I was a poet once, or at least I wrote poems. I sent them to my grandmother in thank-you cards, I scribbled them in my diary, I wrote them in notebooks to exorcise my adolescent feelings. I wrote poetry to heal, to discover beauty, but mostly I liked to play with words and see what kind of pictures I could create with them. Eventually I took those pictures to the stage, and for years dance and theatre took over the focus of my life – but I never stopped writing.
When a diagnosis changed the course of my life, I returned to writing full time, but this time I focused on short stories, narratives, essays and began work on the long journey to become a novelist. I did not forget about poetry – it was still there, lingering in the background, seeping into my sentences. I still enjoyed the sound of it, the images it evoked, the words, but I felt disconnected from it. I did not believe I could conceive the proper stanzas or conjure up an evocative verse. I was a writer looking back at the poet I thought I used to be.
In a poetry class with the Writer’s Studio I rediscovered my poetry roots by learning how a poem can be plucked from any body of writing, simply by removing certain words, highlighting vibrant sentences, adding or removing breaks. From a couple of paragraphs of an essay, I created a poem. It was not seamless, but it had something.
I pulled out some old poetry books I picked up at literary festivals and re-read them. I attended an online book launch and ordered a new book of poetry from a local author on urban wildlife. On a lazy sunny afternoon, I started reading that book – and writing more poetry. Poetry has made a comeback in my quarantine life. It breathes new life into my self-isolation and stimulates my imagination.
I am not a poet, but I am a writer of poetry. Imagery breaths in my stories and sometimes I discover lyrics in my sentences. Whatever we call ourselves in our writing life: poets, novelists, essayists, journalists or short story authors, in the end, we are all writers, and all forms of writing live in us.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.