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What I learned trapped between 70 poems

Updated: Apr 28

Like every aspiring writer in college, I often have trouble creating time in my week to do quality creative crafting. Whether it be a short poem, flash fiction, or a title page for a novel about hedgehogs that will never come to be, writing outlets are often grander than the time allotted to make them. But as 2021 came to a close and 2022 came around the corner, I set out to accomplish a new goal.

"I will write a book of 100 poems," I confidently told my friend on a January afternoon.

Brandon shook his head at me and took a long sip of his coffee, "No, you're not."

Spoiler alert: He was right.

January 24th to February 20th was a time in my writing journey that I will never forget. It was the most chaotic, terrifying, and crazy period of my life, and at the end of it all, I was left with a book of 70 poems and enough teardrops to fill 30 buckets.

This journey began as all things do: a song. I strolled into my dorm room that Monday morning with excitement and a song in my heart. I sang an out-of-tune version of "Every Breath You Take" by The Police as I entered the room. After my morning coffee with Brandon, I had an incredible calmness and warmth, so I was ready to write. On my first day, I wrote ten poems-ten good poems. You know that feeling when you know you've written something good? It is that feeling that reminds you why you started writing in the first place-that feeling of pride when the words feel like words, and everything fits together.

Before I continue on, I feel that it is essential that I explain a few things. My journey as a writer has been a highly complex thing. When I tell most people that I wrote a book of poetry in the early months of 2022, they find it hard to believe. When you picture a "poet" in your head, you probably don't imagine me: a 5'8 Mexican man from Chicago. This is something I've had to deal with my whole life. People with my skin color are not seen as the world's writers, poets, and leaders; we are the background characters. Though there have been many Mexican creatives before me, they are not the most decorated by society. As I sat down to write this book, this became even more apparent to me. When my poems were done, and I released the fruits of my labor to the world, who would read them, and how would they be remembered?

Walk into an art museum in any major American city, and you will find something interesting. There will be a section of art for "great works" and subsections of art attributed to different places/times in the world. If you compared the art of Vincent Van Gogh to the art of Frida Kahlo, it would seem that the skill put into both is comparable; one is not more glaringly spectacular. Yet who is more celebrated? As a Mexican man, I've always felt as if the world viewed me as a "Mexican writer" and not as a "writer." Ask anyone on the street who Van Gogh was, and they would say "a famous painter" and that Frida Kahlo was a "Mexican painter." Though I see no problem with this as I am a person who is very proud of their heritage, as I wrote this book, it began to scare me.

Would white audiences cast my work away because it was written by a person who does not share their skin color?

For the first time in my life, the thing that I had been most proud of now scared me. Though the greatest poets and writers have been of all shapes and sizes, none of the most recognizable share my skin color. These writers, in my opinion, aren't worse than their white counterparts; they just seem to be less celebrated by society as a whole. I set a goal in mind: to create a book of poetry with universal themes for all of humankind. It would be a love note to the life and suffering of people of all colors and walks of life.

The first week ended, and I was 30 poems deep. I had secluded myself in my dorm room and had maybe one human interaction all week. I was part of a skeleton crew on my college campus as most had decided to travel home or elsewhere during this allotted hiatus from school; I spent most of my days alone in my dorm, writing from morning to night and only leaving to eat and exercise.

The second week rolled around, and the happy times had ended. The ideas stopped flowing, and I would spend hours just coming up with a single poem. Those hours turned to days, and my brain began to fry as the words slipped from my mind, and I was haunted by a lack of creativity. That week I only wrote ten poems.

At this point, the lack of human contact was consuming me. My mind was only filled with the book and how to make it perfect.

Looking back on it now, in those terribly lonely moments, I realized many things about life. The time leading up to writing that book had been chaotic, and I thought that by diving head-first into this project, I would find some peace. In the end, I did, but not for the reasons I was looking for. In the third week, I wrote no poems. My brain was completely empty of ideas, and my mind was exhausted. I sat at my desk for hours at a time, looking for anything to write about, but none seemed good enough to write about. On the last day of that week, I did something I had not done the two weeks prior: I cried. "This book will be what defines me as a writer, and I can't even finish it," I thought to myself. I remember speaking out loud to the walls begging them for ideas-anything at this point.

The fourth week started, and I had mere days to finish this book. I made a drastic decision at the start of that week and decided to go home. I had not seen my family in about a month and a half, and the relief of being near brought me something that I had lacked the three weeks prior: human connection. In just three days, I wrote the last thirty poems. As I wrote the seventieth poem and closed my laptop, a new joy came over me, but it lasted only briefly. I thought finishing that book would fix all my problems, yet I felt the same. But then it dawned on me: I was done with it. Though the book didn't turn out as planned, the accomplishment was still there.



I could finally put it to rest and move on with my life.

Even if my book would only be remembered as "a random assortment of poems by an eighteen-year-old Mexican kid from Chicago," it's still a book, dammit. That's good enough for me.


Hi my name is Chris Valles and I am a young Latino writer from Chicago; I am currently studying at Oberlin College! Writing has been a passion of mine since I was able to hold a pen and it has made me so spectacularly happy! To put it simply: I love working with Wingless Dreamer. Their mission to embolden and encourage poets all over the world is one that I am highly passionate about. Poetry is one of those unique artistic endeavors that allows people to express themselves through experimental and creative means. It brings me immense pleasure to work within the realm of poetry.

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