My name is Elise, and I’m so thrilled to share my first book, Drowning Back to Life, with all of you. Ironically, this poem is not from that book, but the inspiration for it is!
I started writing poetry in college, and it was prolific: probably ten or more a day. They would come, I’d type them up in the computer lab on campus, and save them on a floppy disc (floppy disc—you heard me). By the time I was twenty-four, I think I had around 200 poems in a file folder that I kept hidden in my piano bench. No one ever saw them, and at this point, they’re lost to time.
When I first got involved with who I will call He Who Shall Not Be Named, I was still writing like a fiend, and of course, wrote a few about him. I was especially proud of one, and asked if he’d like to read it.
“Not really,” he said.
I thought he was joking. He wasn’t.
And so I stopped writing, just like that. We were together for a decade, have been apart (THANK YOU, GOD) for the past three years, and I only just started writing again this past March, when I saw a submission call for an upcoming anthology from Blind Faith Books called I AM STRENGTH. I had nothing. I wasn’t going to write anything. But, a poem set up shop in my head overnight, and so I woke up, typed it into my cell, and sent it in, under a pseudonym.
Fast-forward to October,2018: I’ve written over 250 poems since May, after the editor and publisher at Blind Faith, Alyssa, told me she thought my work was good enough to be published solo. So, over the course of about four months, my baby, my book, was created and sent to Alyssa for editing and opinions. Up until that point, she had been the only person to EVER see my poetry, and that was nerve-wracking enough, but when she asked if she could give it to another copy editor, I was basically shitting my pants. I don’t do well with criticism, even constructive, and I just knew the more eyes this thing had staring it down, the more negativity it would meet.
I was shopping at SAM’s Club when my cell vibrated with a text from Alyssa, with a copy-pasted reply from the copy editor…who loved it. I’m summarizing, but one of the things she said was something like, I’m surprised Elise didn’t want more people to read this. Her writing is so confident. CONFIDENT?!
I am the LEAST confident woman I know when it comes to most things. But I’ll tell you what: the badass bitch in my head is not. SHE knows what she’s doing. SHE knows her strengths. SHE knows her weaknesses, too, but that’s ok because she’s not perfect and she doesn’t want to be. SHE won’t settle. SHE can attain anything she sets her mind to. SHE will tell you to fuck off if that’s what needs to be said. And she comes out in my writing, but she doesn’t come out of my mouth.
That one comment from that one copy editor (whose one comment gave me the guts to allow another published author to preview the book, by the way, so HUGE thank you to her!) put a glaring spotlight on that disconnect, and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking stronger than I speak or act. Is it because I’m a woman and I’m not supposed to be standing up for myself? Just writing that makes me cringe. Hell no. The women I’ve most admired throughout my life not only stand up for themselves, but for others. No, it’s not my sex: it’s my chronic need to please, and that glitch has no gender. It’s not wrong to make people happy, but it is when you become a doormat, or an easy target for abuse. It’s something I’m continually working on, and publishing this book is, in a way, my rebellious inner badass clawing and kicking her way out in her thigh-high black leather boots, waving her middle finger.
My badass is pretty hot. I hope you like her. And I hope yours comes out to play, too.