The Impressions of These Lines

I found the  following lines in Louise Gluck’s poem “Echoes” from her book Averno: “From our kitchen garden / you could see the mountains, / snow covered, even in summer. / I remember peace of a kind / I never knew again. / Somewhat later, I took it upon myself / to become an artist, / to give voice to these impressions.” Looking back on my life as an artist, I gave voice to impressions, too, but I didn’t know I was becoming an artist through my writing.

Maybe these line struck a cord because I wrote my first poems in a house that faced the Franklin mountains in El Paso, Texas. I was a child then, and still had what I’ll call the childhood peace,  the type of peace that protects you from grown-up troubles.

Yet, I still found myself affected by my parent’s hardships, so I wrote my first poem. Despite feeling so proud of myself for being able to convey my emotions with rhyme, I could not translate the poem word for word to Spanish for my father. My poem lost its rhyme, and I lost my voice.

My poem lost its rhyme, and I lost my voice. 

I wonder: where is the voice, when you don’t have the right language to express an impression? I want to go off on a tangent here to tell you that I often feel that parts of myself don’t exist in English just like parts of myself don’t exist in Spanish. (I’ve written about this before.) And when I think of this, I don’t feel whole.

For me, writing has always been about describing an impression. Of what has marked me marks me again and again until I give voice to the truth. The impressions, they begged permanence on page, and I never intended to become an artist.

Did you take it upon yourself to become an artist like Louis Gluck? Or did you give voice to impressions first and then realized you were becoming an artist? 

This blog post is part of a poetry series called These Lines in which I share poetry lines that move me and why they move me.

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What Love Letters Teach Me about Writing

letters-1390463_1920The other day I watched P.S. I Love You for the first time even though it’s a popular romantic movie. Even though it’s not a movie specifically about the writing process, it teaches three things about writing that I actually already know, but that I don’t mind being reminded of. 

If you have already watched the movie or if you don’t mind spoilers, please continue reading.

After her husband, Gerry, dies, letters start arriving from him as a way to help Holly cope with his death and to remind her of his love for her. Although her mother is initially against the idea, the letters help Holly with the grieving process.

At one point, Gerry tells Holly to only keep his jacket, and to get rid of everything else that belonged to him. And I wonder how much longer it would have taken for Holly to let go of his stuff if he hadn’t prompted her.

Gerry’s love letters to Holly teach me the following:

1. You need to know your audience.

What I like about Gerry’s letters is that he knows how Holly is dealing with his death. Gerry predicts that Holly will visit his parents when she is in Ireland, and his mom gives Holly one of his letters that he left there for her. Gerry also finds the connection between Holly’s love of shoes and her dream of creating. So he guides her to a new job of designing shoes.

2. Your writings don’t have to be read by every single person on earth. They can be written with only one person or specific group of people in mind.

Lately, I’ve been learning that all of my blog posts are not meant to be read by all of the people who follow this blog. Some topics resonate to people more than others, and that’s totally fine! Gerry’s letters which are addressed only to Holly (with the exception of two letters) make me value every piece of writing (regardless of how many people are in our audience.) This makes me think of one of my classmates from university. Any time I emailed her, her personality shone through her emails, and even though the email was directed only to me, the quality of her emails was so rich because she had her signature writing style. I would buy all of her books!

3. Each writing has a purpose.

By the end of the movie, we know that the purpose of the love letters was to help Holly move on after Gerry’s death. Gerry tells Holly in her last letter that it’s okay to fall in love with someone else. 


Are Your Writing Drafts Just as Valuable as the Final Draft?

lion-1214837_1920I walked through my local art museum a couple weeks ago and saw a Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, and Camille Pissarro collection. I was struck by seeing drafts of the same etchings side by side. I expected to only see the final versions. The information box said that the artists, “gave their working process much greater visibility” by showcasing the revisions of the same etching.

I wondered how can this valuing of revisions apply to writing?

As a poet, I love reading the revisions and edits that well-known poets make in their poems. They sometimes share their writing process on Twitter. No matter the differences between these poets’ and my successes in poetry, I relate to them when I see how writing is a process for them.

When we only see writers’ final writing products, the readers (who are also writers) for the most part, don’t get to see the writer’s journey. Sometimes I forget that even the most successful writers also revise their writing. 

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