Maryana Garcia - The Art of Expression

Last Sunday I had the joy of sharing my story with a bunch of dreamers and doers at the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival. I was stomach churning nervous and my hands were shaking so much that I thought I might do an unintentional #micdrop. But the sun shone on the day (both literally and figuratively), and I enjoyed every second of it. So in order to thank all the attendees for paying attention in the heat, and for laughing at a couple of my attempts at humour, and also to encourage everyone who couldn’t make it, I’ve decided to share my words with you in the form of a blog. After all, the art of expression is in the end about sharing.

All photos in this post were taken by the incredible  MHB Photography .

All photos in this post were taken by the incredible MHB Photography.

As I did on Sunday, I will start with a poem. This poem is called Glass Questions, and I wrote it for National Poetry Day 2018.

Glass Questions

My Grandad was a slow talker.

He liked to hold words as if they were broken glass,

Like they could cut him if he moved wrong.

He liked saying, “I am glue,”

Filling the cracks between thought and speech,

Making up for all the meaning we have lost.

My Grandad was a slow talker.

He taught us that asking the wrong question is the worst kind of mistake.

Mistakes like asking for a name to shame

So that we can play the blame game, when we should be asking,

“What makes us and them the same?”

To ask “How much?” as if success were a concrete noun.

To ask “What should they do next?” instead of “What are we doing now?”

The question mark, Grandad said, is a symbol of gravity.

If you forget what it means you never learn to fly.

My Grandad was a slow talker.

His favourite sound was the awkward silence

Because he liked to watch people stop.  

Never get used to running, he would say.

Or you will find yourself chasing bottomless circles

Kicking up so much dust your lungs will learn to choke on cleaner air.

Then it will be hard to own your dust storm, he said.

Hard to stand in the eye of it to see the sky.

My Grandad was a slow talker.

He taught us that words are like glass, breakable.

Sometimes they are sharp and cutting

But they can also be prisms that make magic from ordinary sunshine.

They can be windows that open to breath taking futures where…

We. Children. Remember.

I chose to share that poem because I think expression is overflow, a tangible sign of the truth that we have inside us. So the poem ‘Glass Questions’  and poetry in general, is one way for me to express things I know to be true.

Truth #1: No one else can be who you are. And that makes you a gift. That means that the world would not be the same without you.

That means that it's okay to be different because everyone is different. That means that no one else has looked on this time and this place through your eyes or with your memories. So the art of expression is closely linked with the art of knowing ourselves.

For as long as I can remember I have walked around with stories and words like flashing light bulbs inside me. Very hard to ignore. At home that was okay because we are a storytelling family.

But at school it was a different story. I still get a bit nervous around team sports because I got used to most people hitting me with the ball on purpose. I remember Dad bodyguard walking me to class when he dropped me off.

Now, with hindsight I can admit that the situation while wrong (because bullying is always wrong) was pretty simple. We just didn't understand each other. To be fair, it’s hard to make friends if the girl sitting next to you in class is carving I heart Leo DiCaprio into her desk while I read The Silmarillion once a year.  When you’re nine years old that’s an insurmountable difference. A gap in tastes and interests that we didn’t know how to bridge.

What primary school kids don’t know yet, what we need to teach our children is that …

Being different doesn’t make you better or worse. It just makes you you.

Being bullied taught me that I couldn't change who I was, what I liked to read, or what I was passionate about. And more importantly that I didn't want to be anybody but myself.

I look back now and I am grateful for all of it. Even the painful parts. Because it’s now part of my story. It's part of why I can stand here in front of you and say I am a poet. That I work hard at my craft to try to be the best poet that I can. So that I can do my own story justice. This brings me to the second thing I know to be true.

The couple on the right are my proud parents. They are such supportive voices.

The couple on the right are my proud parents. They are such supportive voices.

Truth #2: We are all under construction.

Our talents will always need development just like muscles need exercise. Poetry is one of the only trained muscles I have. I try to keep growing by surrounding myself with good people who care. Because nothing wakes up people like other people. My parents encouraged me to enter my first poetry competition. I will never forget the day that Gemma came to me and said, Seed Waikato wants your words. God is another voice. He and I have heaps of random conversations. Sometimes I am ready for them, sometimes I’m not. Family, friends, community, God: these are the voices that pull me up.

Equally important are the voices who pushed me to be better. Brene Brown said creatives have to know how to fall and rise strong. I cannot tell you how many emails I have gotten saying, “We are sorry but we will not be printing your work in our next issue.” It takes time to read that and see not rejection of yourself but a challenge for your work. And that’s the struggle. But if I didn’t get rejection letters I would probably be writing the same poem over and over, and over again.

Yes, we are enough. But our work could maybe be better expressions of the truth inside us. The art of expression can be about balancing that feedback so that we grow.

The amazing Kendyl Morris owning her platform and speaking to the truth in the Art of Expression.

The amazing Kendyl Morris owning her platform and speaking to the truth in the Art of Expression.

Truth #3: We must own our platforms.

All we really have is right now. All we have to do is show up. One of my favourite authors, Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 on a rented typewriter at his local library. He typed for 10 cents per half hour and he’d type until he ran out of change. The book went on to sell more than 10 million copies. What I learnt from that is that we cannot wait for the perfect circumstances. We have to make our own. Instead of counting down days we need to make today count I may not have figured out how to write for a living but I will give my writing my all.

That is what my instagram poetry has been born out of. The name ripage is a reference to the recycled paper I use to write on. Ripage is also the french word for “shifting”, shifting my perspective about writing, and shifting my writing itself. I try to write three times a week. There are no drafts or redrafts. What comes first to mind is what gets put up. There are mistakes. It was hard to put that out there. To give you an idea of how much of a perfectionist I am: Someone once told me to be more spontaneous. I replied, “When?”

The point is: my platform, your platform, is this right here, right now, with these people next to us on the bus, in the classroom, at work. This is the only stage we’ve got. To stand where you are is a powerful thing. So have your say. You’ll make mistakes but that’s okay. All you need to express yourself is your humanity.

And when that is difficult, I hope we can be children who remember this poem. It’s called Amistad and it was published in Waikato’s Mayhem Literary Journal:

My friend
You are.

The sugar of life,
A moment sweetener.

A mid-air heel click thrill
Accomplished in perfect time.

A couplet that rhymes
Where and when you will.

A matched gaze between windows
To the same soul.

If you would like to see my words in action, check out Seed Waikato’s YouTube channel.


Maryana Garcia

Maryana is a firm believer in the power of storytelling. You can find her poetry on Instagram.