Article - 6 (5.2)


 Teesta Review: A Journal of Poetry, Volume 5, Number 2. November 2022. ISSN: 2581-7094

Neon Genesis: A poetic collaboration between Doris Pushpam and Aden Burg

-- Doris Pushpam and Aden Burg

Doris Pushpam poetry (initial) Side A: One’s wronged world



There is a place that I call home

She is a land with no regrets.

There dreamers thrive with their heads in the clouds

And no one is left to rot.


In my home I am allowed to dream

There is no struggle to be seen

I am heard though I do not speak

I am the narrator, I am the plot.


There rivers flow without contrition

The shores make love to the weeds and peasants

Children play on the graves of their fathers.

Their laughter reaches God.


Alas here I am in a world so broken

Roaming among oysters, not a pearl in sight.

Burying my dreams and destroying my heart

Inhaling tradition, exhaling a farce.




There is no me in society

I have no place to call home

I take shelter in conformity

So that I am free to roam.


There is no me in society

Tradition is my only choice

I sit in silence as I turn to debris.

Good girls don’t make noise.


There is no me in society

There is only the sons I can produce

I am just a flourishing fruit tree

I am of no other use.


There is no me in society

Only those who make the rules

It is my own people who doom me

I am at the mercy of fools.


There is no me in society

I have no choice but to rhyme

It is such a pity to just be

But trying to be more is a crime.


There is no me in society

I am a woman, nothing more

I make the same choices as those before me

Freedom is a losing war.


There is no me in society

There is no I, no her, no she.

There is no me in society

Unless I choose to break free.


Aden Burg poetry (initial) Side A: The observer’s detached lamentation


The unending

Time after time,

Day upon day,

We watch the same listless dance

Upon the stage,

The actors fret and stamp their feet

Over and over,

Their vile performance churns my stomach

It is all so filthy,

I cannot help but hate it with passion unending


I want for all this ugliness to simply turn to nothing once more


I do nothing

From my seat in the far back,

Away from all the people I so daringly judge,

I do nothing but close my eyes

For I am merely a coward,

A scared child who cannot even be trusted to do the simplest of things

So then,

Why have I not walked out of the theatre?

The truth is that while I am a coward,

There are those few who are certainly not

A man next to me so readily helps all those he can,

Even covered in grime that all else look away from

Whilst another man greets all he sees with a smile,

His kindness and ideals push my foolish self forward


As such,

I cannot help but stay until the end

After all,

I wish to see the day those detestable actors meet their lamentable curtain call

As the new curtain rises,

And a new act begins



Oh, thy lamentable lambs


Why is it that humans waste so much of their lives?

Humans die so swift,

So fragile and brief

Yet, they spend their days in ceaseless petty squabbles

As though they believe it gives their existences meaning

Day after day,

They quarrel over the smallest of issues,

They refuse to agree on the most straight forward of facts,

They fire rounds of petty insults upon one another

Their long conflict resulting in no causalities,

Save for the time wasted

After all,

Surely these humans could spend their time better,

Surely they could simply spend more time helping one another


They realise what an utter waste this all is


They foolishly persist without a single hope,

Until only despair for their lamentable kind remains

I bring my hands to my bosom,

My wings wrap around my glowing flesh,

Providing warmth from the cold of humans

Oh my lord,

Why did you give humans your foolishness?


Doris Pushpam poetry (response) Side B: Disgust, questions and resolve



(Response to The Unending)

Their anklets chime to the tick of the clock,

It is time to play their part.

They strike the same poses

And lament on their fate

They will dance until they drop.

I join in too

Don my jewels and finery

I mimic their every move.

I feel a fool as I dance and dance

But I can’t seem to stop.


I will play along until the day

It all comes to a halt.

Make all the right moves

At all the right times,

Be a dancer all my life.

For I am a coward

Afraid to step off the stage

But I am a survivor too

I know there is no life unless I dance

I will do what I must to survive.


When I finally have my curtain call

There will be others to take my place.

They will teach the children how to dance,

Teach them why they cannot stop.

They will tell the children of the adoring crowd

Teach them how to behave for praise

Make the children give up their freedom,

Put on their anklets and dance.

The children will learn too late as we all do.

The price for being loved.


Some will love how their anklets chime

They will enjoy the thunderous applause.

Some will hate the dance, the melody, the stage

They will try to change it all.

Some will succeed, they will dance their own dance

Alas some will fail.

Some will take the shackles off

And never dance again

So it goes, this endless dance,

We will dance until we don’t.








(Response to Oh, thy lamentable lambs)

The gift of life is a curse

To those who choose to be empty

Their hollow nature suffocating

Their brethren who know better.

These hollow beings just exist

With their cacophony of foolishness.

They pick a fight, they spar with words

Leaving nothing in their wake.

They don’t contribute much to the world

They don’t contribute at all.


The gift of life is wasted

On those who refuse to listen

They fill the void with endless chatter

And shut off their senses to reason

They refuse to see, they refuse to hear

They refuse to let others touch their minds.

They only hear their hollow thoughts

And project their nonsense to all.

If only they would listen, these hollow ones,

They could find their purpose in the world.


The gift of life is nothing

To those who make nothing of it.

These hollow ones, who say so much,

Who say nothing each time they speak.

What a waste of an existence these hollow ones are

They are a waste of time and space.

I say a prayer for these hollow ones

That someday they will open their hearts

May God banish the foolishness within them

And fill them with wisdom the rest of their days.



Aden Burg poetry (response) Side B: The world and me


(Response to No Place like Home, part 1)

They raise their voices and cry,

Like thunder in the air

Drowning out all opposition,

My home is too noisy


They shut their ears and eyes,

Clenched as they grasp at a past that they themselves did not witness

A memorial that blocks out all,

My home is far too quiet



This home reeks of ignorance

A sickly fever,

That persists through the unending night



Everyone is content

They happily only gaze inward,

The world shifted away


It is my deepest wish to tear that all away,

To rip apart those foolish notions,

To silence the roaring of those fools,

To make those quiet finally speak,

To thrust them forth,

Into the world


In this new home,

I hope that we may sit together,

That we all join all together

Hand in hand,

In this shared place of our creation


A true home we all share

Without walls,

Without doors,

Without hidden rooms,

Without borders nor locks,

I wish that can sit together without separation,

In a world we all call our home



There is no (real) me in society


Masses of metal wrap around my body

Their cold embrace restrains all that is me,

Binding me to their whims


There is no real me in their society


Tears blip from my eyes

Only for metal to roughly brush them away

The chains rankle,

After all,

Men do not cry


Chains slither across my features,

My long eyelashes,

My soft lips,

The chains shiver with disgust,

At the disgrace of a man before them


I wince,

The chains grip my arms,

They tighten as my arms shake

I am reprimanded For my gentle arms,

My weakness


The chains pull upon my neck

I chortle and gasp in vain,

The chains wrap ever tighter,

Their voices of contempt cover all of me

Covered in unfeeling metal

I am left a shell,

An empty doll that merely remains still,

Enacting the wishes of the chains without a semblance of a soul


Until I hear a cry,

A tiny voice from so far away

One that bellows of freedom,

From her own chains


I embrace freedom and destroy my chains



There is no real me in society

That is why,

I destroyed my chains long ago


End of the world

(Response to No Place like Home, part 2)


Everyone fears the end

It is only natural to fear something frightening


I cannot help but wonder,

Is that truly so?

Is an ending truly such a horrid fate?


Only through an ending,

Can there be rebirth

This world is full of rot,

A decaying husk of a place



I sing the end of world,

As I await the a beautiful rebirth

Even should I pass long before it occurs,

My heart trembles at the thought




Reflections 1: The commentary of Doris Pushpam on Neon Genesis

In approaching this poetry-exchange with Aden Burg, I was intrigued by Aden’s experience with rewriting a set narrative as this is an area of research that I too dabbled in. In our discussion, we considered rewriting myths/legends, but ultimately, I found at the root of our discourse was the notion of change, specifically exacting change for the purpose of progress. Keeping that in mind, I recommended to Aden that we ground our rewriting in reality. For me this entailed outlining aspects of our respective realities that require change and addressing this necessity for change through poetry.

I approached this idea by first envisioning the place I call home, a place where things are better; a place that only exists in my head. There Is No Place Like Home is a culmination of my vision of what the world could be and a lamentation on the state of how things are for me. In line with the theme discussed, it speaks of the possibility of change, the need for it, and the knowledge that with action, there is hope for change. Hope became an underlying theme for me in writing both my poems. It is one that I found in Aden’s response to There Is No Place Like Home titled Home and End of the World. In Home, Aden emphasizes the role of human nature in making or breaking a home. In his poem, the foreign and unfamiliar are shunned and people are content with living in their heads. Here, people judge and destroy things and people they refuse to understand. Aden laments on the fate of the quiet and expresses his wish to silence the noisy and instead thrust the silenced ones forward so that they may be heard, an idea which I too expressed in speaking out and taking action for things to change. Therein lies the common denominator between our poems, hope and taking charge in order to exact change.

In Aden’s second response to There Is No Place Like Home, the idea of change, a source of fear for many, is seen as a chance for a new beginning. This poem assuages the worry of those who cling on to the present due to the fear of the unknown. Aden elicits hope through his idea of a rebirth, a chance to fix how things are. Through this poem Aden introduced another facet to change that I had not considered, the fear of change. All in all Aden’s response to There Is No Place Like Home complements the ideas I expressed in my poem, while adding his perspective to the narrative, the juxtaposition of which demonstrates the need for change regardless of the distance that separate us and the culture and traditions that divide us.

From a wistful commentary on the place I call home, I moved on to address my place in society for my second poem. There Is No Me in Society focuses on my role as a woman in an oppressive society and my lack of a role other than the one I have been assigned. The lack of choice afforded to women in terms of the need to conform in order to survive forms the backdrop of this poem. The theme of change is expressed in the necessity of change by outlining the many means of oppression I have encountered. There is an emphasis that I am the only one capable of exacting change in my life.

Aden’s response to my poem was one that spoke of his struggles as he navigates his space. Speaking of the stigmas built against men expressing emotions and the shackles of conformity to standards of masculinity that bind them and shape them, Aden forms a response that speaks to the struggle of many like himself. I found myself recognizing a similar form of socialization of men in my culture through Aden’s perspective. It showed me the similarities we share across borders, regardless of how developed the nations are, in the need for change.

Where my poems were centred on the self and my individual experiences with society, Aden’s poem The Unending is a reflection on human nature and the repetitive cycle we call life. In reading the poem, the image of actors on a stage, performing the same old script reminded me of those around me who go through their lives, doing the same things they have always done until they meet ‘their lamentable curtain call’. As I reflected on the poem, I recognised the same scene, seeing Bharatanatyam (an Indian classical dance) dancers on the stage in the place of actors, with anklets chiming as the dancers spin. I included the theme of the cyclical nature of our existence and introduced the pressure to take part and follow the same steps as those before us. This is a hallmark of the Malaysian Indian culture I am part of. There is the expectation of abiding by tradition. Being a spectator is not an option. The notion of choice, present in The Unending in the form of choosing to be a spectator and choosing to stay, is one that comes with the pressure to conform in my poem, the weight of which breaks the spirit of some while others stop dancing and leave the stage. The line ‘I feel a fool as I dance and dance, but I can’t seem to stop’ is one that mimics the tone of The Unending in the helplessness present as one spectates or in the case of my poem, partakes in the farce. In expanding on the theme of choice, it was important for me to recognize that the dance is a means of survival for some, reflected in the line, ‘there is no life unless I dance’. The luxury of being a mere spectator and having the choice to leave found in Aden’s poem is one that is not present in my poem as, from societal expectations of obedience and beauty to the emphasis on the consequences of failing to abide to tradition along with the vilification of any other path not in accordance with the expectations, there is only the illusion of choice. The option to stop dancing is a luxury.

The cyclical nature of our existence, depicted in The Unending as the beginning of a new act, is one that resonated with me as, in my culture, the end of the dance for one generation marks the start of the same dance for the next. There is the expectation of educating the children, teaching them the dance and exacting the same means of socialisation on the young ones. These children take the stage at a young age when they are impressionable and they are socialized accordingly. Girls are burdened with what is expected of them, resulting in a lack of choice, a theme prevalent in my response poem. Change is only possible when the cycle is broken. The Endless Dance is therefore a lamentation on the cyclical existence that we are part of, a theme shared in The Unending. There is focus on the notion of choice in exacting change and the freedom of lack of thereof to make said choices, all discussed within the realm of a culture that is content with a cyclical existence. Aden’s poem inspired these thoughts and forced me to consider what being an actor and a spectator means for me.

Aden’s second poem Oh, thy Lamentable Lambs is one that takes on a tone of pity for the state of the human race and all the frivolities we choose to engage in, in the pretence that it gives meaning to our lives. When I read the poem the first emotion I felt was irritation. I was annoyed by these individuals who refuse to see sense and instead choose to be loud in their ignorance. I believe that my annoyance had something to do with the fact that I have to struggle to be heard whereas these people are given that luxury and just waste it. I echo the sentiment expressed in Aden’s poem but with an emphasis on the choice to be ‘hollow’ that these individuals make when they choose to do and be something that contributes nothing to society. Mimicking the almost religious tone of Aden’s poem, I set out to admonish instead of lament to express my dissatisfaction with those who have the luxury of being heard and yet say nothing of value. I reflected on the fact that instead of looking to inspire change, these selfish individuals, these ‘hollow ones’ choose to be nothing. Where Aden places blame on God’s gift of foolishness, I instead brought accountability back to the individual. It is after all a matter of free will. This second poem was one that made me ponder the very nature of choice and the disastrous decisions we make that ruin this gift of life. It also allowed me to engage in a conversation through poetry where we illustrated our worldview be it my pessimistic view of humans or our shared feeling of hope expressed in prayer at the end of this poem.

Sharing this experience with Aden was an enlightening and enjoyable exercise. It allowed for a conversation where we were able to give input on an idea put forth and in doing so contributing aspects of our culture to the discourse. It was fascinating to see where our paths converged and diverged as we took on the theme of change, introducing ideas of choice and hope and creating works of art that spoke to our individual styles and perspectives. Reflections 2: The commentary of Aden Burg on Neon Genesis

In this collaboration with Doris Pushpam, we began by discussing what our theme or topic would be. Doris suggested that we work this collaboration around aspects of our society that we each believe need to be changed, I readily agreed and then we began to work on our first initial poems. I cannot speak for Doris, but for me, my process was to first consider aspects of society that I felt needed changing. This ended up giving me far too much inspiration, as there was so many directions; which left me dumbfounded on what direction I should take my poetry. So, I decided to change directions; to instead consider what was something that was common to all of these issues. The answer that came to me was that a lot of the issues can be solved, it is simply that not enough is done or that the obvious answer is avoided because people find it too troublesome. With that notion, I had a clear idea of where I was to begin my poetry; with the notion of that which can be changed but is not. In order to illustrate this, I used my poems to present two major ideas; powerlessness and pity towards this lack of change. For the former, I used the metaphor of a theatre performance to present how most people, including myself, see themselves only as passive observers in a performance that we all hate; but one that we do nothing about. As for the latter, I wrote from the perspective of an angel, one who pities humans for their foolish actions. In that, she is able to see obvious solutions to their problems, but instead can only pity the humans as they waste their time and ignore the solutions right in front of her. The idea of the “observer,” being in both was unintentional, as I was more trying to present a critical lens towards these issues through positions, which also allowed for a reader to empathise with the frustration I feel towards these issues. All in all, I feel that my ideas came out decently enough and provide great contrast with Doris’s poems.

Doris’s two poems come across in an entirely opposite way than mine, in that, my initial poems were more about the observer’s frustration; Doris’ are more about an individual’s direct experiences with society. Her first poem, There is no place like home, appears to reflect the direct inequalities, discrimination and hardships that Doris has experienced or observed. It is a critique of the wrongs of society in direct relation to the narrator, an individual who has directly experienced these issues. Then, There is no me in society, acts to critique how society tends to push down individuality, especially in girls and women, and values only what is on the surface. Doris presents the stifling, crushing and repressive world where a woman only have value for their wombs. I personally love this poem, it evokes so much raw feeling, especially with this powerful final statement:

There is no me in society

There is no I, no her, no she.

There is no me in society

Unless I choose to break free.

In order to address this difference in direction, I read over her poems multiple times and attempted to do my best to go in the same direction, but with my experiences. In that, I did not want to emulate what Doris gave me to create a hollow facsimile, instead, I tried to use my own personal experiences to respond in a way that truly represented me. The first poem I attempted to reply to in this way was There is no me in society, which I responded with my personal response; There is no (real) me in society. I went for this shift because I have never felt alienated, or that I only have value if I am a “good boy.” However, I am not traditionally masculine or outgoing in any sense, so I often feel as though the “me” that society and some members of family want me to be is simply the one they project onto me. Therefore, I focused on this idea so I could follow Doris’ lead, without damaging her work by being inauthentic. I attempted to  do this by focusing this poem around the idea of restriction, which I represented through the metaphor of chains physically restricting me. From there, I followed Doris’ lead of describing the repression of my true self, with each stanza representing different aspects of myself I have felt as though are not needed or wanted. I then attempted to follow Doris’ powerful ending, which I attempted by ending the poem with the destruction of the metaphorical chains.

I next had a significant amount of trouble responding to No Place like home, since I could tell that my experiences with “home” are very different than the ones Doris had. So, I had to think a great deal in order to come up with how I should even go about replying to this poem. After thinking for some time, I decided to try and reply with my own critiques of what I consider to be “home.” In so doing, I ended up splitting this up into two as I explored two different ideas; acceptance and change. The former I simply titled Home, where I attempted to explore how people not only turn away from accepting difference; but also towards the major inconvenient problems of my home and how I would like my home to be on day. With the second poem, I focused on endings are not always a bad thing, as it can lead countries and people to completely change for the better. I chose this motif because I wanted to illustrate that change and endings in and of countries are not necessarily bad; as they can lead to much better new beginnings. Hence, my responses of Doris’s No place like home were attempting to convey my own individual ideas critiques of my home, which would contrast well with Doris’. Overall, I felt that I did decently with my responses, but I think most readers will find it is definitely clear that I had some trouble with responding to Home. However, I think that I did do a good job responding to the thematic and aesthetic of There no me in society. Evidently, this is also something that Doris excelled at when she responded to my poetry.

In that, Doris similarly applied that same lens of the observer, but added her own flair and experiences to shape distinctly different poems. Her response to The unending, The Endless dance, also focuses on a performance that represents the foolishness of people and a lack of action. However, Doris interestingly uses the dance to represent a farce that people all take part in, one that people feel foolishness, but do so anyway; even knowing that the dance should be stopped. It is evocative, interesting and well composed; it emulates my poem in a way that is both distinctly similar and yet so different. If I had to say why, it is because this is shaped by Doris’ different life experiences, her own perspective on what should be done as an “observer,” and her keenly different prose. The second poem, The Hollow ones, responds to Oh, Thy lamentable lambs with such power. It presents much of the same concept, with a distinctly different poetic flavour, but with more scathing critique and an overall different sentiment. In that, my poem focuses on this angel looking upon human beings with pity; she pities their foolishness and questions why God gave human beings his foolishness. The overall positioning here was to create a disappointed guardian who is filled with a questioning disappointment. Now, the sentiment of Doris’ angel is entirely different, but wholly brilliant; one that I like to think is a different angel who is a sort of co-worker of my angel. Doris, also presents the sense of disappointment of an angel, a guardian looking downwards with disappointment that mirrors the idea I presented. However, her angel has far more distain, this angel sees human beings as hollow -hence the title- beings who have wasted the gift of life. As such, this angel actively feels more irritation and disgust as they beseech God end their foolishness by making human beings wise. I find this so interesting because it diverges so much because, in essence, my poem was about the pondering of an issue and then having my character question just why this issue is here for the first place. Whereas, Doris’ more directly states the issue, is about the active irritation and distain for issue and ends with her angel directly asking for a solution. I cannot help but find it so interesting, after all, to have so much similar, yet to diverge so drastically with the overall perspective, sentiment and major action is something I could think on for days. There are so many factors one could say that lead to this difference, but I think simply observing and seeing the differences for oneself is truly the best direction.

Overall, I found this collaboration with Doris to be wonderful. I feel as I learnt a great amount and it was truly fun and insightful, how such similar themes could lead to such an array of varied and different poetry. It is truly and honour to have worked with Doris, to communicate with her through prose that illustrates our ideas and differences to fascinatingly beautiful results.


Interliminal Encounters: Indian and Australian writers in po(i)etic dialogue, eds Amelia Walker and Aden Burg