My earliest memories of writing poetry are from early high school. I was distraught by the news of an 8-year-old girl who had gone missing and struggling to keep my young heart from breaking. The thought of what may have happened to her pulled my adolescent mind in many dangerous directions, and my observant mother encouraged me to write about it. I let my emotions saturate the page and in doing so it gave me a way to express and grieve something that I didn’t understand.
Over the years I wrote a lot of poetry but never understood its power until late last year when my corporate life came tumbling down. My position was made redundant. I was so sure this was my path despite decades of swinging around the mulberry bush trying to be a writer then abandoning the notion then swinging back again. Despite my attempts to have a ‘legitimate’ kind of work-life, this was not going to happen, and my Swiss-cheese work history led me back to the pen yet again.
I have always used writing to express my thoughts and feelings despite my lack of confidence. It was no different this time, and after penning my emotions for a few days, I felt drawn to reflect on the years of poetry I had accumulated.
Within a week I had collected, and digitised hundreds of pieces written from my teenage years through to my latest pieces written that week. It was a moment of revelation. I realised I had spent a lifetime exploring the written word in poetic form. The extent of it was surprising. This may not seem a lot to some, but this was significant for me and was the impetus for my first collection, Phoenix, which I released in March 2020.
I have battled Bipolar 2 Disorder, generalised anxiety and panic disorder, depression, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder since my teens. Using the written word to come to terms with my emotions and mental health challenges gave me a sense of grounding, often keeping me from making relationship-altering mistakes. But many times, my heart closed the curtains and locked the doors, with swathes of time passing before another word hit the page. Having such a collection revealed I had been using this form of creativity to clear the mental fog, share my experiences with the world and heal the hard-to-reach places of my heart and mind despite these gaps.
I am often asked, why poetry? Poetry provides the space to write the most distilled version of what I want to say, revealing a crystallised exploration of topics I find otherwise difficult to write about. To use such a medium has become a true godsend for me, has helped me come to terms with grief, anger and betrayal and express joy, love, and compassion. It has become my steppingstone into the world that I believe presents the purest form of who I am as a writer.
I now seek out amazing lesser-known poets and have had the privilege to hear some of them recite in person. It is a wonder to watch a craftsman at one with their craft and an honour to watch their work unfold before you. I carry these writers’ words in my toolbox, pulling them out when I need some courage or direction. I have never read an extensive amount of published poetry and had little exposure to classic works through school. I am self-taught with a terrible memory for who wrote what, but when a poet speaks my language, I listen and I hold dear those moments that help me rise, too.
As 2020 unfolds in the most extraordinary and unpredictable way, my focus as a writer is sharpening. My pen hits the page more and the story of life, as it is in this historical time, is unfolding in ways that it never has. It has become clear to me that contemporary poets and total unknowns like myself must take the time and effort to speak on the page and deliver our unique thoughts to the world as our predecessors did.
There is no time in history when our words matter more. We must speak. We must share for this is the power of poetry: that someone will read our words one day and, like us, find themselves in our story and wake up to their own.
Miriam E. Miles writes on mental wellness, faith, societal relationship, and how these topics intersect. Based in the Hunter Valley, Australia, her passion is to expand a reader’s understanding and challenge them to think outside their own metrics. She has recently released Phoenix, an abstract poetic autobiography chronicling the battle toward mental wellness through the lens of faith.