A few weeks ago Marie Ennis-O’Connor, who blogs at the terrific Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, invited the breast cancer blogging community to write about our Other Life; to share who we are when we aren’t talking about cancer. She got wonderful responses from Stacey at Bringing Up Goliath and Jody at Women With Cancer, among others. It’s been so much fun to learn more about these great bloggers and great women.
When I started thinking about my other life the thing that surfaced most quickly was poetry. My life is like anyone’s: work, family, friends, volunteering, recreational activities like watching college sports, concerts, travel. But the thing that’s strictly mine and the thing I want to get better at is poetry. When I write for myself, the shape it takes is a poem.
I’ve been writing poems since I was a little kid. I wrote poems through grade school and high school. Then, after taking a couple of poetry writing classes in college and getting a handful of things published, it stopped. I was too caught up in day-to-day life, and my only after-hours writing was freelance articles about technology or public relations. I really thought that part of my life was over, and I missed it but I didn’t try to do anything about it.
Poetry stayed away from my life for close to 20 years, until I was diagnosed with DCIS. Since this is a stage 0 breast cancer, I wasn’t in a fight for my life but it still served as a wake-up call. You could say cancer turned into a weird but welcome muse. Poetry started speaking to me again, and better still, I started writing again. Like before, I’ve had a handful of things published. I have a few different areas I want to dig into, including the effects of digital communications. I’ve written a few poems focused on that, including the sonnet below.
I wrote it last year and had no particular plans for it until I saw a call for entries for the annual Anne Dittrick sonnet writing contest this spring, sponsored by Nebraska Shakespeare. It ended up getting honorable mention out of 100 entries, so it was printed in the program for this year’s Shakespeare on the Green performances in Omaha. (I believe the “starving artist” stereotype originated with poetry because you’re usually paid in copies. I’ve been paid with money only once, when three of my poems were accepted by Rolling Stone and I got a whopping 10 bucks apiece. Believe it or not, they used to publish poetry back in the ’80s. They only published one of them before they stopped including poetry, which is too bad. Poetry needs as many mainstream venues as it can get.)
21st Century Sonnet
How Shakespeare ever managed, I don’t know.
Although the language mattered so much more
it had to give him confidence to sow
such sublime music, freeing words to soar.
And what of now, you wonder. Well to ask
when texts and tweets and IMs all hold sway.
Can any of us comprehend the task
of holding short attention spans at bay?
I cannot help but think of what we’ve lost
when words are something to fast forward through.
U R the 1? Okay, but at what cost
these shorthand thoughts, what love we never knew?
The music in the bones of words has gone;
without it, can the food of love play on?