waxing poetic

The past two nights I have been listening to poetry readings at the SF International Poetry Festival. They were beautiful. They made me cry. They made me howl with laughter. They made me want to learn a foreign language. Most of all, they made me want to write.

"Do you write?" one poet from Italy asked me.

"I do."

"Good. Keep on writing."

"I will." Though after I said that, it left me with a strange mix of excitement and nervousness. I have been flirting with poetry for awhile now but could not quiet give myself fully to it yet. Its easier for me to write lyric essays and creative non-fiction than poetry. I wasn't sure why.

I've always thought that of all literary genres, poetry is the most fearless. And boy did I see this last night. We had poets from all over the world; one Marxist, one anarchist, a lot of activists, all speaking of their truth. This is San Francisco after all. I was in awe of their boldness and said to myself "Whew, this is precisely why you can't write poetry. You're too timid.

Then later, after everyone has read, I realized that I was wrong. One can still be fearless without writing about politics, the war in Iraq, the horrors of capitalism, the plight of the homeless people. One can still be fearless and write about the mundane, the ordinary. As long as its the truth, your honest-deep-in-the-gut truth, then you are writing fearless poetry.

I understood then that the reason why I was having a hard time with poetry was because I never allowed myself to write them in the first place. I already had this notion of how or what I should write and it paralyzed me. But hopefully, after this, not anymore. I'll keep on writing until I'll find my voice.

* * *
As someone who also left her country and family, I was particulary drawn to this poem by Cletus Nelson Nwadike. He was born in Namibia but now lives in Sweden and interestingly enough writes in Swedish:

A Stranger

I dreamed
I came home
but my mother
didn't recognize me

I tried to
explain to her
but she just went away
and didn't leave any food for me

I went and sat by myself
where everyone in the village
could look at me
but no one understood me anymore

I began to cry
and everyone in the village came
and spoke in a language
I no longer understood

(translated by Jack Hirschman)

* * *
Before I fell asleep last night, I thought:

Ah, to be drunk
on poetry
I never want to be
sober again.


  1. This is a wonderful post, it sounds like a great gathering of poets and that poem by Nwadike is so moving. Keep writing and be fearless!

  2. crafty green poet,
    it was indeed a great gathering. and best of all it was FREE! i was too excited and felt like a groupie, you know stalking the poets. hahaha.

  3. AnonymousJuly 31, 2007

    I'm glad you had this great experience. Your voice is in there, closer than you think. Be diligent with your writing, and that voice will come, fearless and hollering.

  4. i feel like i am cheering for you as i read your words...and in that, you have given me a gift because i am also cheering for myself as your words resonate deeply within me.

    thank you for sharing all of this here.

  5. your blog is all colours of lovely :)

    LOVE the pic of you by the mountains...

    and my best friend is an OT... i have so much respect for the work that OT's do in this world :)

  6. dana, i love the thought of my voice fearless and hollering! :P thanks for dropping by.

    liz, thank you too. your blog always inspires me and i'm glad you this one touched you.

    leonie, how wonderful that your bestfriend is an OT! does she work with children too?

  7. Keep up the good writing, and the trying and even the shitty first drafts :) it will pay off!

  8. hi jessica,
    thanks for dropping by. i wonder if you can send me a link to your blog too.