What it feels like: Writing poetry again after 15 years

10 years ago

Truly fifteen years ago, after writing poetry and fiction most of my life, I stopped. There we many reasons at the time—all of which made sense—but the one that I did not consciously understand then, which I see so clearly now, was that I was afraid. I was afraid of my own voice, afraid of what I might say, and afraid I might—because I had had some true success-be heard. And so I stopped writing poems and stories, wrote only articles and essays, instead, and then, not many years later, left writing to work in technology.

And now, unexpectedly, my writing voice is back. In the past two months, spurred on by a new relationship and talks with a friend, I have written fourteen poems. More tellingly, I am in love with poetry again; during this recent vacation, in Michigan, I spent much of my free time writing, reading and thinking about poems.It feels as though someone else who lived inside me but was asleep woke up, refreshed, and was reborn.

This new person—an aspect o f me, of course—is a very different writer than the one I was before. Most strikingly, I am no longer afraid of saying what I think and feel. Long ago I was the girl who wrote because no one would listen to her, then I became the woman who wrote to say things she was afraid to say out loud, and then sometime later I turned into someone who was afraid to say hard things and then couldn’t (didn’t) write (poetry). In the past few weeks, to my delight, I’ve become a poet once more, and one who is able—and proud—to own her voice. Amazingly, the work I’ve done on maintaining integrity and authenticity in my everyday life, on speaking truth and being accountable, has informed this brand new writing as well.

I see these poems I am crafting, as new and fresh as they are, as a chance to share moments of joy and expression that are meaningful to me, and to say things about where I am right now, as well as to speak about things that are challenging and/or defy convention. Most importantly, I feel as though I am writing them for me—not to publish them, not to get recognition for them—but to articulate thoughts and feelings and try to turn them into poems that are funny, articulate, sometimes beautiful.

The feminist writer and professor bell hooks, writing in her wonderfully profound, poetic and accessibly book Wounds of Passion, a writing life, talks about her coming of age as a writer as a struggle to resolve and unite mind and body as sources for inspiration. Hooks writes: “Fully feminist, fully-self actualized, I wanted to care for the soul and let my heart speak.”

In a similar manner, I feel like my return to writing poetry is both an acknowledgement of a long-lost self—a restoration of a voice I hid away long ago—and a step forward in the personal growth I’ve focused on in the past three years. Recently divorced with a child in college, I’ve been fortunate enough to use the changes in my life to ask myself new—and challenging—questions about gender, sexuality, feminism, and relationships.

At the same time, my life as a blogger, digerati, product developer and female tech-geek
has given me a chance to test my beliefs every day as I work in a world full of creativity and innovation that is quickly moving from being mostly male to being much more balanced. Suddenly, writing poetry has joined blogging as a morning discipline—one that is gets me up earlier and earlier—and I find myself thinking of ideas for poems—and possible lines—as I drive to the office.

In both life and writing poetry, I see what is called for is humor, integrity and courage. To be authentic we have to own what we feel, own our own words. In these new poems, it seems, I am giving voice to my thoughts and experiences in a new—and yet very familiar—way, sharing expressions that come from deep inside me and find their voice in words.

With that, one new poem I’d like to share, and then some related links:

A walk in the Oakland Hills

The path in the sun goes straight up the hill side.
On the right are the sycamores, felled trunks amid the rocks,
old eucalyptus with tattered branches and tattier leaves,
scrub pines so dry the light wind makes them shiver.

On the left is the hill, sloping down towards the Bay,
Oakland dim at our feet in the woozy haze
As we squint over the water towards the bridge, far away,
The little boats bobbing too small to see.

Two hours ago you were making pancakes
Beating eggs, mixing flour, grating lemons just so.
One hour ago, I was washing dishes,
Scrubbing clean each bowl, each fork, each plate,
Everything dried, put away in its place.

Now we are walking to the top of the hill
Thighs laboring on the steep, dusty grade
We stop to pick blackberries, share the juicy fruit
Warmed by the bright arc of the day

The gift is how we can walk these paths together
What we give and what we exchange
What we share and what we offer
Without asking for anything
in return.

Related links: Blogs by women poets

Tangled Wings
Sara Sloat
Songs to a midnight sky
Venom Literati


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