In 2017, I started a “Why I Write Poetry” series of guest posts. I’ve already received so many, and I hope they keep coming in (details on how to contribute below). Today’s “Why I Write Poetry” post comes from Sari Grandstaff, who writes, “There is no rehab program or 12-step support group that could convince me to stop.”
Sari Grandstaff is a high school librarian. Her haiku and poetry have been published in many print and online venues. She is a member of the Haiku Society of America and Hudson Valley Haiku-Kai. Sari also is the founder of National Haiku Poetry Day which is now under the auspices of The Haiku Foundation. She is the proud mother of three children and she lives with her husband in the Catskill Mountains/Mid-Hudson Valley of New York State.
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Why I Write Poetry: Sari Grandstaff
Writing poetry has been my creative outlet since childhood. I was captivated by my copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and later by learning about haiku in school.
At my elementary school graduation ceremony I stood alone on the stage and read my original poetry, including these two poems:
I Am I
If you don’t deny/That I am I/Then I’ll think too/That you are you./And if we believe/He has a right to be he/Then we should also believe/She has a right to be she/So then you are you/He is he/She is she/And I don’t deny/That I am I.
The Turntable of Life
You go around and around/On the turntable of life/You go around and you’re a teenager/You go around and you’re a wife/You go around and you have gray hair/That you didn’t have before/You go around and you fall off/And you don’t go around no more.
Quite a departure from the preceding performance by a fellow classmate singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” My mother recollects how after my reading in the packed suburban school cafetorium there was stunned silence. The parents and grandparents, gripping their flowers and balloons, didn’t how to react to this unexpected gravitas from a shrimpy 11-year-old girl. Until my mom started loudly and proudly clapping which everyone then joined in, giving me a thunderous applause and standing ovation.
I persevered with my poetry in junior high school. For a seventh grade English project, I made a book rewriting all the nursery rhymes to make them more feminist. I liberated Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater’s wife, The Old Woman Who Lived in the Shoe and others enslaved by the misnamed patriarchy of Mother Goose. Poetry was liberating, it was freeing!
I took workshops at the public library and local arts center to hone my craft. The daughter of a locally known poet was in one of my workshops with me. I was able to recall that memory many years later when I was applying to that poet to see if he would accept me in an online mentorship. In high school I bought blank journals filling them with my poems of adolescent angst. Poetry was a vessel that could contain my multitudes!
So why do I write poetry? Why do I persist even now into middle age? I write poetry because I can’t not write it. Poetry-writing withdrawal sounds unimaginably painful. There is no rehab program or 12-step support group that could convince me to stop. If writing poetry is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right. I’d rather write.
If you’d like to share why you write poetry, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.