Posted by: Viola | January 30, 2015

Why my chapbook means so much to me

For more years than I want to count, at this point, I have felt like quite a disappointment to my family and those who love me. I have especially felt like I let my parents down. I used to be the kind of child that wanted so desperately to make her parents happy. I lived for my parents’ approval. And then one day, that life became impossible to sustain. And I truly began the process of growing into someone other than what my parents wanted. I turned into a poet. And though my parents have never called me–or my being a poet–a disappointment, I know it is (more likely than not) a huge let down for them.

Let’s be honest. How many parents out there in the world dream of giving birth to a poet? How many hardworking mothers and fathers raising and educating their kids, say to those kids, “Hey my son, hey my daughter, please grow up and become a poet! That’s what we really hope and wish for you. Tons and tons of poetry reading and writing.” I have tried, but I really can’t think of any parent I have ever met who utters words of enthusiastic encouragement for their children’s potential poetic aspirations.

Most parents want their children to grow up to be scientists, engineers, lawyers, doctors, great income earners and high achievers. And for families who cannot afford to build lofty dreams, then those families and parents of those families set their sights on the practical paths available to them. They encourage their kids to be nurses, caregivers, counselors and therapists, teachers, firemen/women, police officers, soldiers, athletes, and perhaps entertainers. And even the parents who are wealthy and don’t have to worry about their children’s financial futures, they probably do not say to their kids, “Hey, we have all this money, so please do whatever you like and go be a poet. Yeah, go out there and rock the world of poetry!”

As much as we might admire poets, I have never heard anyone say to me, “Poetry is an amazing career! Everyone should be a poet!” The day I hear these words, I will know that the world is truly a different place. As much as we might all love reading poetry, quoting our favorite lines and looking to our favorite poets for wisdom and inspiration, we probably would not say to young people that poetry–or writing, in general–is the way to go, is the rock upon which to build a sturdy house.

So imagine my horror and how it blossomed, when I realized that I wanted to be a poet, wanted to have poetry and writing be at the core of my life, wanted my poems to be the things I pursue and build my house on. Imagine having to explain this, or to reveal this, to my family. To never be able to say to them that I am going to be a lawyer, a doctor, an engineer, a nurse, a therapist, or even an anthropologist or social scientist (which is what I am academically trained to be). No. I am none of those. I am going to be a poet. And most likely, a very humble one. A very poor one.

I am fortunate that my family has not disparaged me about my passion for poetry. I am very blessed. But I know that, deep down, even when my loved ones don’t say the words, they do wonder how on earth a woman can build a life on nothing but words and rhymes. To tell the truth, so do I. Most days, so do I. I have my doubts. And if I can have my doubts, then so much just about everyone else who cares about me. I know that my journey will be a long one. And any chance of making a life centered on my poetry will require great patience and hard work. But mostly, great patience.

And patience is not one of my virtues. It is something I have to cultivate. Because it’s easy for me to feel like a failure, while I wait. I have no outward markers of great status and wealth. I have nothing to really show the world, as proof of the fact that I have been working hard on my poetry for many years. Poems are such small and internal things, private and intimate things. I cannot really make a big splash with my poems and say to my family or to the world that I am really doing something grand with my life. How to convince people of such grandness when I have no amazing material wealth to flaunt?

And here is where my small chapbook comes in handy. It’s so tiny. So slender. So thin. Just like me. Just like my whole body. But small as it may be, it is something. It is something. And the world we live in deals in the currency of things. Big things, little things, more and more things, and always newer, better things. We live in a material realm of objects, big and small, and we constantly give those objects meaning. Give them huge value. So it is good to have something, even if minuscule, to show for all my poetic and literary efforts. And that is why I appreciate this little chapbook. I appreciate this slender thing. This pretty, little thing.

It’s a chance for me to say to my family, “Yes, I know I let you down. I am sorry. I know that I am quite the disappointment. Quiet the failure. But I will not always be.” And for the record, I don’t mind being a let down, as long as it is for a good cause. A good cause for me is the cause of pursuing what fulfills me. Pursuing my passion for poetry. This good cause is also the extremely important cause of fighting for my sanity, for my happiness, for my life. ❤



  1. […] of whether my being a poet is a disappointment to her. She read my blog post, in which I talk about the validation I feel from seeing my poems published as a chapbook, and she had some thoughts on it. And so we talked about my poetry and my choice to focus on being […]

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