How did you get the inspiration for your poetry collection Bleeding Flowers?

Q&A With Shay Each Sunday

My poetry collection Bleeding Flowers was published back in June. If you haven’t read it yet, you can find it here!

I get asked a lot about the meanings behind the poems in the collection, especially the earlier ones in the book, and the backstory that contributed to their creation. Many people who don't know me that well who have read the poems ask if they are based on a true story. Many of them are.

Q: How did you get the inspiration for your poetry collection Bleeding Flowers?

A: So, the actual inspiration for the book as a whole is not that magical of a story. I put it together so that I could have a full-length finished book to publish and put out into the world. I never intended to write a poetry collection. I always consider myself a young adult author first but I don't actually have a young adult book published yet. I have worked on a few for many years, and I’ve written plenty of short stories and even poems. Most of my poems were just kind of sitting on my computer or phone as these things I would occasionally create when I had the urge or feeling or was inspired by language in some way. But, when I started thinking more and more about independent publishing I decided I didn't want to rush in with my novel that I spent years working on. Since I had quite a few poems already I decided that I’d put them together and connect them with themes and a story arc. Once I decided that, I started writing so many more poems and it was coming easily to me. I found a new love of poetry and getting words out in a way you could really feel.

Even though the initial inspiration wasn't that heartfelt. Like, it wasn't this feeling that I had to get the collection down, had to put out. It kind of became that though, because the stories behind the individual poems are ones that have shaped me—broken me, made me grow, taught me, changed me—were my life.

Most of the poems I had written that I started rewriting or changing were the ones about nature and self-harm. I’m not exactly sure why I had several poems about two seemingly opposite subjects. It might sound absurdly dark, but I love to describe images of blood. All the pain that exists in this simple red physical form is something I think could be described in a million different ways and a million different circumstances. Bleeding within can be transformed to bleeding on the outside, so I like the idea of taking the metaphorical and making it literal. 

On the nature front—it simply brings overwhelming peace, much needed peace. Peace from the pain, I suppose. Nature is a huge factor in my life. I love to describe it with sensory imagery because that has always been the way it can make me feel—appealing to all my senses when that’s where I need it most. So, here’s how the book fully unfolded.

The very beginning of the book starts with the storyline of my relationship with my best friend and the tumultuous and painful turn that it took. It starts in childhood (really infanthood) when our bond was formed, and goes into what it became and all the hurt behind it. There are also poems interspersed about her family as a whole, and mainly one other family member that impacted me deeply. They were my family, maybe always will be. I don’t go into specifics of what took place in my poems, just as I won’t here—because I have realized that the specifics of “events” weren’t the important part. The important part was that it was something special, beautiful, and fragile, and it shattered in a way that can only be felt when something so important does. The important part was the memories and the way they have changed because of the present. The important part is that (this idea from the lines of one of my poems): when something was it never can be again.

From there, the collection progresses into general feelings of pain, whether it be created by the end of that relationship or other hardships in life. There are many poems where I put figurative feelings into literal images of pain and self-harm as a metaphor for the mind being the biggest self-harm of all, because it responds to outside circumstances. These are poems of sinking, drowning, bleeding, wilting—becoming an image of death that is barely alive…but IS alive.

But…through finding hope and rejuvenation in nature, we can get through the darkness. As I said earlier, I have always loved nature. It has been a comfort to help through difficult times. Especially the ocean. I remember when I was having a hard time when I first entered grad school, and felt there was no right answer and didn't know where to go—I went to the ocean. I sat and breathed in the salt air. Nothing got figured out, but I was lighter. 

The pain keeps coming in the poems, life can beat anyone down, and as the winter comes, we just keep feeling like we’re enduring the cold. But we do—we endure. We hope and hope for some warmth. As spring finally starts to thaw out the winter, we can progress through all the pain and hurt and deep emotion. I try to convey in the poems, that although not constant—I, and you, can glimpse the light even if just through the cracks. To bloom into a flower despite being battered by cold and a lack of comfort or what is necessary to grow. I express the idea of finding oneself and navigating this world with purpose, if only to survive. To find a voice because without one, survival becomes that much more difficult.

I really wanted to get the idea across that we can still grow and find strength despite what we have been through, with any outlet necessary. That our experiences shape us but they don't have to define us forever, though always there in the background reminding us of our scars.

The main idea I wanted readers to take away is that they are not alone. We all hurt. We all sink into darkness. We all break. But we take those experiences with us onto the next and we can breach the surface of the soil if only we stay resilient. We can bloom from the blood.

The last poem in the collection “All Withers Again” reads:

I think, 


I may appreciate

the beauty of

an iris

under the halo of the sun,

with the knowledge

that winter dawns again.

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