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Tenacious • Loving • Creative

Her Story

Lisa Clarke M.Ad.Ed.

Executive Director Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre

Lisa's Story :

I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. Poetry and song lyrics, short stories, magazine and news articles, but in my early 20s, after publishing my first poetry chapbook, the creative words began to falter. My parent had excitedly shown my book to a poet who published a poetry collection in Toronto each year and the feedback was that my work was ‘juvenile love poetry.’ Having seen this older poet as a mentor, his words severed the tether to my muse.

For a while I continued writing magazine and news pieces, and then moved into corporate communications writing. This led to working in non-profit organizations writing about organizational highlights and contemporary issues, sometimes a great biography piece, but the words of my heart rarely graced the page. I reflect on this experience in the way I see so many issues of young women today trying to stretch their wings in a world that continues to want to clip them.

My muse began its journey home in my late 30s, when I had the opportunity to work with strong and inspiring women leading in our local community services organizations. As activists and advocates, they pushed me ‘out of the nest’ so to speak so that I would begin to trust my creative self again. During this time, they encouraged me to begin a Masters of Adult Education, while working and parenting. Some days it’s hard to find my flight path; other days it has felt like I’m hitting the branches as I’m trying out these new wings. But in the pressure of adapting to all sorts of winds – and we have had blustery days of late – I’ve been writing again … and I’ve even picked up a paint brush. I’m on the home stretch of my studies, and have started a new journey as the Executive Director of the Kawartha Sexual Assault Centre, but in my spare time, I’m creating again. It may not be the best poetry, nor fine art, but the process has helped me to celebrate my creative self.

Each day I have the opportunity to connect with survivors of sexual violence and share stories; this experience has profoundly transformed me. But my proudest achievement is in increasing the arts engagement of the Centre to these survivors, through great clinical and expressive art staff, through grants with the Ontario Arts Council, and through engagement with events like ArtsWeek. I will continue to write juvenile love poetry – and can anyone – but through navigating this decades’ long journey, I’ve realized that the most important love poetry I write will be to myself.