Songs of the Sea
By Diana Farid
Liner notes were my first poetry books. The lyrics of songs swept me up. When we read Shakespeare in language arts class, I recognized the space around the words, the rhythm of language, the sounds of the words like notes and beats. When I got my hands on Coleman Barks’ translation of Rumi’s poetry, The Essential Rumi, or read translations of Japanese poetry, I saw that music again. There’s a universal language in the cadence and images that words can sing and paint when they break free of sentences. No matter the language or culture, when our search for understanding through poetry drops words onto a page, like drops onto a watery reality we are trying to understand, we see ripples of truth and find comfort in how they flow. In this sense, poetry is a universal language, a kind of water that connects us unbound by borders or cultures.
Wave (Cameron & Company, 2022) is my ode to the healing power of poetry. The words in it take the shape of waves, matching the waves its surfer characters ride, but also matching the feeling of the moment being described. Sometimes the poems are shaped like wings, as a character broadens her perspective, or flies into a new experience.
Waves and wings remind me of the Southern California Pacific Ocean I grew up near. At the edge of a vast ocean world, there is a sense of unknown possibilities. Growing up, when I swam, boogie boarded, or surfed in the ocean, I could, even if for brief moments, feel the full force of life where I might find a ride I never expected, but have always wanted. I still feel that way.
For me, stepping into the ocean is a lot like entering a poem. Because poems are where emotions, that often feel mysterious and vast, are given sound and space. Like the rhythm of crashing ocean waves, poems are a song I can revisit, explore, and maybe even find transcendence in.
I wish, as a student of language and poetry, I was introduced to the idea of writing as exploration earlier. When I am overjoyed, ecstatic, in pain, confused, overwhelmed, or I don’t know how to move forward, I write. Often, I’m looking for an answer I don’t know. Sometimes I find an answer, a way to move forward. But even when I don’t, if I’ve described my experience truthfully, I at least find a kind of song I can re-visit and sing that makes me feel better. And even cooler, I’ve found that if I share these poems, I discover that I’m not alone. And that connection is healing.
I wish I knew earlier that stepping into my own words, my own story, is powerful medicine. I’d love for all my writing to be a part of every child seeing that they have access to exploring that ocean within themselves as well. I can’t wait to hear what their songs sound like, and how they will help carry us to shore.
Text and images are courtesy of Diana Farid and may not be used without expressed written consent.
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