by T.A.K. Erzinger
The Chinese poet Li Po (Tang Dynasty) said, “Writing poetry is like being alive twice.” The experience of writing is individual to each poet and yet when one researches and reads about the poets one admires and aspires to, there is often a common thread. Every poet, no matter when they wrote or where they are in the world, draws on the experience they accumulate during the different stages of their life and the environment they find themselves in. And this shapes the way in which a poem is developed and becomes the defining factor in the texture of their work. For me, writing poetry has given me a voice and an opportunity to relive situations that have been beyond my control. The process of writing has helped me finally feel that I have a voice, whether addressing personal issues or subjects close to my heart, such as nature and environmental and social issues. Furthermore, having grown up in a bilingual, bi-cultural family and now living in a third culture, with a third language, writing has helped me express myself in a language that I feel is all my own.
I have been writing since I was in primary school, keeping journals and penning poems. This continued through college and into my adult life, however as things intensified in my life, writing took a backseat. Sadly, almost three years ago I suffered a breakdown and my life as it was came to screeching halt. About six months into the recovery process, I began writing poetry again for the first time in years. It was as if a tap had been stuck and just needed the right adjustment to begin flowing again. Life and the direction it had taken me in had become unhealthy and part of the reason was that I was not being my authentic self, and part of that self was being able to write. At the core of every poem I write sits the question ‘why’ and the attempt to make sense of the world. My poems often develop into place-centred pieces in hopes of capturing a moment that I have experienced.
I try to write with as much emotional freedom as possible, taking in the moment and/or the environment around me. When a poem begins to emerge in my head, I am usually outdoors and walking in the woods. A single word can pop into my mind, perhaps it emerges when an observation is made and then it lingers. Oftentimes, it is followed by a phrase or a string of words, and then I have to stop what I am doing and write the words down in one of my little notepads that I carry in my back pocket, or jot them down in my phone. After I take down these ideas, I begin working and re-working them by hand, in a journal. For me, writing is a very tactile experience. Once I have a skeleton of a poem, I begin typing it into the computer.
I draw inspiration from many places, however the landscape of the Zürich highlands appears again and again in my poetry. Many times, I find myself mixing the boundaries of self and nature in my work. The more I step out into nature, the more poetry reveals itself. Getting outside is a necessity, like breathing, and essential for me to keep going forward with my writing and to be well-balanced. I do not feel that humanity and nature are separate but intrinsically connected, and this belief is reflected in my poems.
I like to experiment with blurring the lines between nature and oneself. When I step outside, I also feel a sense of urgency with respect to the environment. Through writing I hope to capture people’s hearts and imagination, moving them both emotionally and physically to also step outside. By doing so with a poem, I aim to keep the dialogue going about the importance of the natural world in our day-to-day lives, how it has the power to heal. In some small way, it makes me feel like I am fulfilling my sense of duty to the natural world by raising awareness about environmental issues.
Another way I ‘discover’ my poems is through avid reading. When I come across an article, a documentary or a news story that evokes an emotion, certain words or phrases jump out at me from these reports or stories. I then write them in my journals, creating a collection of snippets. Writing a ‘found’ poem is comparable to up-cycling, taking an already used object and reshaping it for a different use. From there, I take out certain words or phrases and begin playing around with the structure, trying to create the sentiment I wish to convey. After I piece together a collage, it eventually begins to take the shape of a poem. In the end, it holds the essence of the original inspiration, but most of the time is greatly changed to suit the final poem.
Ultimately, each writer has their individual routine that they go through in the creative process, in which their poems or stories arrive. Each writer is trying to make sense of the world, their place in it and how they relate to it. No matter when, where or how a poem or a story is revealed to a writer, it is important to be prepared, to make time and space for it on a regular basis in order to develop the craft and be continually surprised by the direction it takes them in.
You can read three of Tania’s poems here.
T.A.K. Erzinger is an American/Swiss poet and artist with a Latino background. Her poems have been published by The Mojave He[art] Review, The Beautiful Space Journal, The Cirrus Poetry Review, The Curlew, The Rising Phoenix Review and more. Her close relationship with nature and her struggles with PTSD feature prominently in her work. The themes in her poetry touch upon varying degrees of loss, forgiveness and healing, as well as some environmental and social commentary. Her debut poetry collection, Found: Between the Trees, was released in April 2019 by Grey Borders Books and is currently available at www.greyborders.com
She lives in the Zürich highlands with her husband and cats.