Sadiqa de Meijer turns hardship into creativity

Kingston poet discusses finding inspiration during the pandemic

de Meijer's story is proof that perserverance pays off.
Supplied by Sadiqa de Meijer

Sadiqa de Meijer is a talented writer of poetry, short stories, and essays. Her work has been published in The Walrus and Poetry Magazine.

Like many, de Meijer found herself challenged by the pandemic—both as a writer and a mother.

“I’m fortunate as a writer that I was working at home anyway, but the timing of things [in life] has changed,” de Meijer told The Journal.

“Things were fairly close to normal, other than all the same anxieties and missing people that everyone was having.”

Last year, de Meijer was commissioned by Kingston Poet Laureate Jason Heroux to write about the uncertainty of COVID-19. Her poem, “Chronology of the Emergency,” is about adjusting to the changes brought forward by the pandemic.

2020 also saw de Meijer release her poetry collection, The Outer Wards. It discusses topics of motherhood and illness, drawing from her experiences parenting her young daughter while recovering from a severe concussion.

“I couldn’t parent really at all or very effectively,” de Meijer said. “I felt like it really heightened some of the things that parenting and mothering brings you up against anyway, like the fears of not being enough or not being present—the idea that your kid needs you and you’re not answering that need.”

Living with this serious injury inspired de Meijer to write about heavier topics.

“It really led to a lot of thoughts about death. And I think that was partly the degree of the disability I had,” de Meijer said.

“I think there’s something about brain injuries that things can get very dark in combination with the physical of it.”

She feels fortunate to have ultimately persevered through this concussion, as many people never fully recover from their physical or mental health challenges.

“I can talk about what that felt like, whereas some people who go through it don’t get to come back and tell that story. And that’s what The Outer Wards is for me,” de Meijer said.

De Meijer released another poetry collection, alfabet/alphabet: a memoir of a first language, six months after The Outer Wards. It explores her relationship with her native language, Dutch, which she’s maintained a strong connection with it since moving to Canada at age 12.

“The book sort of talks about the echoes that a first language leaves,” de Meijer said. “In many ways, a first language can make much stronger contact with our emotional selves and with our earlier experiences than the second one does.”

de Meijer is currently writing a book of personal essays.

“A lot of what I’ve worked on so far is autobiographical in nature and written in confessional verse, and I guess I wanted to shift from that a little in my new project,” she said.

These newest pieces will cover a range of topics, from medical education to burial practices of the dead. She is currently working on an essayabout interracial families rooted in her personal experiences of being mixed race and raised by a white mother.

While her future essays remain personal, de Meijer is hoping to incorporate a fresh perspective into her upcoming work.

“I’ve been trying to look outward more and use myself as an observer but write
less introspectively.” 


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