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This is Not a Memoir

No, this is not a memoir.

These are simply lines of pulsing verse
That capture a moment
That paint with a heartbeat
That tell not a story
But the feeling of a moment

So no, this is not a memoir.

Remaining baffled by its form
And not knowing where the start is
Not seeing where the end is
And lost in swhirls and mishaps
In false roads taken and too many u-turns
And doors slammed and trap doors opening
And times when I’ve back tracked
And years of going round in circles
I cannot tell a life in plot lines and
Straight lines
With beginnings and endings
With characters developing instead of
Baffling and bellowing

So, no this is not a memoir
That runs like a story
These are thundering verses
For times when life thundered
And quiet soft poems
For moments of wonderment, beauty and love
The moments of life times
The moments we live by
That aren’t told in stories
But that make up our lives

And no, this is not a memoir

It’s a story that might tell itself
But only if I let it
In its own pulsing rhythm
In its own repetitions
In its myriad openings
And moments without end.


After a year or more of beating myself up for not being able to write memoir, I’m abandoning the form.

I’m inventing my own.

If I ever tell my story, I think it’ll come out in verse :-)


Have you ever felt a burning need to reinvent a form?

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  1. Tweets that mention This is Not a Memoir | Confident Writing -- says:

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joanna Paterson, Todd Rutherford. Todd Rutherford said: RT @joannayoung This is Not a Memoir [...]

  2. Sharon Eden says:

    Appreciate your courage… touched into my own
    to write as I am - NO EXCUSES!

    Congratulations, Joanna…
    .-= Sharon Eden´s last blog ..Leadership Leather! =-.

  3. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim

    Joanna, my dear storyteller this is beautiful. I have already read it three times! You have so beautifully captured the wonder, tragedy, beauty and fragility of the life journey. This just absolutely took my breath away. I am going to print it and put it in my special book with all of my other favorites. Thank you dear one for writing and sharing.
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Hit and Run Marketing =-.

  4. Janice Cartier
    Twitter: jancartier

    Fab. u. lous.
    Absolutely fabulous.
    Bits of moments delivered, fully complete and yet part of the whole.
    I love it.
    Behind you all the way.

  5. Jan Scott Nelson
    Twitter: JanScottNelson

    Oh, Joanna - this closed my throat and brought tears to my eyes. Your story, your inner battle and your desire to remould, reinvent a form. What an inspiration. So often I feel that you are able to articulate things which I have scarcely been aware of struggling with, to gently adjust the lens, turning it this way and that then ‘ping’ - throwing something extraordinary into clear focus against a beautifully blurry, mottled background. (I think I may just be taking this photo theme a bit far!). Keep at it, Joanna, please. :)
    .-= Jan Scott Nelson´s last blog ..I discover hidden jewels… =-.

  6. Mandy Allen says:

    Interesting, move everything to how and where you want it in order to continue moving forwards…

    Enjoy the journey.

    .-= Mandy Allen´s last blog ..If you don’t have a go you’ll never know… =-.

  7. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, Like the others I was moved by what you are doing here. Your verse is so much more lifelike than a well engineered piece of prose. What you’ve written is what life is like - messy, at times multi directional, at times undirectional, but always wonderful. Beautiful work!

  8. Conor
    Twitter: ebbstachio

    Hey Joanna,

    I don’t know where I was when I read this, but I’m in a brighter place now.

    Thank you.


  9. Janice Cartier
    Twitter: jancartier

    @conor “I don’t know where I was when I read this, but I’m in a brighter place now.” I totally agree. :)
    .-= Janice Cartier´s last blog ..Brown =-.

  10. Robyn McMaster says:

    Thanks for taking the liberty to express yourself in new ways. Like you, I am an unconventional woman. I have a very interesting history, but every time I attempt to write it as memoir, I am overtaken by sadness. I realized I had to let go and be in the moment for the present and think toward the future. I enjoyed building deeper relationships with our grandsons and our children over the recent Memorial Day holiday.
    .-= Robyn McMaster´s last blog ..Listening Beams from the other Side of Questions =-.

  11. Diana says:

    When I saw the title, “This is Not a Memoir,” I thought your post would be more rules regarding the writing of memoirs. How wrong I was!

    Beautiful. thanks
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..Partly cloudy with a chance of pain =-.

  12. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Sharon thank you so much - your words mean a great deal

    Karen this was one that kind of wrote itself… with a bit of a roar… maybe if not quite anger (of the good kind) then something close to it. Thank you as ever for listening and understanding

    Janice feedback much appreciated. This is a bit of the 3D work I was mentioning to you ;-)

    Jan we are definitely on a learning journey together… wonder where it will take us? ;-) Definitely not going to stop.

  13. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Mandy yes there’s no point staying stuck if by moving something you can get back into flow…

    Brad although I do enjoy well engineered writing when I think about what really matters, what I would like to be remembered for… I would much prefer it was true to life, wild chaotic and warts and all. Thanks so much for your feedback, I really appreciate it.

    Conor thank you for affirming why it’s worth sharing our words… that moment of yours on its own… that’s enough.

    Robyn I have read and thought about your comment many times since you shared it here. I didn’t fully acknowledge it here but I also found the experience of trying to write memoir deeply unsettling, not just because of the form, but because of the deep waves of sadness it evoked in me.

    My life path has been unconventional (whose hasn’t?) but not sad, yet there was something about the act of looking back on moments, choices, journeys that led to melancholy I didn’t want to bring into my life. I too am choosing to be more grounded in where I am now.

    I would be interested to understand more about where this sadness might come from, for some of us… will think, reflect, and look around for insights into this.

    PS I am so glad you had a fun weekend with your family and grandchildren.

    Diana heaven forbid! Too many rules around as it is. Thanks for listening, and appreciating.

  14. Janice Cartier
    Twitter: jancartier

    It’s good 3-D work. Funny isn’t it this freedom from form?…deliberate freedom from form can bring us lovely custom made for us ones.
    .-= Janice Cartier´s last blog ..Losing Louisiana =-.

  15. Wendy A.M. Prosser says:

    Beautiful words. Thank you so much for posting this!

  16. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Janice well I guess if nature abhors a vacuum she’ll help us find the form we need… ;-)

    Wendy thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.

  17. Lynette Benton says:

    Write it any way you want to! I love the innovative idea of a memoir in verse. Have to tweet yours right now. Tx for it.

  18. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    Lynette who knows if I’ll ever do it… maybe a chapter or so of my life? Might be fun ;-)

  19. carel says:

    Yours is a penetrating definition of what a memoir is: i.e., not a linear autobiography, but a reflective look back at “times when life thundered” and, perhaps, with hopes for insight. I am trying to put together a class about the idea of a memoir and will show students your work. But who are you? There is no byline!! Can you write to me? In all events, thank you! Jan 9, 2011

  20. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson

    @carel: I’m glad you found it of value. Memoir is such a perplexing form… to me anyway. I think I need your class! Thanks also for your prompting re the byline, I’ve added one in now to all posts.