Voice, to the extent that it is a thing in itself, is not a static or stable thing. A writer’s voice changes with time, and all the time. With every piece, every character, every subject, perhaps with every line, a writer’s voice has to change. I would worry that writers whose voices do not change over time would get tired of hearing themselves talk. This is not to say that that voice is fully and wholly new each time a writer writes; but each time a writer changes, so too does her voice.
When you don’t know the story of your people, it’s like somebody reached in and snatched out a big chunk of your backbone. You need your backbone. You need your whole story, as much of it as you can get. And it needs to be the story as your people lived it, not the official version. That is part of poetry’s work in the world—to help keep alive stories that we need to live by.
So performance got intertwined with my self-definition and with finding my voice. Since then, performance has helped me to understand voice — especially spoken language vs. written language. It has allowed me to feel the pressure of a listening audience, which helps to edit and craft a text.
The best encouragement I can give to other literary late bloomers is that age brings a depth and width of life experience and wisdom to our work, as well as understanding about how complex our world can be. This ability to reflect on what we’ve seen and thought, to dig deeply into big questions, is a potentially amazing resource usually not available to young writers.
Even if I’m not writing specifically about the Adirondacks, the nature reflected in so much of my poetry is invariably this kind of nature: dark pines, rushing streams, a bumpy horizon designed by departing glaciers and old tectonic shrugs.
That, and yes, this first May poppy’s
burst into scarlet guffaw (after weeks
of nodding tight-lipped hush.)
After inevitable March, May
and we are—praise the gods—
budding, bursting, juicy
again. – Ginnah Howard
…I want to believe the sun
hovered in the lark’s throat before it flew away,
before we saw the white wall rise behind each other’s
eyes, remnant from when we held a howl in our hands
and tried to write the story of forgiveness.
—Cynthia Dewi Oka
praise daily poems in my inbox
how they make me laugh in one stanza,
then break my heart the next
praise how poets hold onto our first loves,
and scent of mama, now gone
praise how we nurture our child self,
gently wrap her around stanzas,
baby girl is resilient
praise our spunk and our sadness,
let our writing heal
The market was a living thing. Its flesh was mounds of mangoes, sweet sop, naseberry, bananas. The steady calls of the higglers, its rapid heart. And those women with heads tied with colorful scarves, and legs splayed wide with skirts cascading between like waterfalls, were its bones.
Writing is what so many of us want to do. Finding the stories we want to tell, and then writing them is what our work together will be. Some of us are beginning. Some of us are continuing. Together we will all be looking for stories, good stories, working together to understand what good stories are, and where they come from.
Immerse yourself in the inspiration of Hobart’s mountain vistas and focus on your writing craft for a one-day, six-hour workshop in a small group setting with an award-winning poet.
“I write first and foremost because the stories I grew up reading in school bore no resemblance to world of my family and my community. Those stories did not tell about the way the sun fell on my grandmother’s hands as she handed me my fresh bread and butter breakfast every morning or the smell on my abuelo’s skin when he came home from the cane fields. Nowhere did I see my family’s many shades of brown complexions or the sound of my mother’s voice when she called me mamita.”