Friday, September 14, 2012

The Joy of Writing at any Age

For most of us, the aging of the body is not something  we can control, responding to our bidding whenever we would like. When we see the elderly full of energy and life despite their advancing years, all of us take notice of this unexpected achievement. And that is what the Catholic Times did recently with its interview of  86-year old Teresa Hong, who has recently published her 17th  book of poetry.

Although she has had two serious operations recently, she continues her reading and writing, and has no plans to stop. "When my hand is no longer able to hold the pen, that may be the end to my writing," she says, adding a "but" at the end, perhaps implying that even then she will find a way to continue writing. She admits to having misgivings about much of what she has written--and she has written since 1945--telling the interviewer she no longer desires to hear her poetry read, though she is resigned to these inevitable events. Her satisfaction now comes, she says, from recalling 70 years of loving relationships with others; the joys, the suffering, and the pleasures of life have all become part of her story, and part of her poetry.

Whatever she has seen, heard and thought during her long years of life have found their way into her poetry and other writings. Writing for her is like breathing, she says, but she never thought her writing had any great merit. Though people call her a poet, and she accepts the title, all she is doing, she insists, is answering the call to write, and the pages just follow naturally.

When she finished her 15th book of poetry, she thought that was a sufficient goal to have in life, but she has exceeded that goal by two. It was during this time that she had the operations and was distressed that her writing years might be over, but God allowed her to take pen in hand again and continue writing. The pain and personal struggles she endured during this time have been the miracle drugs, she says,  that enabled her to return to writing, purified and hardened.

More than the  energy that comes to her when she writes, it is her faith, she says, that is all important,  even though she has not been consistently faithful. She is always conscious of the many graces she has received in life, and grateful for being a life-long  Catholic. After publishing her  last book of poems, all that is left, she says, is to prepare for death with dignity and a firm resolve. Thankfully, she will leave behind a remarkable body of work for all of us to reflect on and  enjoy.

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