I Miss Writing Poetry.

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Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in Philosophy to an M.D. to a S.A.H.M., poet and writer by 30. Today, she spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it’s serious) about life, parenting, marriage, zombies, culture, religion and politics with special appearances by aliens, alienation and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She has a muse of a husband and two young kids who are Southern but not rude. Yet.

I am a poet. I began writing at 14 after I got into fairly big and mostly public trouble. I lived in a small town so everyone knew and everyone talked.

I was so angry at my classmates, my family, my teachers and my friends for forgetting all the good, decent things I had said and done over the years and I was too young to understand the moment would pass. Sinking into humiliation and rage, I wrote my first poem.

Lest anyone think I am a poetry protegé, my first poem not only spoke of my feelings, but I also chose cool fonts for different words so my first poem looked a lot like a ransom note from a deranged lunatic who hated gossip. (It’s amazing how easily writing exposed us.)

I loved the moment the poem was finished. I read and reread the shape of the words expressing my angst like nothing else had. I was in love.

I went on to write more poems with fewer fonts. I wrote in iambic pentameter and in run-on sentences. I wrote and wrote and wrote and read and read and read. Any creative opportunity I had to express my thoughts on a novel or a moment in history, I turned in poetry.

I devoured e.e. cummings, Emily Dickinson, Arthur Rimbaud and every poetry anthology I could find. I liked the rule-breakers. I liked the crazies. Mostly, I liked being overwhelmed by their ability to tell a novel in three words.

But no one becomes a poet. In college, I majored in political philosophy, which was outlandish enough. I went on to medical school and fantasized about the doctor-poet while drowning in knowledge (the body has 639 skeletal muscles!). But in my last year of medical school, after a 5-year hiatus, I took my experiences of watching children die and diseases mocked, and I wrote poetry.

I also got pregnant with my first child and chose to stay home with him. Lost in cloth diapers and lack of sleep, I stopped writing again, but 15 months into parenting, I knew I could not be Alex-The-Mom and Alex-The-Doctors-Wife all the time so I signed up for a poetry class.

My teacher thought I had the gift for words although I struggled with being less literal. I wanted people to understand my poems without an English teacher, but I also was afraid of pushing past my comfort zone. I didn’t want depth for the sake of depth. Or I didn’t think I did.

I wrote with earnest and submitted poems to publications and for every acceptance (2) there were 10 rejections (20). I did a local poetry reading. I got pregnant again and with it went my poetry.

Poems take space and quiet and can shadow a writer for days and weeks before emerging. But I did not have the hours to wrestle with a word. I did not have the energy to force a phrase. The shadows of my poems receded into living.

My life was bright and dull without writing so I began blogging. I wanted a place to publicly and daily practice writing. I even use some of my poetry in my blog posts — not by blogging poems because they are different genres for me — in my styling. I use periods like line breaks when I want my readers to stop at a thought. To be surprised where I take them next. I use italics to denote speech and thoughts. I break the rules and create rhythms.

Writing is gift but also a muscle. Today, my brain can think in 400 word stories but not in poems. I don’t hear the calling of the words to describe a leaf/brown and drifting in the summer sun/too early to be a part/of the beauty of fall/too late to be tended back to life. Instead, I hear my children running to catch the leaf. I feel my immorality in the leaf. I take a picture of my tripping over a root to avoid picking up the leaf.

Poetry is gut work. Painful. Elusive. Frightening. It is drama without the drama. All our histories are found in poems, but I am out of practice. I am lazy. I am afraid.

Of rejection. Of mediocrity. Of time.

But I cannot stay away forever even if “forever” is a dreaded word in poetry.

I miss seeing the world through the long, half-naked lens that is a poem.

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  • http://singedwingangelspad.com/ Angel Shrout

    As someone who started by writing poems as well I understand and empathize. There is something that seems more difficult about writing poems. I love writing of any form, but the poems always come from a different place in me, a deeper , part of my soul almost. My topics swing widely dependent solely on mood and my mind frame. 

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      I’m glad you understand. I struggled with explaining it and not feeling like it was weird or hoity-toity

  • http://twitter.com/juliedutch Julie

    You have completely inspired me to take on poetry once again. I love how you use poetry in your writing – even if they aren’t poems. I may do the same someday. 

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      I’m so exited to have inspired you to take on poetry again! YAY!

  • http://twitter.com/sellabitmum Tracy Morrison

    I love your writing, Alex..in all forms. xoxo

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      Thank you. I love you in all forms. :D

  • http://makemommygosomethingsomething.com/ Kimberly

    I never knew that about you….
    I used to write poetry all the time when i was younger. It was a great emotional release from the type of household I grew up in.
    When I moved in with my fiance (husband now) I was too embarrassed to bring them along with me. So I threw them out.
    Dude…I threw them out.
    I’m such an asshole.

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      Oh no. That makes me so sad although it also means you need to write more. NEED TO I SAY.

  • IASoupMama

    This is a lovely post!  I’m so glad to have read it! 

    I had to write in a journal for one of my college courses and didn’t really want to, so I scribbled some really dumb junk that I called poetry.  It was terrible.  It is long gone and I am beyond fine with that because it was worse than sitting through a kid’s first violin concert. 

    Although it is really funny because the idea I have for a novel has a character that is a poet, so if I ever work up the guts to start the novel (and get past the issue that I write terrible fiction), I’m going to have to include some poetry.  Thank goodness all of the poetry that would be included would be unpublished drafts found in a secret notebook, so they can suck as they haven’t been through an editor in the novel.

    And now I’m a little embarrassed that I went and blah-blah-blahed all over this comment — sorry!

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      I love blah-blah-blah comments. (sorry I’m slow to reply, the beginning of June was crazy!) I hope your novel comes along well! I love the idea of a poet character.

  • http://twitter.com/juliecgardner Julie Gardner

    Oh, Alex.

    My first (and probably all) poems are painfully self-conscious and angst-driven and I adore them anyway.

    As a lover of words in any form, I admire the economy of poetry. One of my favorite quotations (hanging in my classroom for 16 years) is by T.S. Eliot:

    “The poet is occupied with the frontiers of consciousness where words fail but meaning still exists.”

    I am in awe of poets.

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      I love that quote! It’s going into my quote collection.

  • http://www.runawaysentence.com/ Marian

    so interesting! i find writing poetry to be very natural, more so since i became a mother. i write fiction too, though it’s a bit harder for me. but a memoir piece? gack, i cannot do it. it’s fascinating, what people write and how and why and what they think about what they write and don’t write or think they can’t write.
    i’ve followed you forever on twitter but i don’t think i’ve ever visited your blog. the word “poetry” got my attention. please come over to my place, lots and lots of poetry there. i’m very glad to have shown up here today. xo marian

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      I do think it’s interesting how our comfort level and inspiration and skills find their way out. I will definitely visit!

  • http://www.adesignsovast.com/ Lindsey

    Wonderful reminder of why what we loved as children often spoke of our truest desires and personality.  Lovely.  xox

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      I hadn’t thought of it that way — that openness and possibilities we have as children and that we can get back there in some ways.

  • Gooddayregularpeople

    OH. IN LOVE with this post.

    So in love with post.

    Poetry within poetry.

    I remember being the same way, still am the same way: in love with the novel in 3 words, the 0 to 60 in 5 seconds. The summation of a life in 3 lines.

    I love the bare stripping down of everything else, getting rid of the soft edges, and instead going for the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    Alex, this piece, I see this piece on BlogHer and StoryBleed and regional writing magazines.

    There is so much here that makes me watery eyed, whispering from my chair, “me too, Alex, me too.”

    Thank you, for helping me feel myself a little bit more on this Saturday morning of changing sheets and preparing tuna fish sandwiches in the shape of hearts.

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      It’s so nice to hear someone say “me too”.
      Maybe I will send it over to StoryBleed. I visit there but have never found a post that I thought was the right fit. Plus, I’m sensitive to rejection. Haha.

  • http://fourplusanangel.com/ jessica

    This is so unbelievable good Alex. You can WRITE. 
    I have read your serious and your funny and now this and you have such talent. I hope you can sit in that space again that you illustrated so perfectly and work through it to find poetry again.

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      Thank you so much, Jessica, that means much. I was so happy that Erin gave me a space and inspiration to talk about my longing for poetry. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/SuburbanHaiku Peyton Price

    Inside each of us
    there is room for all our selves.
    You are a poet.

    • http://www.lateenough.com/ Alex@LateEnough

      Oh, I love this. I’ve secretly wanted you to write me a haiku for years. (internet years)