Last night, I received a very encouraging message from an Instagram account known as angela.listens or project.fortem. Angela, a new follower to my Instagram page and hopefully future Stargazer, and I got into a short discussion about bravery, poetry, and vulnerability.
She commended me on my courageousness in sharing my poetry. In thinking about it, and during the course of our discussion, I realized again that my strength lies in my willingness to be vulnerable to give a voice to the voiceless. For so long, I resented my sensitivity and vulnerability because I believed they made me weak, but now, I use those traits to my advantage.
I share my experiences, whether it’s my experience with abuse, rape, suicide attempts, mental illness, because I believe by shedding a light on these topics, I am helping to make them less taboo. By being willing to share my story, I hope to empower others to open up.
It’s not always easy to start a dialogue. For years, I was fearful of the judgment I’d face as a backlash of my honesty. My own grandparents stopped speaking to me for months after I placed my sons for adoption because of the stigma associated with it.
For years, I fumbled with language and struggled to say what I needed to say most. I wrote poems but said nothing.
People close to me encouraged me to stay silent about my abuse or mental illness. They thought less of me for sharing. I’ve lost so many friends over the years because of my brazen honesty and my mercurial moods, but I’m finally stepping into my own stride.
For a long time, I did not have the vocabulary to express myself. For years, I fumbled with language and struggled to say what I needed to say most. I wrote poems but said nothing. I worked for the voiceless, yet I still felt powerless.
It’s only recently that I’ve developed confidence in my own voice, and though my voice may tremble, it is still a voice worth hearing. My poems may be a bit heavy on the mixed metaphors, they might not be rhythmically pleasing, or have that flawless rhyme scheme, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say.
As angela.listens reminded me last night, I am using my voice. I am exhibiting the bravery I’ve long admired in other poets, whether twentieth century poets like Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou or contemporary poets like Neil Hilborn or Amanda Lovelace. For years, I watched the growth and progression of the author/poet, Laurie Halse Anderson, and when I met her a couple of years ago, after admitting parts of my story to her, she told me not to just speak my story but shout it.
Now, I am shouting it and can’t be silenced.
And I have hopes of my voice being heard because just last night, I was told, “I’m absolutely feeling inspired. It’s interesting to me that I’m being impacted in this way by your writing as I generally have a harder time connecting with poetry but I don’t have that when reading yours. I feel a sense of resonance and understanding. It feels very exciting!“
What an incredible achievement, and I hope to share more of my poetry with others. I want it to continue to be accessible. For too long, poetry was mired in symbolism and bogged down by the need to fit a rhyme scheme. Some might not think my poems poetry because they do not have a distinct rhythm or rhyme, but it is the emotion that bleeds through the page that gives these poems the depth I desire them to have.
My goals, once I could finally articulate them and I was in a safe atmosphere to do so, have always been to:
- share my story
- inspire others to open up about their own story
- connect others so they feel less alone
- start a conversation about taboo subjects.
In short, my goal was to provide illumination to subjects generally left in the dark.
I’m working on completing my first chapbook, and with it, I hope to share my voice with more people.