An Album of Sorrows

We are not proud of them
like we are of birthdays,
anniversaries, graduations.
These snapshots of the living
in between celebrations.


Lacklustre days,
raw blisters, scars, and unhealed gashes.
Restless nights hollow with worry,
frozen tears, snagging on lashes.


Lies folded in neatly with too much truth.
Subtle denial, blatant blame.
Perfectly beautiful, unavoidable pain.


We do not post these
on our walls or feeds.
We do not frame them
and put them in our offices
next to awards or degrees.


But whatever would make us
more worth our metal,
than these?


Do we not all have one?
An album of sorrows,
that we can see when we
close our eyes?


See here is where I fell,
There, I miscalculated,
slipped to stumble,
Here is the night I was wrong,
Here is the moment
my body began to crumble.


We are so good at sharing
indulgence and joy,
bokeh and bouquets.
We have cropped out worry,
sorrow, and misgiving.
The shitty gritty truth,
that is the trauma of living.


See here is where I got up,
Here, I recalculated, jumped and landed.
There is where I stood up
and kept on, empty-handed.


Hanne Pearce is a librarian, digital literacy educator, photographer, and writer.

Questions and Answers

How/where do you find inspiration today?

I nurture a few interests, photography and poetry are two that are intimately related. In both mediums I feel you need to dedicate time to ‘being’ in the world. What I mean by this, is that you should spend time observing and experiencing the world around you without distraction. I find going on walks, sitting in cafe in a different neighborhood than my own, riding public transit, sitting on the bench in a park I’ve never visited can really help you see the world around us and reveal the small things on which meaningful photographs and poems can be built.


Do you use any resources that a young poet would find useful (e.g. books, films, art, websites, etc.)?

I carry a notebook and camera (mobile phone) with me everywhere because one never knows when inspiration will strike. I also have a very worn-out Merriam Webster rhyming dictionary that I have found very useful when I feel like a poem needs rhythm. Ultimately, I think the best resource is to enrich yourself in the work of others. Visit your local library and read other poets. Reading others work can keep you nourished when your creativity is dormant, or it can be a bridge to realizing connection in your own work you didn’t see at first.


What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

This poem emerged out a long chain of upsetting events in my life. It was the dead of winter and on top of the exhaustion and disruption of the pandemic, a number of events and challenges had occurred in short succession so that that I was feeling very overwhelmed. Sometimes that depth of struggle takes you into a strange place of clarity. I was sitting in my car in the hospital parking lot where I’d visited a very sick family member and after a long releasing cry, I was able to suspend my emotions for a moment and examine them. I remember thinking how incongruous it is that, even in an era of sharing everything, we still keep our grief to ourselves. I thought all the other cars in that parking lot and how they were visiting someone and living through their own grief. It was through this emotion and thinking that I was motivated to capture the weight of sorrow, to put adversity on a pedestal where it can be seen for its power.


How did your writing process unfold around this poem? How did you write, edit, and refine it?

For me, often the bulk of a poem comes all at once in flurry of words and ideas. This is why I have to carry a notebook because if I don’t capture it right away, its gone. In the case of this poem, I was sitting in a hospital parking lot, overwhelmed with worry and stress and the words just came to me. Often, I will take that initial form and leave it for a day or two until I can revisit it in a different state of mind. In this second phase of writing I add, remove, rearrange, and refine the poem. How much I edit and refine varies from poem to poem. Some take months and weeks of this refining process, some come out nearly fully formed like this poem.

This poem “An Album of Sorrows” originally appeared in Feminist Critique Here and Now Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 254 (2023): 150-151.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.