my nose and nearly half of my face in a large bowl of Sidamo beans. I like to sniff coffee powder. At University we once had a bet for snorting it but that didn’t go very well. Anyway, I like the smell of coffee more than its taste. When I am depressed, I like using tactile replacements for the lowness of mood – palming grains, touching flowers, (eating petals sometimes!), petting my guinea pigs. Depression generally murders my appetite for anything. I rarely eat or drink during my episodes. Depression is a giant wave blurring the borders of a coast – it makes the mind recede, makes the peripheries smaller and smaller, makes the center incongruous – makes the compass of senses disappear for a while and in a way the constant battle is to reclaim your ability to absorb environmental stimuli – to interact with light, sound, flavor. So coffee beans in a box next to my bed is a good thing.

I like coffee, for most part. South Indian filter coffee or kaapi. It is served in a really intricate way and drinking it is almost an acrobatic feat. So yeah I like milky versions not the soot+penicillin water popular in America. If half of you comes from a country that worships the cow, you will be forced to consume milk in everything. The problem with coffee is that it is not tea. Which is like saying Mahler isn’t Bartok. Which is saying that one wrote expansive symphonies that have a lilting sort of connection, a continued experience whereas the other is a collection of highly individualized pieces that each have a distinct aura and do not coincide. Which is also saying that this is a bloody terrible comparison coz they are so different.

Do you write when feeling low or feeling high?

Both. either state is a precursor for a kind of kinetic, molten language. tho, in all honesty, there is no specific point on the graph which can be called a true high. i have a major depressive disorder or MDD and it is characterised by a sequence of lows and then some relief in medicated temperance. there are lows, lowest lows, then there is mariana trench low. at best, any emergence from that depth is merely skimming the surface of the ocean. i never touch land entirely. i have made peace with that. also, when i say write, i mean any act of distilling a moment, an anxiety or a feeling not necessarily an entirely coherent, creative effort. i don’t consider myself a writer in any greater sense than that. i took to writing because my grandfather – a communist, an economist, a polyglot poet and a rabid feminist – gave me a diary at the age of 8 and throughout a very turbulent childhood, i learned to create alternative worlds inside it to escape whatever other violence i was experiencing. this saved me many times over. at the heart of it all, i still am a compulsive diarist. i pencil lists, purpose fragments, rinse, repeat. i stopped writing for 7 or so years and only started because a friend made me a twitter account and it became easier to pilot my trajectory through the black box of broken monologue/s it offers. i tweet when am depressed. it allows me to desert myself in a way. elif shafak had mentioned that the best way to kill something is to surround itself with its own image. on twitter i end up interacting with other neurodivergent folk and we discuss/write, become mirrors to each other and then i am emptied of consequence, suspended in digital ether. this is a stark antithesis to my real life where i am constantly weighing every movement, every word as an impending series of repercussions. whether high or low, in either state i can’t marshal enough energies to piece together something sensibly linear or lucid even. to write a poem, i have to wait for some kind of clearing of clouds. when i am experiencing some element of a high or a remote mania, i document as much as possible because i am not numb and since am somewhat a luddite, a lot of my writing is done on paper. in this state i actually have the energy to write, physically. when i am caged in a depressive episode, it is more staccato, riven, hypnagogic (tho,i do have mos def’s “you know the motto / stay fluid even in staccato” scribbled on my DSM!)

to modify what arundhathi subramaniam’s, a high state is like ventriloquism, a low state is like a seance. & in between i echolocate.

Submit a comment