The last time I opened myself, well, who
can remember while the young have no
boundaries. Imagine if all just moved
around in metaphorical pots, did
not intrude on each other! Nonetheless,
climbing vines exist, always greedy for
sun, in fact, and therefore able to scale
anything, as if they were on the play
ground, which is, of course, what made me into
what spreads before you now: prolific and
common, prodigious and unstoppable.
Reflective Essay by Sandra Kolankiewicz
How wonderful to find a term for what I have trying to do with language my whole life: transformation. Although I began writing at a very early age, writing, coloring, and stapling a book called “The Ghostly Horse and Other Stories” when I was five, I did not really understand the transformative power of language until my father died to save my family in a fire when I was nine. He died of loss of blood and smoke inhalation in my bedroom, specifically, the last room he got to in the smoke, having had to break the window with his bare arms. Writing was what allowed me to survive, something I turned to in order to heal, an activity that allowed me to disappear in the creative process.
Another way my writing is transformative is through its connection to others. I used to wait for inspiration, but now as I have studied the nature of creative energy, I realize the energy is always out there and all I have to do is open myself up to it. Like some sort of crazy empath, I ‘hear’ a wavelength and turn it into a particle: a poem, paragraph, or story. I cannot tell you how many times people have contacted me to say that I wrote their obscure story, that they recognize themselves in a poem that I merely threw my head back, closed my eyes, and wrote. We write not only our own stories in whatever genre we choose, but we also compose each other’s tales as well and in doing so increase our capacity for empathy.
Finally, I attempt to help others enjoy the activity of exploration of life through language. I teach developmental English and attempt to help my students arrive at the point where they can joyfully express themselves through language. We have just added creative writing to our general education, and soon we will be working with students to publish a review that is both online and in hard copy. In addition, we arrange performances that encourage self-expression and community.
As far as these particular poems go, “Especially If” is written about working with people who view writing and literature as subjects that have always made them feel inadequate and ignorant. Simultaneously, I have worked with colleagues who believe that my choice of professional focus, developmental education, means that I am as ‘intellectually inferior’ as the students I teach. To sum up their attitude, if I had any brains at all, why would I waste them with that population? Their perspective amounts to bullying, and it inspired this poem.
A Real One Would Point Out” is about how outsiders feel when they don’t know the ‘common language’ and don’t fit the specs, whatever they are.
Finally, “Morning Glory” is about surviving and thriving—and the tension between living among others or overrunning and dominating them.
Through these poems, I transform my feelings into art that communicates with others so that we don’t feel so alone and instead feel understood. In these poems, nature is either absent, which makes for high anxiety, or the natural is a place of safety and transformative metaphor. I hope you like them.
Sandra Kolankiewicz poems and stories have appeared widely over the past 35 years, most recently in London Magazine, Crannog, New World Writing, IthacaLit, and Cape Rock. Black Lawrence Press published Turning Inside Out. Finishing Line published The Way You Will Go and Lost in Transition.