Sometimes, all you can do is write. “Put your shit on the paper,” as Gloria Anzaldua wrote. From young, I did—mostly rants, streams of confusion, lust, and disillusion. My Aunt Marina’s gift of a spiral-bound Anne of Green Gables diary to me at age 11 got things going.
I was driven to write as a kid because I didn’t get the world, and I wanted to. (I still don’t get the world, but sometimes now I wonder if I don’t prefer it this way.) Things seemed a little clearer after writing them down and even when they didn’t, I’d still feel better afterwards. The clarity that writing allowed also gave me the confidence to speak my truth.
As I got older, I became a social justice activist and would often speak at events. This later turned into spoken word and storytelling. No matter what the medium, I wanted my work to be accessible—I was always focused on the clarity of the message, the moral of the story. I had something to say, and this was the best way I knew how to say it. Of course the words had to flow as I spoke them, but this was always secondary to the message.
Working with award-winning poet Margaret Christakos through the Diaspora Dialogues mentoring program, I was able to reflect on my poems as they lived, and as they struggled to, on the page. Margaret identified and respected my focus on the concrete. At the same time, she challenged me to go beyond the literal, to push boundaries, to play with the visual, the sound, the syntax, the form, the medium itself. I could still have my moral of the story, but she encouraged me to explore and confront the possibilities of the medium itself: to have fun with it.
Put your shit on the paper, and have fun doing it.
Thank you, Margaret.
Thank you, Diaspora Dialogues.