Written by Robert Julius
As a new member of the editorial board of Calliope, I must say I am both thrilled and honored to be a part of this amazing team. We are writers, critics, editors, students, poets, artists, and naturally, humans. Out of the many ideas I had for my first blog post, my human experience is what drove me to write this one in particular. I wanted something human. After all, it is our humanity that puts poetry in motion.
I started writing poetry in high school as a way to express my emotions. I didn’t know how to write it and I hadn’t read much either. Yet there was some space within me that needed to find a way to be manifested in the world, and so from my heart of hearts, words sprung out. I found myself waking up with lines and stanzas resting on my lips. Words dribbled out of my mouth at a near constant rate. They fell and rested like dust in all the strange corners of my life. It wasn’t until I read Jack Kerouac that I realized I had been infected by the beatnik poetry virus. My case is likely incurable.
I have now been writing poetry for a few years and I’ve come to notice a steady trend. I write my best poetry when I go through the hardest parts of my life. My poetry is often born of pain, sadness, and lately, grief. Last October, my mother passed away unexpectedly. She was only 46 years old. This was undoubtedly the hardest thing I have been through in my twenty-two years of life. Unsure how to deal with this loss, I turned to the familiar clicks and clacks of my keyboard and I wrote my fingers to the bone.
My mother was my best friend. She was the person I turned to the most often for advice. I felt like I could always be my true self around her, a rare gift that we as humans are capable of giving each other. More valuable than any rare gem on Earth, it is perhaps freedom of expression which makes us happiest. I know my mother loved and cared for me and all her children as deeply as she could, so losing that source of love felt like I had been plunged into darkness.
How does a writer recover from such a loss? He writes.
Maybe I wrote myself out of darkness, or maybe I wrote some love into my life. Either way, writing is my way of healing. When the going gets tough, I sometimes question myself and my writing. In these times of hardship, I recall the words of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke from his Letters to a Young Poet:
“There is only one way. Withdraw into yourself. Explore the reason that bids you write, find out if it has spread out its roots in the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die, if writing should be denied to you. Above all, ask yourself in the stillest hour of the night, ‘Must I write?’ Dig deep into yourself for an answer. And if this answer should be in the affirmative, if you can meet this solemn question with a simple strong ‘I must,’ then build up your life according to this necessity.”
There is something about writing our story that really frees up the soul. Like an old dusty rug, I shake out all of the filth until I’m left clean again. So if you are a young writer or you are going through a hard time, I implore you to write. Write your feelings. Write them in strange ways. It does not have to make sense. It does not even have to be good. If you know it in your heart that your pain is too hard to bear, allow the page to take some of the weight from you.