Writing About the Shadows

Sometimes the best writing I’ve done comes from the worst instances in my life. Personal instances, actually.

When my father became ill, I became prolific at writing poetry. There’s so much emotion swirling in your head when you’re seeing the mortality of one of your parents and you’re helpless to stop or even slow down time.

It’s at those moments, you see your own mortality, too.

It’s also when you try to verbalize the emotions you’re feeling. My most recent poems have been about loss — not just that of a parent, but of love, of relationships, of any kind of loss.

It’s funny how you see the threads of connection in all relationships when one is threatened.

It’s also funny how other events can impact those threads, and how it makes for some excellent writing opportunities.

For me, it was an eclipse.

That’s when everything started to unravel for me. A total eclipse — somethings I’ve never witnessed before — suddenly became a life-altering event. Everything on the other side of that eclipse was turning upside down. In more than one instance, I was seeing chaos and turmoil where calm waters used to be.

It’s as though the universe was sending a giant message — get off your ass and write something deep.

So I did. I filled pages in a notebook, and I started seeing the relationship between outside forces and that which is going on in front of me. The shadows were being cast everywhere, and I was lucky enough to see the connections.

This poem by Dorianne Laux shows a relationship, though an odd one. Laux takes the innocent gesture of the Tooth Fairy visiting and adds the relationship between her parents, juxtaposing the volatility with the glitter on the quarter.

Laux found the relationship — and maybe it was no more than just having occurred in the same house or during the same time or between the same people.

Poets, how have you used relationships — particularly those that cast shadows — to strengthen your writing?

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