Tag Archives: Poetry

Emily Dickinson and I

One of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson is “I’m nobody! Who are you?” because I can relate to being on the outside looking in. It is a poem about us vs. them and challenges authority (the somebodies) while seducing the reader into complicity with the writer:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

Poet. Recluse. Brilliant. Dead at 56. Emily Dickinson is a paradox.
I found Dickinson at a time when life wasn’t kind to an awkward adolescent with frizzy hair, thick glasses, and crooked teeth. Her poems spoke to me then, and I often turn to them now when I’m feeling lonely, sad, or in need of inspiration. Dickinson became a celebrated poet posthumously because of her unique, compact phrases and quirky use of form and syntax. She praised nature’s beauty, questioned death and immortality, and paradoxically expressed opinions: what may make perfect sense is actually madness and what may sound crazy is perfectly sensible.

During Dickinson’s lifetime only a handful of her poems were published. After her death, her family found 40 hardbound booklets containing nearly 1,800 poems crafted by her hand. It was a labor of love for Dickinson who found comfort in words, yet she kept her words to herself. Instructed to burn her letters after her death, Dickinson’s sister Lavinia, ignored the request and had them typed, edited and published. In the end Dickinson became famous – a somebody she railed against in her poem – or did she?

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Like Dickinson, I am a prolific writer.
I have filled hundreds of journals and notebooks with prose, poetry and unfinished bits and pieces. These now reside in bins and drawers in my home. Like Dickinson, I dread the thought of someone finding my raw thoughts and would not want them published after my death. Sometimes I write about the same things over and over until I get it right. However, doubt seeps in just after I hit publish. Could I have made this sentence stronger? Is there a more descriptive word? Am I grammatically correct? So, I get Dickinson’s reluctance to have her work made public for others to comment and question.

Why does art lead to suffering?
I am fortunate to have many wonderful people in my life who lift me up when I’m feeling dislocated, isolated, and on the brink of throwing in the towel: You are good enough. You have a strong voice. You are a great writer. It’s important to surround yourself with those who listen, offer encouragement, and nudge you to get outside your comfort zone.

A while back, I met with author and columnist Pam Sherman and told her about the book I was writing, explaining that it was part meditation, part parenting lessons. And then I said: Who am I to write about parenting? I’m no expert. I’m just a mom sharing lessons I’ve learned from my raising my son.

You know what she said? “Your humility is cute, Kris, but it’s not helping you. The best thing you said was that you are a mom. You can help others by telling your story. You have something to share. You are a writer.”

Who am I? I am a writer, a mother, and an author.
Last year I published a book – Mommy Musings: Lessons on motherhood, love and life. It celebrates the big and small events, and conundrums, that I discovered in my own motherhood journey.

Instead of writing it long hand in a hardbound book like Dickinson, I typed it on my Mac and uploaded it to amazon. Now available in print and digital versions, Mommy Musings offers nineteen unexpected and uplifting true stories, each followed by a lesson and invitation to notice life’s joy and wonder.

Writing and publishing this book is a gift to myself more than anything else because it has allowed me to let go. I know now that I can’t hold on to my stories and keep them for myself. I have to release the darlings and share them with the world. Maybe, just maybe they will bring clarity, awareness and a little joy to someone.

I am public like a frog. I am somebody. Who are you?

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I write like that

Photo by Brandon Dilbeck

I write like that: in fits and stops.

Bits of prose, poetry, and rhyme wind along the road to nowhere. There is no ending, yet. There is just a feeling I must put on paper. This feeling spills from my finger tips, into my notebook or on the screen. Captured. 

I am crushing it.

I can’t keep up. These swirls of words inside my mind sound radiant. Magnificent. If only I could keep up with my racing thoughts, but not edit. No, just let inspiration flow intimately, brilliantly until my body is wrung out, sore from sitting in the same position for hours. Words flow until I have nothing left to give.

I travel from lush, memory palaces to bare, brittle branches swaying upon brisk gusts on an autumn morning. I lean into the vortex to see if there is more, and tumble down the rabbit hole. I let myself be pulled in and engulfed in arc and flame. Again, I am blinded by the ebony of darkness – an absence of light and clarity.

How did it come to this?

A self-imposed bipolar diagnosis. Once calm like the blue-white sea waters on the travel brochure promising magic, and then manic like a puppy who can’t contain herself when a familiar scent walks into the room. From this to that. From cool detached observance, to the hot, angry tear of flesh rippling with sarcasm. From the prickly numbness of my hand falling asleep, to the certainty of meditative uncomfortableness.

I awaken.

And pop a lemon drop in my mouth, which always reminds me of my grandmother Grace.

Are you looking for me? What I found in a poem.


Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.


The evocative first line of this poem gave me pause. Written more than six centuries ago by Indian mystic and poet Kabir and translated by American poet Robert Bly, the poem is a conversation with God, who’s no virgin to IM-ing with poets about life. The rest of the poem reads:

My shoulder is against yours.

You will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine rooms, nor synagogues, nor in cathedrals:

not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables,

When you really look for me, you will see me instantly –

you will find me in the tiniest house of time.

Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?

He is the breath inside the breath.

More than anything, I found comfort in the lines of this poem. its meaning transcends religion and touches the core of faith. What is faith, but a belief in somebody or something? In this case, faith is God. Kabir reminds me that God lives inside of me and everyone. It’s easy to forget that God sits next to each of us on this noisy bus of life, especially when the people I love are facing difficult challenges.

Poems have different meanings to different people, so what does it mean to you?

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