I have been writing, drafting and redrafting hundreds of pieces of poetry and prose. To me, as I usually intend to do as a writer, the main intention for creating these pieces is not to create beauty for the sake of it but to explore, organise and put a certain order to my thoughts, feelings and emotions, as well as to understand myself as a whole and to value the fact that I am alive, to be thankful for and to prize my life. As a writer, and perhaps more unconsciously than I would like, I realise this is what I’ve been doing all my life, and this is definitely what I do, much more at the starting point of any creation. It doesn’t matter if I write in English or in Spanish, something deep inside dictates, and I use the words I know (unfortunately not as many in English as in Spanish) and the grammar I know (which is not as good in English). I really believe that you don’t need too much knowledge of language to be honest, to be yourself, to communicate and tell your personal and deepest truth, you just need to release your inner self, or to have the facility to spit your intimate feelings out. Art, and writing in this case, is all about freedom, about wanting to be free. I also can’t deny that after so many years of writing I have acquired a certain ability that is somehow within me. Later, once I have written in a sort of cathartic way, I read the piece, redraft it, and think again and again about the words I’ve used, the meaning and content of them as in the piece whether poetry or prose. ‘Is this what I really want to say?’, I ask myself. And then, while rewriting it, if I can improve the form of the piece and create beauty then so much the better, if not I don’t bother too much. I am what I call ‘an emotional writer’. In my modest opinion this is what most of writers should do, the ones that I like at least. To me, this is the most amazing and powerful characteristic of the act of writing: to organize through language chaotic thoughts, feelings and emotions into an ordered and sensitive piece that makes sense and moves the reader emotionally, as well as making the writer feel good. ‘The very act of putting words on paper can foster self-esteem and affirm the viability of one’s truth’. (Giebel 2011, p. 153).
Having said that, I want to comment in this brief essay on just one piece I posted last year.
I wanted to write a poem which should start with: ‘This is just to ’ Then, pen in hand I wrote in my notebook something to honour and give more value to my life, and to the mere fact of being alive and being satisfied with that.
My life, this is just to say
This is just to say I want you
Maybe not in the best way,
with enough understanding,
wisdom and know how.
This is just to say I need you,
with your misery and magnanimity,
bad and good times
And the struggle to find the beauty of every day.
This is just to say I’m proud of you
Although sometimes I ask you for too much,
other times for too little,
and other times for nothing, almost forgetting about you.
This is just to say I`ve never hated you
In spite of the pain, the sweat, the bad nights and the tears,
I take you how you are,
just feeling the energy you give me.
This is just to say I’m sorry
when sometimes I forget or even don´t want to take care of you.
And I smoke a cigarette
And I eat little, or badly
And I let your time slip out of my hands.
This is to say I love you
My life, I love you.
And I don´t want you to leave me.
Please, don’t leave me in The Nowhereland.
This is just to say what He said:
‘Love your neighbor as yourself’
And I love you, my life. I love you.
What a difficult task!
When I finished the first draft of the poem I didn’t know how much of me was in it. ‘Poetry is not just an outpouring of emotion. Many poems explore complex patterns of thoughts or show how the poet moved from one thought through to another and either arrived at some conclusion.’ (Hedges 2005, pg. 4).
I wrote it straight into English. Then I decided to translate it to Spanish to feel the rhythm, the flow, and the effect of that. The power of emotions was the same, in either English or Spanish, from simple language, simple grammar: straight from my own feelings, from my own self.
The poem has a lot of autobiographical-existential meaning, with my own way of understanding and confronting life. ‘The language is not a big deal after all’, I said to myself once more. ‘I suppose it would have the same meaning and strength if it was written in Chinese or Russian.’ I don’t even think there would be many cultural or political barriers not to grasp the essence of it, even though every single reader can get his own personal feeling from it.
The structure is simple. It has six stanzas of four verses each, and one, the last, which has five. The extra line in the last stanza is a way of ending the journey of the poem and also of finding a conclusion.
This is just to say I want you’, I started with. And I really want and appreciate my life, myself; knowing over time more and more about my rights and wrongs, my hesitations, my mistakes…
‘This is just to say I need you’, I wrote. Knowing about bad and good days, moments of pain and happiness, and the difficulties I can find in everyday life to get the good from the bad: ‘And the struggle of finding the beauty of everyday’, I wrote. This last verse has also the subtle meaning of my job as a writer, as well as the way I have to approach life experiences in a positive way.
‘This is just to say I’m proud of you’, the third stanza commences. And I’m really proud of myself, though it might sound arrogant. I’m proud of my struggle in life, even though sometimes I can get lazy, other times stressed or desperate, or just down.
‘This is just to say I’ve never hated you’, I state in the fourth stanza. And then I use the word ‘pain’, being more explicit about the struggle of life and what it has been for me. Although I have been struggling all my life with health problems, which has caused me some physical disabilities, I have never hated life. Maybe this is just because I’ve had various experiences close to death, which make me definitely value the enormous meaning and potential of living, of being creatively alive, in spite of the dark side that life could contain. Or maybe it is just that I am a positive thinking person by nature. But I’m more inclined to think that if you are a survivor of any kind of personal and extreme traumatic experience you have a better capability to know how to value life and have a better level of tolerance toward frustration than others who haven’t had that kind of experience.
Let me quote at this point a sentence of Viktor E. Frankl, the Viennese psychiatrist who survived Auschwitz concentration camp and created ‘logotherapy’: ‘There is nothing in the world, I venture to say, that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life’. (Frankl 2004, p. 109)
‘This is just to say I’m sorry’, I apologize in the fifth stanza. And basically I do apologize because of being sometimes careless and not responsible enough for my life, not taking enough care of myself and the time I am honored to live life. This stanza carries also implicitly the legacy of the love and education I have received from my parents, and their struggle in saving my life and keeping my health as good as possible, which is what makes me feel responsible and kind of regretful if I don’t do the same myself. Regarding the German psychologist Bert Hellinger, and the process he describes as ‘Family Constellations’, it is more than obvious to me the impact that education and family have on each individual, who could be said to belong to his/her parents and is bonded and takes example whether consciously or unconsciously from past attitudes and behaviors towards him/her and other family members. ‘When an individual wishes to work on a relationship issue, a theme in their life or an illness, we seek to look at entanglements within a family system that may be at the root of disruptive life patterns.’ (Payne 2006, p. 1)
‘This is just to say I love you’, I remark in the sixth stanza to almost end the poem. To me, to say ‘I love you’ is the most emotionally descriptive way to say how much you appreciate someone (my life in this case). However, this love has the meaning of needing, almost begging when I end the stanza with ’Please, don’t leave me in the Nowhereland’. This is definitely a fear of death, of dying without doing all things I would like to do, and without finishing all my writing work; without being remembered after death and then ‘surviving death’ after all.
‘This is just to say what He said’, I quote in the last stanza. And I use this Biblical quote meaning that if it’s difficult to love and take good care of yourself, much more difficult it is to love and take good care of your relationships with others: ‘What a difficult task!’
I realise how much this poem has implicit in it a high degree of optimism and positive thinking, which I think is an essential part of my personality. Regarding this, through my experience I’ve noticed that being a positive person could represent a thread for a negative person, even if I try to be empathic with him/her. Positive (sane) and negative (insane) thinking are energies with contrary polarities. Due to the limited amount of words designated for this essay I’d have to explore this idea and give further explanations in a longer one.
Giebel, G. (2011) Poetry and story therapy. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Hedges, D. (2005) Poetry,Thearapy & Emotional Life. Oxon: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd
Payne, J. (2006) The language of the soul. Scotland: Findhorn Press
Frankl, V. (2004) Man’s Search for Meaning. Random House Group Ltd