Clear Spot Club spoke to the Sydney poet Eileen Chong.
How did writing help with your broken heart?
The late poet Dorothy Porter said that she never knew what she was feeling until her poems told her. And in a way, I think my poetry already reflected my awareness that not all was well in my relationship, long before I consciously acknowledged it to myself or to anyone else. When my heart was broken, writing was what kept me going—it helped me process my feelings and to make new connections with the creation of each poem. And I also knew when I started to heal, because my poems reflected more hope in them, rather than grief, or maybe alongside the grief.
I've done really embarrassing things when I've had a broken heart - texting my ex, going to places I knew he may be. Have you done stuff like that?
I’ve always been the one to leave major relationships; that doesn’t mean your heart is any less broken. So it’s difficult when you were the instigator of a break-up, because you have to also be the one to set the boundaries of how much contact you maintain, at least initially. I did ring my ex in tears the night our cat was run over by a car; later I regretted doing so, but it felt right in that moment.
What advice do you give for people with a broken heart?
I’ve written a poem about this, ‘Trick’, in my third collection of poetry, Painting Red Orchids, which I wrote while living on my friends’ couch in their basement. I was essentially homeless. I had the belongings I could take in my car; and nowhere permanent to live. I didn’t want to be in their way, so every morning I’d wake up early and slip out of their home and go swimming in the late winter in the sea-pool nearby, until everyone left for work or school.
Here is the poem:
Eileen will be speaking at a panel discussion on May 30 on "What to do with a broken heart".