Becoming Eliza

Eliza Lambeth's Gravestone

Eliza Lambeth’s Gravestone

During last semester, I was given an assignment in my Intro to Creative Writing class that involved writing a dramatic monologue. I scratched my head. A dramatic monologue? Isn’t that a theater thing? I admit that poetry is not my strong suit. Other than the angst-ridden poetry that I wrote during my Goth days in high school, I haven’t spent much time with it. Which is hilarious, by the way, because I hated writing short stories in high school, and that seems to be all I do these days. Anyway, this is why these complicated poetry assignments were freaking me out.

Needless to say, even after my prof lectured on the elements of a dramatic monologue and how I should pretend to be someone else, I spent quite a bit of time searching Google for further help. This was a portfolio piece after all, and I wanted to make sure that I only submitted my best work. I started by writing a poem as a homeless teenager. I could write a decent amount about that topic, no? It was a big issue in my hometown.

I let my boyfriend read what I had written so far. “I don’t like it,” he said, honest as always. I asked why. “Because you’re clearly not passionate about this. There’s no feeling behind it.” He had a point. I could definitely do better. More head scratching. What the hell was I going to write about?

And then it hit me. I searched frantically through folders upon folders of pictures saved on my laptop for the ones that I took in Kentucky while on a road trip. There it was: a photo of an old gravestone. You’re probably asking me how the fuck any of this makes sense. I should probably tell you that I love traipsing through old cemeteries and value the amount of history that can be found in them. As I was walking through this particular cemetery in Bardstown, KY, something about this stone smacked me on the back of the head. The stone, which belonged to a stranger named Eliza Lambeth, seemed to be calling to me, and it prompted me to take a picture of it for use in a later piece of my writing. I found that piece in my dramatic monologue.

The writing happened so seamlessly then. I wasn’t stumbling around in the dark looking for my next verse. The words kept pouring out naturally, with only a little effort on my behalf. At that moment, I was Eliza. I showed my boyfriend this new version. “Now this sounds more like something you’d write,” he said. Thanks, Eliza.

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