Heartbreak is one of the most deeply painful emotions humans experience. This is not new, nor is it a secret. In coping with such unpreventable loss, people often turn to writing, a cathartic practice that turns their sadness into art.
“Poems for Our Ex-Lovers: Volume II,” a collection of works centered around lost love, is an example of channeling heartbreak into something creative. The book, which was published recently and is available at Between the Covers Bookstore, features several local writers, as well as photography by Nathan Rist, who worked with local models Cynthia Johnson, Michelle Griffith, Logan Einhorn and Scarlet Sage.
Compiled, edited and published by Dust Creative, the first volume of pieces was released in 2019 to much applause, editor Jacque Garcia explained, as people saw the project as a way to productively channel their emotions.
“We published ‘Volume I’ in 2019 after I joked with some friends in Moab about how we could probably compile an entire book with our poems about ex-lovers. The idea gained steam immediately and soon became a reality. It's important to me that this project remains one of community catharsis and support, rather than a small-town gossip rag, so submissions are published anonymously and contributors are listed in the front of the book. That way we can bond over the universal humanity of heartbreak rather than letting it tear us apart,” she explained. “Since we published ‘Volume I’ people started asking when we'd do another one. I think a lot of people who were hesitant to submit were emboldened to send something in after seeing the first one. As soon as we announced a second edition, regional submissions came pouring in, and I began to toy with the idea of a local photo collaboration. Luckily, Nathan Rist was stoked and 100 percent in as soon as I asked.”
She added that the New Sheridan Hotel and There bar donated space for the photo shoot.
The book features several sections, which Garcia said were dictated by the submissions.
“I wait to curate any sort of theme or ideas for the different sections of the book until the submissions period has ended and I can read the entire collection of poems. I really like to leave it up to the contributors to direct the overall ethos of the book. Once I've read and edited them, I begin grouping them together with other poems, that provoke a similar feeling, and from there create the sections. This time, we used stories from non-Eurocentric mythology,” she explained. “There's quite a range of emotions expressed in the poems. It really makes the collection fun. There are lonely and forlorn pieces, pieces that look back fondly on the past, pieces that find the humor in heartbreak, and, of course, ones that drip with rancor.”
Emma Renly, who also contributed to and edited the book, pointed to the vulnerability of the pieces and explained how she’s written a haiku about every person she’s been intimate with since she was 18.
“While organizing the poems throughout each chapter, I felt constantly impressed by the creative minds of friends around me, and even more importantly, that those same people trusted us with their intimate poetry about ex-lovers. One of my favorite poems is the first in the book (which can be read at the end of this story), in part because of how I personally related to it,” Renly said.
Garcia echoed that sentiment.
“I feel a sense of responsibility toward everyone who shares such vulnerable and intimate moments of their lives with us. I'm so grateful to be able to turn their passion and their art into a collection that is sent out into the world, and it's my hope that the contributors feel as if they have been properly represented,” she said.
Overall, the process has been “therapeutic,” as Renly described.
“I really enjoyed matching everything together with the photography, poetry, fonts and margins,” she said, even though margins are “low-key the worst.”
But seeing their words in print alongside similar stories was worth it.
“To be able to see a few of my own poems scattered among a body created by so many other individuals is reassuring. It reiterates to me that love and loss are vital components of all of our lives,” Garcia said.
Books can be ordered online at dustcreative.co.
“I think this subject matter is something everyone can relate to, and so we've received a lot of positive feedback. We've sent copies to 12 different states, and even shipped a couple to Canada,” Garcia said.
Dust Creative is now working on a summer zine titled “bloom” and are seeking submissions. More information can be found at dustcreative.co/bloom.
“The best way to keep up with us is to follow our Instagram @dustcreative.co or to subscribe to our mailing list by emailing us at email@example.com,” Garcia said.
i thought you were intelligent
i thought you were
a wonderful person,
a loyal friend,
someone to laugh with
& cry with
& talk about everything
under the sun.
i thought you were
soul & mind & body.
i thought you were
someone to grow old with,
to tell stories about,
to kiss in the rain
& spend whole days under the covers. i thought you were everything. everything.
and you thought I was