For creative writing MFA student Kayla Czaga, writing her first book -- nominated for the Dorothy Liveset Poetry Prize -- has been an interesting ride both figuratively and literally.
Composed of poetry written over the span of almost five years, Czaga describes For Your Safety, Please Hold On as a coming-of-age portrait of herself, as well as reflections of other people.
“It is basically a book that’s trying to figure what it is to be in the world compared to the people related to you,” said Czaga. “The experience you have and trying to learn how to navigate the world is the core thing that I’m trying to look at in the book.”
And navigate is indeed the key term, as much of the book is inspired from using public transit and other travelling in general. The main title itself comes from a sign usually seen on the bus.
“For some reason, the sense of moving between places I find really inspiring and generates a lot of things,” said Czaga, having written on subjects such as a man loudly weeping by himself on the bus, or thoughts on her dad while on a road trip to visit her hospitalized mother.
That’s not to say that the book is mainly comprised of views on other people -- Czaga herself is the main subject in plenty of them.
“The big poem at the end of the book, I wrote fully about a breakup that I had and my thoughts on spirituality,” she said. “I won’t read it out loud at readings because it feels too personal.”
The chronology of the works themselves can be a considered a coming of age story as Czaga found it hard to write about herself when she initially started.
“The earlier work [within the book] was less focused on me…. As I [wrote] more and more, it became easier to write specifically about my own experience, so that kind of took over.”
She also notes that the book lightens up a bit as it progresses, reflecting her learnings of incorporating humour while at UBC.
“Before I wasn’t very funny, so the early work tended to be more serious,” she said. “The newer work had more funny stuff -- though not always -- so that was a progression.”
With the book’s nomination for a BC Book Prize, Czaga is grateful for the recognition. More importantly, she is glad to know her expression reaches others.
“It’s not enough for me to just express and it makes no sense to anyone else,” she said. “When I was a kid books meant a lot to me because they spoke a lot to me, and I guess I’m trying to do that -- to speak to other people.”
That said, it does not mean she is stopping just yet, nor should it be the reason for other writers.
“I think you’ll never be satisfied if you’re in this game for the awards and recognition,” she said. “These [awards] are great … but ultimately it has to be internally satisfying…. You’ll have to pursue your own vision.”