I am hardly a consistent optimist, but one positive I have noticed in a flood of negatives over the past few months is the way so many of us turn to the arts for comfort. I see dozens of posts each day on social media asking for book recommendations or sharing poems that sparked a sense of connection or beauty. I am reminded how literature – and poetry in particular – is a means of making sense of all this madness and of creating community, even when we are ten feet apart.
I came to poetry as an adolescent, overwhelmed with emotions too big and confusing for me to control. Even then, I used poems to process all I was feeling and to give myself some agency in a world that, for the most part, didn’t really care what I wanted and over which I had no control. Though I have adopted some strategies for coping with my emotions and my perspective is a bit more balanced now than it was back then, I still need poems – the ones I read and the ones I write – to figure out my place in the world.
My first collection of poems, Chaos Theories, examines relationships through the lens of science. For me, having a filter through which to explore my subjects allows me the distance to be objective. For example, I was able to write about the suicide of a close friend by adopting the language of physics and using metaphors from that field to describe my own emotional reality. In my second collection, Girls Like Us, I don’t allow myself quite as much distance from the subject. After the public discourse about sexual assault and misogyny blew up with Trump’s inauguration and with the onset of #MeToo, many old hurts resurfaced for me, as they did for so many women I know. I had to write through all of this and realized that many poems I had been working on were really about what it is to be a woman in world that expects us to be so many contradictory things. The process of writing these poems, though painful at times, was incredibly empowering, and it is my hope that readers will share in that sense of empowerment. The book’s journey, at least as I envisioned it, is one through which the speaker gains a stronger sense of self, wrestles with her own purpose, and ultimately finds the strength to use her voice.
Although many of the poems in Girls Like Us examine the conflicts and traumas associated with being female, there is another thread that runs through the collection: love. I have never been comfortable writing poems that express joy. I am always afraid of becoming sentimental or cliché; however, there are happy aspects of my recent experience to temper the difficulties. Girls Like Us does explore the wreckage of my first marriage and the subsequent bender I went on the for next few years, but it also explores the process of coming out of that period of self-destruction. As I wrote this book, I stopped drinking, curbed my disordered eating, met my now-husband, and finally started to feel comfortable (most of the time) in my own skin. There is triumph as much as there is darkness in this book, and above all of that, there is love.
One of my favorite poems in the collection is also one of the few love poems I have ever written, as its simple title suggests:
Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.
Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.
May 15: Allie Reads (Review)
May 19: the bookworm (Guest Post)
May 26: The Book Lover’s Boudoir (Review)
May 28: Impressions in Ink (Review)
June 2: Vidhya Thakkar (Review)
June 9: Everything Distils Into Reading (Review)
June 11: Read, Write and Life Around It (Review)
June 15: Readaholic Zone (Review)
June 16: Read, Write and Life Around It (Interview – tentative)
June 24: Anthony Avina Blog (Review)
June 26: Anthony Avina Blog (Guest Post)
June 30: Review Tales by Jeyran Main (Review)
July 9: The Book Connection (Review)
July 22: Diary of an Eccentric (Review)
July 7: CelticLady’s Reviews (Spotlight/video)