For years, whenever the then-single Pierra Calasanz-Labrador would deal with heartbreak, she’d whip out her pen and paper and let the words flow.
Pierra, a gifted writer who has also worked as a stylist and as the editor in chief of Meg Magazine and Enjoy Manila Travel Guide, turned to poetry in times of pain, poetry she hasn’t shared with the world… until now.
She put together 40 of her poems in a book, dubbing it “The Heartbreak Diaries” and describing it as “the literary equivalent of an ugly cry.” The beautiful book, small in size but big in emotion, is dreamily illustrated by Celina De Guzman.
“I was a warm thing to hold/When you were cold/And your heart was broken,” Pierra writes in “Warm,” one of her favorite pieces from the book.
In “Humpty Dumpty,” she writes, “I refuse to end up/Like the million other girls/Lying broken, puddling at your feet.”
But “The Heartbreak Diaries” isn’t just a book about heartbreak, it’s also a celebration of hope. “It’s not all sad, promise,” Pierra says.
In this e-mail interview, Pierra tells us about her passion for poetry, dealing with heartbreak and her life as a writer.
When and how did your love affair with poetry start?
It happened subconsciously I think, while reading Dr. Seuss and Mother Goose and then making up my own bizarre rhymes as a child (I’ve mellowed out too much, now that I think about it!). I still have a special place in my heart for children’s poetry, and I marvel at how some of the most simple pieces can actually be quite profound.
You’re also a journalist but what makes poetry special to you?
When we write articles as journalists, we often tell a story as it is, or how we perceive it, but with poetry, it transforms in the hands of the reader. When I come across a particularly good poem, I’m struck by how a few brilliantly constructed lines can be so powerful, how you can say so much without having to spell everything out.
Who are your favorite poets?
I won’t pretend to have a vast knowledge of poets, but I’m drawn to Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, and E.E. Cummings. I also think some lyricists are awesome contemporary poets.
What inspires you?
Books or poems or songs that I wish I had written—the gorgeous, surprising way words are used and strung together. Quiet films, the sea, vintage-y things (hopefully that I can wear!) with interesting stories, precious everyday moments, the strength and tenacity of the human heart.
Do you have any quirks as a writer?
I still write (longhand!) on any available scrap of paper or notebook within reach when inspiration strikes, and then of course they get buried in drawers and suitcases and forgotten for decades. Lately though, I’ve started typing my poems onto the Awesome Note app on my mobile phone when I’m on-the-go (you can give each page a cute background!), so that helps organize things a bit. Oh, I also tend to write during dusk (brings on the melancholy) or very late at night, when the world is quiet.
What was the most challenging step in creating “The Heartbreak Diaries”?
Honestly? Gathering up the guts to show it to the world. I still have no idea what people will think of it, but seeing how some pieces have resonated with my small circle of (very kind) friends made me think that it might be worth sharing with others, too. When I did finally decided to do it, everything quickly fell into place, including the funding for self-publishing! The universe conspiring, indeed.
How did you choose which pieces to include in “The Heartbreak Diaries”?
There’s a loose narrative running through the collection-from the promise of love, to the pain of heartbreak after heartbreak…to self-love, hope and the strength to begin again—and the poems selected pretty much helped tell that story. I also enlisted my idol poet and friend Chingbee Cruz to edit the book, and her valuable advice really helped shape the collection.
Do you have favorite pieces from the book?
“Warm,” “Paper Cuts,” “Hands” and “Monster Love” are particularly special.
How did you end up working with Celina de Guzman?
I stumbled upon Celina’s work at Art in The Park two years ago, and I remember being struck at how her pieces were beautiful but dark; they had depth to them. When I was looking for an artist for the book, I thought that her dreamy, melancholy style would perfectly complement my poems, and it turned out even better than I imagined. Plus, she’s a breeze to work with!
Who should read “The Heartbreak Diaries”?
Anyone who has ever been in love! It’s not all sad, promise—there’s a girl power message in there, too.
Apart from writing poems, what’s your favorite way to deal with heartbreak?
I’m your stereotypical masochist-watching romantic movies while eating ice cream, singing love songs in the dark, walking in the rain. Thank goodness I haven’t had to do that any more… knock on wood!
“The Heartbreak Diaries” will be available at Hey Kessy Studio starting Nov. 28. Meet Pierra tomorrow afternoon at a tea party at Hey Kessy Studio (and get to eat cookies by Celina, who is also behind Sweetleaf Soft Batch Cookies) and share #hugot stories. The book will also be available at Common Room starting on Dec. 5.
You may also order the book through Pierra’s Instagram (@tinypoem) and The Heartbreak Diaries’ Facebook page (www.facebook.com/theheartbreakdiariespoetry). You can also find Pierra at www.thehappylab.com.ph.