Today marks 13 years of writing at least a poem a day.
When I began this daily writing practice, I had no specific plans for sustaining it over such a length of time. I had no idea.
I was simply driven by my own need to carve out some time in the day— every day— where I could meet myself in my writing, by trying to tune out the sounds of other kinds of demands even if only for the space of half an hour to forty minutes at a time.
There are many things I've learned about myself and about my own writing process and habits; and there are many more things I know I am still learning.
But what my daily writing practice has given me, besides poems to return to and revise and organize into book manuscripts (4) or chapbooks (4), is the joy of knowing I am happiest writing poems. For me this simply means, writing poems is my favorite way to process the information daily life throws at me.
And I am very grateful.
Here's a prompt I shared in the final session of my recently concluded Poetry Workshop at The Muse Writers Center; I wrote it in the form of a letter --
On New Year’s Eve afternoon this year, I reluctantly let myself be cajoled into joining our friends/neighbors for an impromptu dinner at their home. I was tired; no, more than tired, dispirited. We’d had a really terrible year, with illness in the family—the back and forth to the doctors, inconclusive results, plenty of trial and error. These kinds of things of course have an impact on our ability to work, to give of our own internal resources; to find rest, ease, laughter… Of course this is hardly original, nor is it new.
But when I sat down at my desk to compose this and a prompt for our final week/meeting ahead— I was reminded of that day, looking up/away from this computer, where, by the window, there’s a thriving Monstera plant next to a small potted Pilea.
That New Year’s Eve afternoon, after we’d eaten, our friends Sookyung and Harry impulsively said, Let’s go around the corner so you can meet our new friends! They’d met them, she said, because of some random-seeming thing: finding a wallet a few days previous on one of their walks, with their one year old in a stroller… The address was only a few houses away, and they were delighted to be able to do a good deed. When we got there, we were immediately enfolded— by grandparents (who immediately asked to play with S & H’s toddler), nieces, some work friends. People were gathered around board games at the dining table, and a miniature disco ball winked over plates of snacks in the kitchen.
We didn’t stay long, because babies had to be put to bed, and it had started to rain. Before we said our goodbyes, though, I complimented our host enthusiastically on the lush and beautiful greenery inside her home, especially all the large and glossy varieties of Monstera in practically every corner. I wish I had a green thumb like yours, I said. She reassured me they were not hard to propagate, then disappeared down the hallway, only to come back with a large glass vase with two Monstera stalks in it, little root filaments waving in the water. She thrust it into my arms—Happy new year!
Such a small but generous gesture, but I was overwhelmed. It didn’t magically erase the difficulties and all the feels we were feeling then, but it gave me a tiny green burst of hope.
Today, a new leaf has just unfurled from the stalk. Spreading their beautiful hearts open in the window, they remind me to look up and pause.
Look up from wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.
Write about what catches your eye (large or small) — and what you remember.
Is there a story that rises to the foreground? Write about the you in that memory
either from within the memory, or from the point you inhabit now, in
I know I've not been here for a while (it feels like ages) — but so much has happened, and I've been unable to deal with more than just the basic things.
For one, my mother passed away in the Philippines at the end of September. She'd been ailing for a while, and in the hospital four months before that, for pesky pneumonia that would not go away, plus a slew of other symptoms and the increasing fragility of someone at an advanced age, like her.
When I visited in 2015 (accompanied by my youngest daughter), she was still spunky, spirited, and strong. She walked around town, around Burnham Lake, went to the shops or to church—often wearing a hat to go with her smart outfit, greeting everyone she knew and then taking leave of them with her signature I love you! She brought dragon fruit to us at our hotel, ate many meals with us at Hill Station. Before we left, she came bearing gifts of silver jewelry from the market, and 2 pairs of shoes which she insisted I take— one was a pair of bright pink flats with anemone-like pom-poms, and the other was a pair of gold high-top sneakers with ruffles (!). You can wear them when you go to the grocery store, or even gardening, she exhorted; after all, YOLO. This made me blink in amusement and surprise— I'd never heard her use such expressions. I accepted the flats, but declined the latter pair, saying I was not brave enough to pull those off.
I visited again in January 2020, just before (it seemed) the whole world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I'd been prevailed upon by an older cousin on my father's side, to come home and take care of some of the legal paperwork necessary so that she could continue to help me do everything necessary to assure the care of my mother, even if I no longer lived there. During this visit, my mother's deteriorated physical condition was more than concerning. She was sharing her home with family members, but it appeared that she had been suffering from their cruel and deliberate neglect. That is a longer and more complicated story, but suffice it to say that my cousin and I made arrangements to transfer her immediately to a care home, to a safe environment where she has stayed for the last 3 years before her death— where she was looked after by kind and devoted caregivers. In fact, three of these young women who looked after her, along with my cousin, stayed at her side until the end; and I and my family are forever grateful.
We all knew that my mother was approaching the inevitable, and so it feels like we've been incrementally grieving her passing even before she actually transitioned out of her life. While I've tried to be as present as I could be under the circumstances, now that she is gone it has been very difficult to know how to carry this grief. It's only been 2 months since her death. Sometimes I do not know at all what to do with this loss, but I also still feel deeply and in the same way about my father, though he died more than 33 years ago...
I try to keep busy, to do what I have to do in my daily life, though everything, including everything in the world these days, feels raw and sharp.