Writing Through Life
By Sara Ries Dziekonski
The first poems I wrote were song lyrics. I was in middle school, and I wanted to be a singer in a rock band like Courtney Love, and so I wrote the lyrics that I dreamed I’d eventually sing on a stage. (Ok, that was embarrassing to admit. I’m pretty sure now my cheeks are red.) I loved music: Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Goo Goo Dolls, and I had to know the lyrics, so when the CDs didn’t supply them, I’d write them down by pressing the pause button so much I swear those two vertical lines nearly disappeared. Reading the lyrics helped me to write my own verses. I am still writing these song lyrics, it’s just that today I call them poems. The music in my poetry is necessary, so I read my poems over and over and revise towards the beauty of sound. As an awkward middle and high-schooler, I wrote my way through unrequited love and the death of family members and being eyed up and down and told to watch my shape. It gives me tremendous relief to place my emotions on paper. When I write about upsetting or heartbreaking events, I get to decide which words to choose. I decide the rhythm and the line breaks, and in a frantic world, this bit of control brings me peace.
I am still writing my way through life and I always have a journal nearby. When I’m out, I have a pocket-sized one in my purse. Writing is how I make sense of my experiences and how I slow things down in my mind. A week ago I was sitting at the dinner table with my husband and eleven-month-old son. I began worrying about deadlines and bills and then I realized I didn’t want to go down that worry road. So I grabbed my journal and wrote:
The stress train was parked at our kitchen table, lights pointed on our faces; I got on—choo-choo. We were talking about bills and the writing on the calendar, and it was Thai Thursday, too. Teddy was smacking his lips and playing drums on his high chair tray. Maya meowed and glared up at me from her empty dish. I got up and fed her, too. And I thought, what am I doing—stop the train, and I sat back down and saw that Teddy had his arm extended and little palm up like he was high-fiving the air, food smattered around his lips, tiny turkey flowers. And I started clapping and he began clapping those tiny hands, then Thaddeus clapped his long lovely hands, and we three clapped until our bellies were full and—
this is all I wrote. And whenever those starter lines of a poem come to me, I get up and write them down—poem seeds, I call them. I love to revise, to water the poems, to compose the song, and to hear the music. I get excited to see what the poem will grow into. In a future blog post I’ll share another draft and talk more about the revision process. For now, I’m keeping my journal on hand and hoping, despite the current events and to-do list, I can slow things down and make sense of all the noise.