by Natasha Ganes
A few years ago while on the phone with a friend, she started describing a massive thunderstorm that nailed her area the night before. “It was unbelievably loud. Remember how scared you’d get as a kid during a thunderstorm? You know, the lights would go out and you’d just lose it. It was just like that – just like how a thunderstorm felt when you were a kid.” Of course I knew exactly what she meant and found myself right back there in the dark, counting the seconds between thunder and lighting to gauge the amount of time it would take to wipe out our house. Three seconds equaled a distance of three miles. Two seconds, two miles. Anything less than that and we’d all be squashed for sure. And in that moment of quivering down memory lane a single sentence flashed through my mind: “Like the thunderstorms of childhood, I hold you there.”
That sentence soon found its way into the next poem I wrote, “Growling Heat,” which was later published in the Spring 2011 issue of Muddy River Poetry Review. Or rather, that sentence summed up the very emotion I decided to explore in my next poem and became the motivation to write it in the first place. Would the poem exist in its current state if that conversation hadn’t occurred? Not likely. I could sit in front of my computer all day and, without reference to a thunderstorm, never think about their terrifying power or ability to scare the holy hell out of a child.
My father once remarked that correspondence via the written word is often superior to a verbal conversation, in that the process of writing forces you to slow down and think through what you want to say prior to saying it. I’m inclined to agree with him – with the luxury of time, your ability to focus heightens and with it so do the words you choose to express yourself. In that sense, writing is a much more creative process than picking up the phone and saying the first thing that comes out of your mouth. Except sometimes those very quick and casual verbal conversations can lead you straight to the very sentence you wanted to write.
Of course it’s not only the words we use or hear that create art. Every one of our senses, everything around us, can generate an idea. The most ordinary event, like a wasp flying near your face (see below), can spark an emotion that turns into the very thought you wish to express. Whether you write about it, sing about it, take a picture of it, or put it on a canvas, every artist’s pursuit of creativity stems from the same place – observing and exploring the world around us.
What I seek to find in you
fills the sky with black doubt.
Flashing floods of fear
kill my memories, keep me still.
Like the thunderstorms of childhood,
I hold you there.
Back in the place when you first came to me,
A hungry wasp,
I dodge into your path,