Writer Priyanka Saju finds strength in vulnerability, through crafting poems about family, resistance and creativity

Priyanka Saju is a creative writer, poet and marketing consultant who shares with the world simple but meaningful verses, not necessarily with rhyme, about being a woman and witnessing the world through nature’s lens.

We recently found Priyanka’s Instagram and fell in love with her poetry and methods of sharing the words she creates. Priyanka continuously explores and reworks the definition of her creative process through her writing. She tells A Quarter Young about the strength and resistance that evolves when faced with vulnerability and that to create is also to flow.

Read our full interview, now:

  1. How long have you been writing poetry?

Poetry has been a lifetime love affair for me, with a long drawn out separation in the middle. I always loved reading as a kid, and my curiosity led me to poetry at a young age. I remember the first book I ever bought with my own money was The Immortal Poems of the English Language. Granted, it was a dense book for an eight-year old, but it was my most prized possession. It wasn’t until my early teens though that I started to write poetry. I loved it, and the power it gave me to express myself.

Then, as things happen, I was discouraged by a piece of feedback a high school English teacher once gave me and let poetry go. It sounds silly now, knowing it took just a few careless comments to pull me away from my words, my power. It has taken me almost 20 years to find my way back, and I’m not letting someone’s opinions keep me from it again.

  1. When did you first identify with the word, “writer?”

It’s funny, I still struggle with that title every day. For so long I worried I needed someone’s “permission” to call myself a writer. Unlike all of the other careers I’ve had – and yes, I’ve had many – “writer” is the first title I’ve given myself. Not by a boss or through classical training, but by practicing this craft for myself, by myself, every day. I write, so I am a writer.

  1. Do you remember the first time you wrote something? What was that experience like?

I spent the majority of my twenties chasing different potential futures for myself; futures that would “maximize my potential.” I had been searching for so long that I forgot what it was like to be still and present. I took some time this past year to do just that. In the summer, I was fortunate enough to participate in a workshop about connecting to my feminine power. The power we can access from pleasure and ease, something completely foreign to me. I always felt like I needed to strive, to push, to struggle my way across the finish line of my goals. This approach helped me to reframe not what I wanted, but how I was going to get it.

I was reflecting on this work on a quiet July afternoon, when the words to my first poem in almost 20 years came to me. It was a poem dedicated to my womb. From then on, the words haven’t stopped. It was a surprising, thrilling and cathartic experience.

  1. Has sharing your poems publicly always been something you’ve done? If no, what steps did you take to launch your words into the world?

No, absolutely not. I am very new to the idea of sharing my poems, or really any part of my inner world online. For so long I excluded myself from social media because I just felt so messy and unfinished inside. None of it made sense to me, so how would it ever make sense to the world? I guess I was trapped in a belief where if I hid, that it would be better than showing the world how lost I felt.  

The decision to share my poems with the world came in part from the support of my husband and friends, and by a desire to complete the creative cycle. I had written over 200 poems in the matter of a few months, and started to feel that unless I shared my work with the world I wouldn’t be clearing space for new inspiration to come.

I decided it was time to stand in my own light and publish my poems under my name. I was tired of hiding behind the easily digestible parts of my life and leaving the messy, unfinished, beautiful parts hidden.

  1. There can often be fear and vulnerability when sharing such personal work and art. Have you experienced anything like this? If yes, what’s this side of the journey been like?

So much of my poetry is about standing in my truth, no matter how vulnerable and polarizing it is. Honestly, I still get a little pit in my stomach every time I share something new – past conditioning, I guess. Still, the act of putting myself out there has been one of the greatest lessons for me in courage and self-acceptance. Every time I post something I dare to live the life I’d like to live, by acting like the person I’d like to be.

My hope is that by sharing my vulnerability, and the messy sincere parts, it gives others permission to do the same.

  1. What inspires you to keep writing and sharing?

Writing has been a beautiful gift in my life. It has been a way to make sense of complicated feelings, a way to honour my experience and a way to play with reality. It is the first time I’ve truly felt productive without it feeling like work. I wouldn’t say that I am inspired to write so much as I am inspired by writing.

Sharing, on the other hand, requires me to out-negotiate all the voices in my head that would suggest I do otherwise. It is a practice in showing up for myself, again and again, and demonstrating to myself that I am worthy and have something to say.

Priyanka Saju. Photo by: Darius Bashar Photography.
  1. What would you say is the best part of sharing your perspectives, experiences, and thoughts through poetry?

What I love most about poetry is that it doesn’t have to be linear. There doesn’t need to be a clear start or a tidy end. It can be sensory and still make sense. So much of what I experience, what I believe we all experience, are these fragments of feeling in our day-to-day lives. For me, poetry is the perfect way to capture these thoughts because it is not limited by specific rules or form. It can be shapeless and fluid enough to capture these middle places, or tight and powerful to make a clear point. Poetry’s versatility is what makes it so lovely to me.  

  1. A lot of your poems mention your family, Mother Nature, the earth, florals and foliage, resistance and creativity. What do you think you’re drawn to these themes and concepts?

For the most part, I write my poetry for myself. I do it to make sense of an experience, to clarify my feelings, and understand my spirituality. The themes o are all very real things in my life that inform and inspire the content of my work. f family, resistance, and creativity

Mother Nature has a very different place for me. I made a deliberate effort to spend more time outdoors this year and found so much inspiration in how Mother Nature does her thing. I look to the beautiful systems that plants, florals and the earth have created for the way they exist. I think that if we pay attention, there are lessons in this for all of us.

  1. Out of all the poems you’ve written, do you have a favourite one? Why do you think that’s so?

I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that! It’s so hard to pick a favourite. Each one has a special place for me. If I had to pick though, I’d say that Paper Snowflakes is a current favourite. The poem is actually a nod to Emily Dickinson’s poem, I Never Saw a Moor. It was one of my favourite poems from The Immortal Poems of The English Language. It was so simply written and rhymed, something that made a lot of sense to nine-year old me, but actually spoke about the very complicated topic of faith (something I’m still working through at 32).

Faith, and spirituality in general, have been very big personal themes for me this past year. While I haven’t quite worked through it all yet, I still can’t help to marvel at nature and witness higher consciousness in it. For me, this poem captures both the simplicity and complexity in that experience.

  1. Who’s your favourite poet or writer to gain insight from?

I am awed by all of the courageous, powerful writers that put their work out there. Lately, I have been particularly inspired by Yrsa Daley-Ward, Rupi Kaur, and Nayirah Waheed. I love that their work often speaks of their intersectional experiences, and does so powerfully in so few words.

  1. Being a creative person myself, sometimes it can be hard to gain motivation and inspiration to write and make new art. What do you do or where do you go to find inspiration?

It’s funny, I’ve found that when I take the pressure off of focusing on my writing, and instead allow myself to feel personally good, the work flows naturally. “Good” for me isn’t happy per se, but rather feeling grounded and present to the stories and the experiences happening all around me. The inspiration is always there, but unless I put myself in a better place, I will struggle to find it. That’s when writing gets hard for me.

In terms of motivation, I am still working through that, to be honest. So far, I’ve been lucky enough to have my own personal deadlines to work against. In those cases, if I feel like my writing is getting too forced, I allow myself to build the hunger again by shifting my focus to finding inspiration or working on other creative projects. Eventually, when I do sit down to write, the work is fuelled by desire instead of deadlines.

  1. How do you organize time to write and create? Is it structured or more fluid?

I’m still trying to work out my “system.” So far, I’ve focused on staying present in my day-to-day life, and allowing my feelings to come. This is the best inspiration for poetry I’ve been able to find so far. Sometimes the feelings are based on my experiences, sometimes they are empathetic feelings for others in my life. I keep a notebook or my phone with me at all times to capture any half-formed thoughts or poems. I have hundreds of these fragments saved as drafts.

I don’t force the poem to form then, unless it comes to me at once. I typically wait until I am in a more creative flow and pick up the fragments that speak to me and complete the thoughts.

This process, if I can call it that, is frustrating sometimes because I’m typically a pretty schedule-oriented person in the rest of my life. This is the only thing that has come so fluidly to me, so I do my best not to impose limitations on it.

  1. What advice do you have for upcoming writers and creators, who may hope to start sharing their work?

I would tell them that I completely understand that sharing your work can be a vulnerable process. While there is a risk that people won’t like your work, the greater risk is in not sharing it at all. Sharing your work is a way to demonstrate to yourself that you support yourself; That it was simply enough that you liked your art and wanted to show it to the world. In my opinion, that is the reward in itself.

  1. When you’re not writing poetry, what other projects to you find yourself working on?

Creatively, when I’m not writing poetry, I am taking time to enjoy and explore other styles of writing. I am (slowly) working on my first novel now. I also love to create with my hands and have been designing and making my own clothes since I was a teenager. I’m not a professional by any stretch, but love the craftsmanship and imagination required to turn bolts of fabric into clothes we can live and express our lives in.

Outside of my creative pursuits, I have my own consulting company. Right now, I focus on supporting clients with marketing and change management strategy.  

  1. What do you hope 2018 will bring for Priyanka Saju Poetry?

It’s my dream to publish a collection of poems. For now, I am focusing on creating though, and allowing myself the space to stay in flow. I plan to continue to share my work, and hope that it resonates with people. While that’s not why I write, it has been so amazing to have people share how my work has spoken to them. I am truly humbled.

I am also excited that one of my poems will be included in the upcoming Feels Zine’s Anger issue in January. I love the work they do and it’s such an honour to be included.

  1. Do you have anything else to add?

I love A Quarter Young’s focus on celebrating subjective definitions of success. I found I was too quick to define success when I was younger. I was so worried that I wouldn’t get there, to that mythical place, that I limited its definition to a few very objectively tame things, things that I thought were “realistically attainable.”

It was only when I reached those goals that I realized they were false targets. It took opening up the definition of success from a destination, to a way of being in the world, that made all the difference for me. For me, today, I embrace my creativity and do my best to stay authentic in the art I create, and that makes me my own successful.

Priyanka Saju. Photo by: Darius Bashar Photography.

Our favourite poem by Priyanka is called Margarine – it’s a short and powerful analysis of the fake nourishment we give to ourselves and in turn, allow the world to give us. For more information about Priyanka and the wonderful words she crafts, follow her on Instagram at @priyanka.saju and on Facebook at Priyanka Saju Poetry.

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