I guess you’d call me an “emerging writer.” I also consider myself primarily a fantasy novelist, though I have yet to publish anything in the genre. It’s what I’ve been doing the longest—since I was in third grade. I have eight novel drafts in various stages, but just recently completed my first draft.
I only started writing poetry (aside from an angsty teenage phase and some school assignments) less than two years ago. My first published poem appeared in Alaska Women Speak last winter, and since then I’ve published three other poems.
For me, fiction is an escape. I draw on real life, sure, but I primarily write fantasy fiction and that’s an opportunity to imagine something, well, fantastic. Fiction is about being out there. Asking, “What if?”
Poetry, on the other hand, is a very internal experience. For me, it’s about processing my thoughts. It’s about connecting memories and revealing meaning. The overwhelming majority of my poetry is non-fiction, and many of my poems—at least the first drafts—are written in the first person. It is a place where I convert complex thoughts and emotions into words.
That I started writing poetry and became a parent in the same year is no coincidence.
At first, I viewed being a mom as something separate from my writing. A distraction, even. For months I lamented to friends, family, and classmates that I wasn’t able to write enough. On the increasingly rare occasion that I was able to sit down and write uninterrupted, I found that mom thoughts were crowding my brain. Stifling my imagination. Suffocating my creative energy.
So, I stopped fighting them.
You might have heard that mother-daughter poems are tired. Cliché. Lucky for me, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know a lick about what made a good poem, but I started writing poetry about my daughter.
My kid and I have a strong bond. Duh, any half-decent parent is thinking. You parents know that being a parent completely morphs who you are as a person. It centered my gravity around my kid. It morphed my voice as a writer, too. And once I gave myself permission to write what was on my mind, I unblocked myself.
In my case, having a child brought up a lot of questions about my identity—particularly as an Iñupiaq woman—and the legacy I will pass to her. Most of my poetry started to focus on these ideas. My micro-chapbook, Immuk and Cookies, follows these themes and is forthcoming from Kissing Dynamite Poetry.
My kid just learned to recognize her letters, but gave me my most important writing lesson: our strongest feelings make for the best writing.
What are your strongest feelings?