The Perfect Guide to Turn Trauma into Your Superpower
For anyone dealing, overcoming, or hiding from their traumas, Your Story Matters: How to Conjure Courage and Transform Tragedy Into Triumph with Spoken Word Poetry by Melissa Rose is a must-read. As a survivor of immense trauma, I found this book enlightening and inspiring because her writing pulls no punches. As a result, it will change your outlook on your past. The book will also give those that need the strength to reflect on their traumas the ability to tell the story their soul is begging them to share. She shows the reader that they can take their trauma and turn it into a superpower. She even shares her experience of discovering this power in herself, exemplified by sharing her stories on stages from the United States to Europe. Through this book she gives anyone, whether you consider yourself a writer, a poet, a speaker, or anything else, the strength to, at least, tell yourself the story.
The book is a guide to your inner strength that will lead to healing. By the end, you’ll have all the tools necessary to find, write, and finish your story. And since some stories are buried so deep in your mind, she will give you the shovel to dig them out. Even if you just seek it for yourself, you’ll have the ability. But if you want to discover your story, sift through your edits, and get it ready to share with an audience, you will be more than prepared to use the microphone to mesmerize an audience with your ability to triumph over trauma. The author also shares her story about gaining the strength to rise from her seat, take the walk to the stage, and express her story through the mic as if whispering to all the trauma survivors, “You can do this.”
Since each chapter helps you build the piece that tells your story, it was difficult to not be so enthused that I spoil the experience for the reader. Be prepared to cry. Don’t be afraid to write through the blur. Because if you do, the first lesson will open the door, one of the middle chapters will connect it all, and her poem “Empty” will manifest itself as you read this at page-turner speed, leaving you inspired by the energy you feel emanating through her gift of sharing with you the process that will unlock a pride in your work which was unimaginable prior to reading Melissa’s book.
Finding The Why
Whether it’s writing your story or any other difficult endeavor, you must find your why. The author beautifully states this in “Chapter 1: How the Story Begins” when she reveals her why; “Spoken word poetry is not where I first learned how to use my voice, but it was the first place I discovered its true power” (5). However, rather than keep writing about herself, she turns the focus back onto the reader by showing the why in all of us resulting from “writers, performers, and audience members [being] attracted to this form of expression for many reasons, but ultimately, it is to share in the storytelling we crave as people and know that we are indeed not alone” (5). It’s this ability to write from a perspective that goes beyond herself that truly shows the mastery of her ability to show that everyone is drawn to spoken word poetry for its power of accessing the primitive need for community. This is also how she draws the story out of the reader because when we have something so hidden in our psyche we feel “our personal storytelling draws light to the spaces we most want seen, and throws shadows over the secret places we would rather ignore” (3). By making the reader feel they are part of a storytelling union, the author helps the mind relax and put down its invisibility cloak.
Your Gold Heart
By the time you get to “Chapter 4: What Story Do You Want to Tell? What Story Do You Need to Tell?,” the author starts the finishing process of seeding your story in your mind. Ms. Rose expertly uses this moment to introduce the concept of shadow work, a “psychological theory made popular by Carl Jung, who believed that we reject or deny parts of ourselves which we have been raised to deem unappealing” (60). Rose connects this theory to writing your story because she has learned “shadow work is a powerful part of performance poetry… The shadow is the space reserved for what is whispered in the daylight, when it is invited to scream at full volume” (60). Tying this theory to performance poetry shows the reader the why they found at the beginning can be exposed in ways their shadow is scared to reveal.
It’s this fear from your shadow that works with you, as the author shows on page 61 when she states, “A poem that I intend to be about one thing slowly changes until the heart of the piece becomes easier to see. It’s like panning for gold; the flakes that shimmer are hidden underneath all of the things I think I want to say. There is a subtle voice that lives beneath each word. Over time, the story I wanted to tell changes into the story I need to tell.” It’s her expertise that is the most powerful part of Your Story Matters because she has firsthand experience finding the gold heart, giving her the compassionate approach showing you the path to find your story’s heart made of gold. This profound knowledge from the author also shows up in the exercises on page 64. The first three connect to what the reader has already read, so it’s at this point you’ll realize Rose is helping you build up to revealing the shadow looking over your shoulder as you work through her writing exercises. Then by number 4, you’ll be able to choose a story to focus on, but panning for the gold heart is not just to acknowledge it exists, Rose uses number 4 to prepare you for when you may want to display your heart in the sun so it glistens in a dazzling display of strength.
The author shares her amazing poems that tell her stories throughout the book to add emphasis to her showing the reader the roadmap needed to tell their story or stories. For me, the poem on page 100 struck my heart, released my tears, and made me want to share it with you to show that this is what she means by panning for the golden heart in your story. It also comes from her expert use of symbolism, which in “Chapter 6: Writing Your Story” she shows you symbolism’s omnipresent when she states, “We all carry with us symbols that are meaningful to our lives and development… What these symbols represent becomes the metaphor for our lives and experiences, and each one is unique to the individual” (95). By offering the lesson of using symbolism in your story, Ms. Rose shows the reader how there is no right or wrong symbol to use because it’s yours, and that’s all that matters.
From page 97 to 99, the author shows the reader how she built her poem Empty, revealing her gold heart for her mother through symbolism and the details accompanying the symbols. It’s her willingness to reveal the vulnerability behind the poem that really teaches you to not fear panning for what was meant to hide in the shadows of your tears. She also shows there’s a good and bad way to do this because “to honor her [mother’s] struggle and [her] own [she] wanted to incorporate the complex feelings of loss and love and pain and support into one piece that encapsulated the simultaneous chaos and beauty of the ocean itself” (99). So, when you read the poem, the author’s devotion shines throughout, but it’s the moment when the symbolism starts with the lines, “When you were sober we used to take early morning walks down/ lonely beaches/ Collecting sea shells like souvenirs/ Holding one to my ear, you told me I could always hear the ocean/ inside/ If I listened” (100), that truly makes it exemplify writing your story in a way that matters to everyone by showing your heart through symbols, so when the author adds details to the ocean related symbols the reader will be amazed how the poem exemplifies her line, “The sound of waves creates a rhythm/ Only mothers and daughters can dance to/ And this is how I remember you/ When we were inseparable” (100). You have no idea how hard it was not quoting the entire poem because of the masterful way Melissa Rose weaves ocean symbols and details, making the story unforgettable, relating to those sharing similar shadows.
The End of the Pier
Caring for her and her mother’s struggle is just a dip in the ocean when it comes to what this book offers the reader. From how to find the seed that can grow into your story to the self-care needed for your soul after revealing one of your shadows, it’s like the author is giving you a big hug so you know you aren’t alone and that it’s up to you when it comes to what you will do with this story. She makes you feel good about keeping it personal, but if you want to share it on a stage, she gives you every step necessary to pull this off. For editing, she provides advice on how to approach the editing process to maintain the integrity of your story. This is apparent when she states, “Never feel obligated to change your piece because of someone else’s critique, but consider what parts of your piece are confusing, vague, or unclear” (116) because there is always the danger of the story becoming what the editor wants it to be and she teaches you how to avoid this outcome.
For the reader, this book will caringly inspire you to find your story that matters. She does this by providing her personal examples, and this will manifest your story from your shadows. You will find yourself writing words quicker than a faucet lets out water, and “your story will unfold into a new phase of growth” (117). Just let it happen because she will help you turn your story into the superpower which was held back by your shadow work.
Thank you for reading our book review about Your Story Matters: How to Conjure Courage and Transform Tragedy Into Triumph with Spoken Word Poetry by Melissa Rose. We are not affiliated with the publisher, but here’s the link to pick up a copy.
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E. R. Sanchez is the author of Fried Potato Press’s first young adult thriller, Petaco Dreams, which will be released in 2023. He also has poems and stories published online and in print. If you’d like to read his work that was published online, please click here to go to his Stories and Poetry Section.