My Other Life

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?

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10 thoughts on “My Other Life

  1. Poetry was what first linked me to your blog jackie and I am so full of admiration for those who can express themselves through poetry writing. I have only ever written one poem in my life and that was when i was going through my own cancer treatment. I remember how emotional I felt getting those words down on a page. For me the magic and power of poetry lies in its ability in just a few lines to make you stop, think and feel deep emotions. When I read a good poem my heart, mind and soul are moved, as I am drawn into the beauty of its words and cadence. That is why I like to share a poem each Friday on Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer and even better when that poem comes from the heart and pen of someone who has walked the same path as I

  2. Jackie, this is such a lovely post! You are a pretty awesome blogger yourself.

    Like you, I love poetry. I also took a lengthy hiatus from poetry writing — until cancer. Then the poems came to me like crazy. Really brave of you to tackle the sonnet. I did one, and it almost killed me! I adore Shakespeare, too.

    Nice to know more about you!

    • Thank you, Katie! Coming from you, that means a lot!!! (P.S. I am fond of that line too.) AND–I want to apologize for forgetting to include your “My Other Life” post on your other life in poetry. I kept thinking who am I forgetting when I referenced the other blogs and just blanked out.

      I would include a link to that post now but for some reason my work firewall thinks Uneasy Pink is associated with marijuana and is blocking me. 🙂

      So folks, go to http://uneasypink.com and find Katie’s My Other Life post–it’s excellent.

  3. Jackie, Thanks so much for this post about your other life which includes the love of poetry. Congrats on the success of all your writing, Jackie, including this outstanding sonnet. It is really lovely and has such an important message within its words too. Thanks for this peak into your passion for poetry!

  4. Congratulations! Anne Triba Dittrick was my sister. She’d be very proud of you for your honorable mention, as I am. 🙂

  5. Pingback: My Former Life « Dispatch From Second Base

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