Writing has been a part of my life for a long time. I was a feature editor of my high school newspaper and went on to study journalism in college. And though I didn't pursue a career as Brenda Starr Reporter, I worked most of my professional life as a writer and editor of proposals for the aerospace industry. Later on I started taking writing workshops and even dabbled in poetry - though my love of reading poetry that started when I was a child far outweighed my desire to write it. That is until poems just seemed to flow from my pen while I was in an Ellen Bass Writing About Our Lives workshop at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California - just a few months after my son Paul died. Poetry seemed to be the only way I could really express my emotions.
For a long time my poems were all about Paul, many of which will appear in my memoir about how I've survived his death (Leaving the Hall Light On being released by Lucky Press on Mother's Day). But now I find poems going on everywhere, any time. I like to say: "now there's a poem," and off I go to write one. And though these days I write more prose than poetry, poetry is still a great part of my writing life. I've produced four chapbooks, and I've co-edited two volumes of the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show. I've also written the poems for a book of photographs, The Emerging Goddess - one of the first projects that helped turn to more upbeat subjects. I was thrilled when the photographer asked me to write goddess poems, giving me the opportunity to learn about goddesses and write about another subject instead of the dark, death-related work about grief and Paul I had been doing. And I've had many poems published both on-line and in print magazines - even one of those first novice poems was published in The Compassionate Friends newsletter.
Now I challenge myself to write a poem every day while I travel. I enter April and November poem-a-day challenges, and last year I challenged myself to write a poem a week about people I see and have imaginings about, but whom I don't know. Lately I've been dabbling with short, Twitter-length poems - I like the fun of manipulating the words to fit into a certain constraints. And with these poems, I look outward, not inward, most of the time.
And with the discovery that I could write poems, I also discovered how healing writing can be. I recommend it to anyone suffering from grief - actually a creative outlet of any kind can help.
Causes Madeline Sharples Supports
Didi Hirsch Community Mental Health Center, Culver City, CA
Vistamar School, El Segundo, CA
Crossroads School, Santa Monica, CA (Endowment in...