Finding Balance

Emily CFor the past seven years of studying Creative Writing in school, I’ve never thought of myself as a poetry person. I’ve always connected more with fiction writers, like Rick Moody, George R.R. Martin, Khaled Hosseini, and Markus Zusak. I’ve always found more inspiration in their stories of suburban America, a fantasy world of thrones, children playing under a burning Afghan sun, and a young orphan learning to read in a basement in Germany. Through their stories, I’ve been able to find myself in the lines, discover facets of myself that I couldn’t uncover anywhere except through words. I’ve learned to weave my own stories, create characters that reeled me in and still haven’t let go, reach into my childhood and extract truths that I needed to express. I always thought that fiction held more truth than poetry.
Then this year happened.
I discovered that poetry was more central than I thought last year at the Dodge Poetry Festival, where poets like Nikki Finney, Taylor Mali, Patricia Smith, and Rachel McKibbens exploded my small world of understanding to smithereens. When I got home, I wrote pages and pages of poetry and told myself this is it, this is what being a poet is. Then I got stagnant. I forgot about intent and speaker and line breaks and poetry. I forgot everything, and when I returned to school I studied fiction, and got pulled back into the longer form of writing I’d always loved. Halfway through the year I switched to poetry, and the first lesson was essentially a slap in the face. We were to write on whether or not poetry was dead, and I didn’t know how to answer. I struggled with poetry through the first month or so, navigating this strange land of technique and style with the grace of a bull. I had no idea what I was doing. Then I wrote a poem exploring the myth of Medusa, and everything clicked. I connected to her pain, her ambition, her refusal to back down for what she wanted. From there on out, poetry and fiction equaled in truth. In Fiction, I can hide. I can spin stories that don’t clearly show myself in them. In Poetry, there is no shelter. Each poem is some extension of myself, some exploration of emotion and memory. Poetry and Fiction have become equal for me. Depending on what story I need to tell, I craft paragraphs or stanzas, but both show my identity in an equal light. Both are ways of telling my story, in whichever form that story needs to be told.

–Emily Cramer, Editor-in-Chief.