By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
Faith Calagna had a very interesting “What I Did Last Summer” story to tell her friends when she returned to St. Edward the Confessor School this past fall to begin her seventh-grade year.
Faith, 12, spent much of her summer break fine-tuning more than 80 of her original poems to self-publish a volume entitled “On the Tip of My Tongue: A Collection of Poems.”
The book, published in August and available at amazon.com, was the website’s best-selling anthology during its first month of release.
“It helps to express myself through writing – to get my emotions out on paper – because I’m not really good at saying them out loud,” said Faith, who wrote her first poem, on the topic of lying, as an 8-year-old.
“(As a younger poet)I would take characters in books and write about their feelings, and then, eventually, I learned to write my own feelings down,” Faith said.
The young writer said nearly every poem she composes starts out as a melody in her head, with inspiration often striking during school hours, after she finishes a test. The “song” that enters her head suggests a central theme – one that Faith subsequently builds lyrics around while playing the song on the guitar or piano. These “lyrics” don’t necessarily have to rhyme, she said.
“I want the words to be meaningful, and if there’s rhyming in it, it’s even better. That’s a bonus!” Faith said.
The 82 poems in Faith’s book are divided into eight categories, many of them prefaced by the story behind their inspiration. The poems under the heading of “Taking Off the Mask” are Faith’s most personal, examining the human struggles people often hide from public view. (“Storm,” Faith’s favorite poem from the collection, is reprinted with the author’s permission below.)
“That one is about anxiety, which is something I struggle with a lot,” said Faith, who wrote the piece in 10 minutes.
“Cry,” another poem in this section, speaks to the importance of not bottling up your emotions. The passing embarrassment one might experience after tearing up is not as bad as any physical repercussions that could arise over time, she said.
“If you do that, one day you’re going to explode, and it’s not going to be pretty,” said Faith, urging her fellow criers to resist labels placed on them, such as “emotional,” “unstable,” “childish,” “immature” and “crybaby.”
Faith corrals her religious poems in a section dubbed “The Generous King.” In “Scrutiny,” the poem’s narrator – God – reminds his children to be mindful of their behavior, because “I know every thought before you make it. I know every step before you take it.”
“Light the Path” offers solace, with Faith noting that God is always there to help us in our journey: “He’s the only one who won’t ditch me,” she writes. “God knows I try.”
A poetic category entitled “Backbone of Society” examines social justice issues, with Faith noting in the section’s preface that if half of the mentioned sins ended, “the world would be heading in a good direction.”
“Too Many to Count,” which explores the societal plagues of violence, drugs, alcohol, gender inequality and racism, ends on a hopeful note: “I live for the day there is peace and no more fights,” Faith writes.
“Mouth” is a brief but powerful take on the impact of bullying. The poet notes that the “girl you just laughed at never eats,” and the “boy that you just laughed at, his mother just got released from the hospital.”
“I just hope you watch what comes out of your mouth, since you can’t take it back,” cautions the poem.
“I want people to not be afraid to talk about topics that they might not always want to talk about, because they do need to be out there and they need to be recognized so we can change them – whether it’s a little thing you do at school, or a big thing,” Faith said. “(Poetry) is a peaceful way to get your emotions out!”
The poems in the section called “People of Muse” are the book’s outliers; they were inspired by real people, rather than by music.
“Flowers” is Faith’s poetic response to the death of a family member and the birth of her sister, within the same period of time. Picked flowers – the ones whose petals have “fallen apart” – are a powerful metaphor for loved ones who have died but who will always remain in our hearts, while the “new seeds that enter the soil” are the babies who offer all the hope of new life.
Faith also used her book to extend tips to her fellow writers. She notes that poems are special – and free – presents that young people can give their loved ones at Christmas and on their birthdays.
Another nugget of wisdom: Faith advises creative writers to resist the “delete” button and save everything that they write.
“You can look at one thing you wrote and at that moment you might not like it, and then look at it a few years later – or even a few hours later – and find something new to take out of it,” she said.
When Faith is not writing poetry, she plays basketball and reads young adult fiction. She also is in numerous clubs at St. Edward: chorale, Girl Scouts, pro-life, Spanish club, mission club, builders club, yearbook and children’s rosary.
She is currently putting the finishing touches on a second collection of poetry, scheduled for release at the end of this year. Faith also is working on a CD of music as a companion piece to the poems in her first book – so readers can hear the music that inspired many of her poems.
“On the Tip of My Tongue: A Collection of Poems,” is available at amazon.com. Queries can be sent to Faith at her email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Faith Calagna
Lock the doors twice;
I’m a mess.
You’re lucky you can’t see in my head.
Night vision burns instead,
But something always happens.
So I bang my head.
Tired of sleeping
Not in my bed.
Scars and bruises have mended,
But the inside is left unsaid.
Darling, I’m a storm,
And you haven’t seen the best of it.
It rains and it pours
Until you are soaking wet.
Beyond my control,
But it’s up to me to stop the lightning.
It’s not a button that I can press
To turn it off.
Oh, I wish there were a button I could press
To turn it off.
And I get it if you want to leave
Because I’m not what you were expecting.
I’ll get used to people leaving because of that.
I’ll hang on to the people who won’t leave
Because of that.