Documentary Poetry

slice-of-life_individualLast September my daughter Bailey moved away to college. As anyone who has gone through this knows, the transition in your life is profound.  For 17 years I was a part of her daily life and she, mine. Knowing that growing up and growing apart is normal and that she is happy and succeeding is a sign that our parenting actually worked, helps a bit. It’s still change, and change can be hard.

I wanted to find a way to share our lives with her beyond our texts, video chats, or phone calls. I wanted to remember this year for the important time it was. Not only were changes going on in our personal lives, but unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you might have noticed some major shifts and events in our country as well.

She’s busy  studying and building a life. How can I succinctly share my life with her each week? How could I document events, reactions, emotions, hopes, concerns in a way that doesn’t overwhelm her?  …….POETRY.

With an economy of words, poems can express so much with so little.  Poetry encourages me to reflect on the significant ideas I want to share and captures a point in time I want to remember. My poems aren’t great. They are frequently quick writes and not revised. But they are a “from the heart” correspondence each week that I send to her and I keep a copy  in a book that will memorialize our first year apart.

So as I blog this month, I will share some of these poems. They are truly Slices of  My Life in this year of change.  Here’s an example of a slice in our year:

Nevertheless, She Persisted

Reading a letter

From a time not distant enough

From a woman not honored enough

She was warned.

Speaking the words

That were relevant then

That are relevant now

She was given an explanation.

Challenging the privilege

Of the old white man

Protecting another old white man

Nevertheless, She Persisted.

And so we carry on with our lives, and I write to remember. Here’s to Documentary Poetry!

11 thoughts on “Documentary Poetry

  1. Paula you are such a gifted writer! What a wonderful bond that you have with your daughter! I hope that when Mackenzie is grown up I will be the role model to her that you are for Bailey! ❤

  2. How many ways do I absolutely freaking love this. 🙂 I love that you’re finding a way to connect when your daughter goes off to school. I look forward to that date with excitement for all they will accomplish and learn, and complete dread. I also absolutely love the poem. Still looking for a “Nevertheless, she persisted” t-shirt that I love. I will wear it with pride.

  3. Your title “Documentary Poetry” intrigued me. I love the idea of documenting experiences and memories under this heading. I told a friend this morning that I’d never considered getting a tattoo until “Nevertheless she persisted.” My friend was wearing a Rosie the Riveter t-shirt w/ the saying on it.

    And the empty nest transition is a difficult one. Writing helps.

  4. Such a lovely idea. I think it will mean a lot to her. When I first left home, back in the dark ages before computers, my dad used to send me newspaper clippings. I always chuckled about it, but I also appreciated knowing what caught his attention, what he thought I’d find interesting, and just the reminder that he was thinking of me, even if he didn’t write letters like my mom did.

  5. I love reading your writing and look forward to more of your poetry! You truly inspire me and I hope to be just as influenced by life as you are to write as much and as often as I can.

  6. First powerful writing. I had never thought of documentary poetry. I really like how you captured the moment. As I look at the poem, my mind explores how this could be used in a classroom or professional development workshop. I think of collecting a primary source from the news to place on the facing page. May I use your poem as an example?

    1. Sure. Let me know how it goes. In an age where soundbites rule the news, taking those and crafting a poem can be a creative way to process the important ideas.

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