Writing Lines That Define Who I Am

by Shuly Cawood

In poetry, there is a freedom from truth. I didn’t realize this fully until I began to study (and write) memoir a few years ago, where truth is a constant topic. In memoir, we debate what is your truth versus The Truth versus fact. We talk about how memory is, in part, an act of fiction.


I started writing poetry when I was in my teens, scribbling out verses at the school’s cafeteria table, or when lying on my twin bed. Back then, I always adhered to the truth—my truth—because I was writing about my life. It did not occur to me to make things up, perhaps because in writing poems about myself, I was trying to find my own staunch lines, the places where I did not blur into some version of self that someone else had drawn for me.

I started writing fiction last summer, finding freedom in writing other people’s stories, not just the ones that gave me a chance to clatter around in the bones of someone else’s beliefs, but also the stories of my own life that I could not put into memoir—either because they were too personal, or because I could not remember them well enough to render them (accurately) into story.

All this led me back to poetry, but in a new way. I began making up stories in my poetry, little vignettes of lives I wanted to glimpse, wanted to understand, outside the confines of what I knew.

I’m still finding my way through the genres, not willing to give up one for another. Perhaps I am still trying to find those lines that define who I am, and who I want the freedom to become.

Shuly Cawood
Shuly Cawood

Shuly Cawood is a writer and editor who is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing at Queens University. Her writing has been or will soon be published in Mud Season Review, Naugatuck River Review, Label Me Latina/o, Rathalla Review, Full Grown People, Fiction Southeast, Under the Sun, The Louisville Review, Ray’s Road Review, and Two Cities Review.

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One comment

  1. This is so lovely, Shuly. I can certainly relate, as I am sure many creatives can as well- in looking at our own works, and our inspirations, with new eyes. It’s the craving that promotes that freedom, and I wholly support those efforts. Thanks for sharing~


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