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Screaming Against The Raging Winds

Jennifer Widelitz Author Interview

Battle Cry is a collection of poetry that chronicles your battle with chronic illness, sharing the emotional and physical toll it has taken on you through. Why was this an important collection for you to write?

This is not just a poetry collection; it is my story, my memoir, my battle cry, and as such it is perhaps the most important collection I could ever write. Millions of Americans—and even more worldwide—suffer from autoimmunity and other debilitating chronic illnesses. It is far too easy for their stories to be overlooked, being grossly unglamorous and painful in nature, and thus causing many to turn a blind eye and remain in the blissful realm of ignorance. And many who attempt to have their voices heard aren’t healthy enough or have the means to do so. I, too, felt myself screaming against the raging winds of my diminishing health while writing this collection and striving to get it published. This is a collection a decade in the making, stemming from the seed that was planted with my first diagnosis, and has been no stranger to weathering storms. As chronic illness affects a significant portion of the population, it is important for there to be representation for those living with it as well as to raise awareness of the issues and dispel misconceptions surrounding it. While every individual’s experience is different, there is a mutual understanding of pain and suffering that creates a common thread amongst humanity. And it is that unifying human connection that is so vitally important to remember, now more than ever.

I appreciated the candid nature with which you opened up about your illness. What was the hardest thing for you to write about?

Initially, I wrote these poems as a coping mechanism to deal with my illnesses and a life much different than what I had imagined for myself. Opening up to others has never been an easy feat for me and trying to open up to those who didn’t understand what I was going through was even more difficult. Instead, I turned to poetry throughout the years, seeking familiarity and solace in the words of others, but I was never fully satisfied. So, I wrote the words I was searching for but wasn’t finding. By writing for my own eyes, it was easier to be honest about my feelings and experiences, expressing the words I was too afraid to voice aloud and the words I needed most to hear.

There are many poems in this collection that I found difficult to reread while editing during the publication process, for there are struggles I still face today that were also present ten years ago. It’s obvious some wounds haven’t quite healed, though I continue to hope that one day I’ll be able to read this collection with dry eyes and the comfort of knowing they are simply painful memories and nothing more.

However, perhaps the hardest thing is sharing this collection with the public. I have shared many stories and poems, several of which have been published in literary magazines, but I have never shared anything so personal with loved ones and strangers alike. I’m a private person and when this collection came out, many of my friends and family commented with, “I had no idea.” It was the perfect example of how silence only breeds more misconceptions and a lack of awareness. I found a valuable lesson in those comments: nothing will change unless you speak up.

While I still have a lot of apprehension pertaining to sharing a part of me so raw and unfiltered that it’s even difficult for me to view, I ultimately decided to do so for those who need to see this vulnerability. The power of empathy and recognition of another’s pain is greatly underestimated in the world today, and there are many who can benefit from simply knowing another person understands and acknowledges the effort it takes to fight their battles. It’s something that could have helped me, and now it’s one way I wish to help others.

What is a common misconception you feel people have about chronic illness?

There are many misconceptions I have encountered over the years, from people believing chronic illness can only affect the senior population to people assuming chronic illness affects everyone equally to people thinking those with chronic illnesses are attention-seeking hypochondriacs. The plethora of misconceptions regarding chronic illness is not only hurtful to those battling it but is also quite harmful as those misconceptions can present additional societal limitations and stigmas. I find the most troublesome misconceptions are those that stem from others believing an individual’s chronic illness is a farce. Just like most things in life, people often need to see to believe, which poses a problem when many chronic illnesses are invisible to the naked eye. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard phrases like “It’s all in your head”, “You don’t look sick”, “You just need to push yourself”, or “It can’t be that bad.” Unfortunately, people tend not to understand unless it happens to them. Eliminating misconceptions and preconceived notions is just one of many reasons why raising awareness about chronic illness is a necessity.

What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your story?

When readers close the book for the final time, I hope they have a different perspective from when they initially flipped to the first page. I hope this poetry collection broadens awareness of chronic illness and helps increase the ability to empathize, knowing that others may be suffering in a way they may not realize. At the very least, I hope this collection is a blanket of comfort for the warriors in need of one, serving as a reminder that the battles are worth fighting and comrades can be found if one is willing to look. Everyone is suffering in their own way, and I want them to know that they are not alone. As difficult as it may be to admit, none of us would be who we are today without our struggles and adversities. Pain, struggle, and strife—no matter the cause—are all a part of the human experience and should be embraced as necessary steps on the journey of one’s life. After all, storms shape pebbles just as much as the steady stream.

Now, if I may speak directly to the readers:

Dearest warrior,

Thank you for picking up (or considering) this book and joining me on this journey. Thank you for having the courage to fight your daily battles, even when they go unrecognized. I understand the pain and I see you. You are so much stronger than you realize, and you continue to inspire me every day.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

You may have lost the battle,
but you will win the war.

You are not falling apart,
you are falling together.

In her debut poetry collection, Jennifer Sara Widelitz guides us along the unpredictable path of living with chronic illness, through the front lines of wars waged within, and to the heart of human courage. Told in five parts, Battle Cry begins with the innocence-laced time before, halted by the sudden onset of illness—the momentous event in one’s life that changes everything. The journey continues with a soothing interlude of healing interrupted by pain-stained relapses, concluding with the strength and resilience accumulated through years of endurance. Accompanied by whimsical illustrations from Jennifer’s own hand, these poems reminisce on lost childhood innocence, teach gratefulness for the rain, cycle through the seasons, persevere through struggles, and rise from the flames even stronger.

Interweaving themes of fairy tales and myths, loss and grief, pain and suffering, love and hope, resilience, and more, Battle Cry is a testament to the warriors fighting unseen battles and any survivor of the human condition. Like its namesake, this collection is a battle cry—a call to arms—that is bound to echo through the generations.

Battle Cry 

Battle Cry by author Jennifer Sara Widelitz is a peculiar and emotionally riveting short book of modern poetry. This thought-provoking book is divided into five parts: Before, Crash, Interlude: Nature’s Elixir, Relapse, and Resilience. The author’s writing is thoughtfully illustrated by herself, with fine-line artwork. The pieces revolve around several stages of life and aspects of human nature such as childhood, family, trauma, illness, and healing.

The author’s ability to engage the reader and invoke her own inspirations for the poems is a definite highlight of this piece of literature. Widelitz’s opening poem is certainly remarkable due to its capacity to transmit a feeling of belonging that is likely to captivate the reader in the very first verses. The following pieces, short poems which likewise capture the essence of their subjects, are specifically dedicated to some of the author’s family members and add to the collection’s authenticity.

The poem “RORSCHACH TEST: INKBLOT # 3, BEFORE AND AFTER” is worthy of an honorable mention. Named after the well-known psychological inkblot test in which the subject is asked by the examiner to describe what they visualize in the paper. This piece, which is accompanied by a gloomy illustration that can represent different objects when rotated, conjures verses that can be read from top to bottom and vice-versa. Imaginative and creative, Jennifer Sara Widelitz separates herself from the large majority of poetry anthologies with her ingenuity. Her artwork is simple but powerful as not each poem has art to go with it. However, when there is an image, even in black and white, it is striking and conjures up emotions, making the artwork as important as the words in the poem.

Battle Cry is an emotionally charged collection of poetry and drawings. However, the author displays a sensitive and empathetic side to dealing with chronic illness and the battles that those that endure must face. For those that love poetry or those that need inspiration, this collection is a must.

Pages: 156 | ASIN : B09Z7CSJ72

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