The Shape (and Choice) of Love

Tanaya Winder
Mar 20, 2017 · 9 min read
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© Tanaya Winder

An essay by performance poet, writer, and educator Tanaya Winder on coping with loss, and how poetic form, song, and Derek Walcott’s “Love After Love” helped her to “greet herself at the door.”

I’d like to think my story is always beginning, that I am always becoming. Each day I learn something new, a soul lesson. These lessons are often about the world around me, the people I interact with, new realizations about myself and the people I love(d).

As an Indigenous womxn writer who also struggles balancing living in two cultural worlds and confronts colonialism daily, I found hope in Derek Walcott’s poetry.

My ruminations on love came to the forefront again this month, particularly after hearing about the passing of Derek Walcott. I first became introduced to Walcott’s work during my sophomore year at Stanford. My professor was teaching a class on epic poems and we read Walcott’s Omeros. At the time I was obsessed with metaphysical poetry, losing myself in the words of Wallace Stevens, John Donne, and for me, Walcott’s work was magic. As an Indigenous womxn writer who also struggles balancing living in two cultural worlds and confronts colonialism daily, I found hope in Derek Walcott’s poetry. I still strive to be the versatile writer Walcott is acknowledged as. Walcott was a poet who played with form and my young-Indigenous-writer-self loved that his work didn’t always follow a linear path. Love exists outside of time and space and so any work that interrogates, plays with, and expands our knowing of its universal force pulls me in by my heartstrings.

As an artist I give form to my poetry each time I organize lines into their rooms, stanzas of understanding. I consciously think about where I break a line, because in life I don’t always get to choose my breaking points (these are often discovered along the way).

This was the point on my timeline where metaphysical poetry saved me. In 2007, at 22 years of age, I’d taken an independent study on John Donne and Wallace Stevens. I became obsessed with “The Snow Man” and contemplated my own coldness, “one must have a mind of winter / to regard the frost and the boughs.” Everything was connected and you could feel it, see it, even hear it if you became “…the listener, who listens in the snow, / And, nothing himself, beholds / Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” Trying to understand loss, death, grieving felt like an abyss, like whitespace, like holding everything and nothing all at once.

But now, the poet and writer in me ever conscious of language and the words “chose,” “choose,” and “choice.” I choose me. I choose happiness. I choose it see it as the end of me settling for less than I deserve and the strong opening to me knowing my worth.

9 years later I was at another position of choice and a question: would this break me? Or would it become a strong opening statement to whatever came after? Hearing Goodbye My Lover on a warm summer night freshly wounded post-breakup with someone I thought I loved, all of those memories flooded back to me as I drove home on roads I was all too familiar with. I thought, how fucking poetic, this song of all songs to come on the radio. I thought “it must be a sign,” this song is associated with my heart/breaking and I wondered if that song would now always remind me of this man instead of my friend who I’d lost years before.

There is no way I could have stopped this storm from happening; so I’m grateful for the rupture; it reminded me about what I am most passionate about — poetry, running, working with youth, collaborating with artists, uplifting other people, and always returning to heartwork.

He and his love went straight through my once hardened hallways to make me (and my heart) softer. My belly full of love and light finally satiated its hunger and now I know what I am looking for. Now, my heartscape forever changed, I know what I deserve.

Walcott’s poetry and his legacy will live on and I am grateful for the reminder in the power of poetry. “Love after love” came right when I needed it.

10 years ago my friend committed suicide and 1 year ago I started to fall in love with someone I didn’t know would break my heart. Maybe each loss comes with its own lesson. Each loss affects each of us differently. Walcott’s poetry and his legacy will live on and I am grateful for the reminder in the power of poetry. “Love after love” came right when I needed it.

My story is about practicing love (for self, the journey, the path) and acceptance. You learn from the past and you let go of what doesn’t serve you because there is never a reason to keep something or someone who is incapable of holding all the wonderful, overflowing light you are.

My story is about practicing love (for self, the journey, the path) and acceptance. You learn from the past and you let go of what doesn’t serve you because there is never a reason to keep something or someone who is incapable of holding all the wonderful, overflowing light you are. I am grateful for the path and the lessons of the past, but I know now (and I am learning more and more each day) that I’m not meant to live there, not even in memory especially when there is so much wonder and beauty in front of me.

Anomaly

Features Supplement to the Online Journal of Literature and…

Tanaya Winder

Written by

Tanaya Winder is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and performance poet. Follow her @tanayawinder or visit www.tanayawinder.com for more information.

Anomaly

Anomaly

Features Supplement to the Online Journal of Literature and Art

Tanaya Winder

Written by

Tanaya Winder is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and performance poet. Follow her @tanayawinder or visit www.tanayawinder.com for more information.

Anomaly

Anomaly

Features Supplement to the Online Journal of Literature and Art

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