Why I Write Poetry: Sasha A. Palmer

Several weeks ago, I posted about “Why I Write Poetry” and encouraged others to share their thoughts, stories, and experiences for future guest posts. I’ve already received so many, and I hope they keep coming in (details on how to contribute below). Thank you!

Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from Sasha A. Palmer, who shares her experience of learning English, poetry, and the word “longing.”

Sasha A. Palmer is a Russian-born poet, writer, and translator who lives in Baltimore, MD. Her work has appeared in Writer’s Digest, e-Books India, and Slovo/Word among other online and print publications. Her poem “Storytelling” won first prize and The Most Powerful Piece title in the international poetry contest The Loneliness Project in 2016. Her English translation of Bella Akhmadulina’s poem “To Boris Messerer” won third prize in the international translation contest Compass Award in 2016. Sasha has a thing for the word “amateur” and tries to follow the motto she has created: Live for the Love of it.

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Why I Write Poetry: Sasha A. Palmer

Sasha A. Palmer

“Practice the word longing,” a phonetics teacher teased me, “What if you want to say to your boyfriend I’m longing for you and you cannot pronounce it?” “Why would I ever want to say something like that in English?” I fired back.

The exchange happened many moons ago, when I was old, and wise, and knew everything. I was sure I would never have a foreigner for a boyfriend. I was convinced I would never live anywhere but Russia. I knew for a fact I disliked poetry.

Fast-forward some years. Born and raised in Moscow I find myself across the Pond in Baltimore, MD with my very American husband and our two Russian-American kids. And—surprise!—I write poetry. In Russian and English.

I write poetry, because it helps me connect. Poetry is my bridge to things that are real, as well as made real through my imagination.

Think of the Dot-to-Dot books with pages and pages filled with hundreds upon hundreds of numbered dots that make no sense. You find dot #1 and dot #2 and you draw a line that connects them. You do the same with dots #2 and #3, and so on, and so on…until—voilà!—the meaningless dots become an image of an exquisite flower, or a strong eagle, or a handsome lion with an unruly mane. You see them, because you’ve connected the dots.

My memories, thoughts, dreams, all these weird twists and turns of life would be a bunch of dots to me — if not for poetry. It helps me connect the dots and see the infinite and infinitely wonderful picture they are part of.

I know very little, but I do know a couple of things. I’ll always write poetry. I’ll always have a Russian accent. I’ll always practice the word longing.

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If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to robert.brewer@fwmedia.com with a 300-500 word personal essay that shares why you write poetry. It can be serious, happy, sad, silly–whatever poetry means for you. And be sure to include your preferred bio (50-100 words) and head shot. If I like what you send, I’ll include it as a future guest post on the blog.

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14 thoughts on “Why I Write Poetry: Sasha A. Palmer

  1. lsteadly

    Dear Sasha,
    Thank you so much for your essay. Though English may not be your primary language, you have a wonderful understanding of its intricacies. I myself do not know Russian, but I have studied French and appreciate the wonderful value in knowing a second language for poetic expression. I so admire your work and thank you for sharing it here. Poetic Asides truly is a special place.

    1. Sasha A. Palmer

      Thank you very much for your comment, Rosemary.
      I don’t think I had dot-to-dot books when growing up. Definitely not the complicated intricate kind my kids have. Takes a lot of patience and determination to connect the dots, but the result is rewarding 🙂

  2. Nurit Israeli

    Reading this was thoroughly enjoyable, Sacha. I identify with much of what you have written. English is not my mother tongue either, and I too know: I’ll always write poetry, I love Russian poetry (and prose), I’ll always have a foreign accent and, yes, I too will always practice the word longing….

  3. Marie Elena

    “Happy” Sasha! So glad to see you featured here this evening! Isn’t it interesting how you were so sure of things that ended up changing. Thankful poetry was one of them. I adore your poetic voice!

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