I never wanted to be a writer, but I knew I had to write and that I would always write. Virginia Woolf’s ideal about having A Room Of One’s Own was never and is still not a goal. Writing was and is still not an enterprise that requires isolation or a special place. In fact when I began writing, I wrote poems at the bus-stops in Jamaica while waiting for public transportation or at the beach on Sundays when children were squealing, dogs were barking, adolescents were being loud and boisterous and adults laughed and swapped gossips and stories about the lives they imagined they would live or while hanging out at a club or elsewhere with friends.
I never wanted to be a writer, but I remember walking all over my community as a child listening to the talks of others, taking note about how people walked and sat, but mostly being greedy to hear the details they whispered about their lives. Somewhere deep inside of me I knew I was living in an untapped warehouse, pregnant with material that I could and should milk. Often after listening and stealing information about the people’s lives, I would go and lay hidden in the tall grasses, or I would go to an unattended cemetery, probably the remains of former slave owners, and lay on the cool tombs with lizards scurrying about and rehearse the stories of my community in my head.
Like the society in which I lived, my first tales were oral, embellished and reworked vignettes of various characters in the community that I shared with friends. Before I began the tentative and clandestine journey to record anything in print, written in pencil in old school notebooks, I rehearsed them inside my head. I told them to the birds and the trees that were eager listeners, I confided in my dog who sniffled and curled closer to my legs when he really liked one of my stories, I spoke them to the waves that pulled them like a net further into the sea. I had no intention of being a writer, could not at that time conceive that one could spend one’s days writing without attending to other life-changing affairs.
When I was eight years old, writing was not an occupation, but a way of life. And it still is. The stories and poems never come when I am sitting quietly inside, at my desk. They come when I am in the midst of people and events, during a carnival parade jumping up, eating with friends, hands greasy with food, walking on the beach, kicking sand between my toes, sharing intimacy with a man, playing with my children, marching at a demonstration, cooking a meal, living. I have always written in crowded and often noisy spaces. I have always written because something was writing me. I have always written about a life being lived. I write not to be a writer, I write to pay homage, to give back to my community the love and joy, and thepain and frustration that they shared with me.
Causes Opal Adisa Supports
California Poets in the Schools
Homeless Shelter for Pregnant Women