Jessica Urlichs

Poet Jessica Urlichs chats with us about her inspirations and obstacles

WellBeing Creativity: Tell us about your journey to become a poet.

Jessica Urlichs: Technically my journey began the moment I could pick up a pen. I started writing poems in primary school; I thought it was pretty cool when my teacher asked if she could read one out at her wedding! So I have written on and off for years, just for myself mostly. But becoming a mother was the catalyst for my poetry books and children’s books — it’s when I actually began to share my work.

I found postpartum rather lonely with my first. We had a difficult birth and I had trouble feeding, and I suffered from postnatal anxiety. I didn’t open up for a long time about how I was feeling because I felt like I had to put on a brave face, be ‘grateful’, remember how lucky I was… I squashed my feelings for a while for no other reason than society’s expectations of modern motherhood. It was my husband who suggested I start writing again, so I did (but on Instagram). It was so healing and cathartic not only to express my honest truths on motherhood, but to connect with so many other mothers and read their stories too. Things became so much easier for me having a community like that, and I was doing something for myself too.

WBC: Motherhood is obviously a great source of inspiration for you — did becoming a mother help you unleash your talent for poetry? Or was this simply where you found your audience?

JU: I think it cracked me open in a way that was different to before. I don’t think I have ever written with as much love, honesty and naked emotion as I have done since becoming a mother. I actually had the most inspiration when I was the most sleep-deprived; strangely, some of my best pieces came out of the moments when I could barely string a thought together. That’s why writing helped. I could get it all down and make sense of the mess. It also helped me find the pockets of beauty in the shadows of the long nights.

I think my audience has formed around the honesty of my pieces and how relatable they are. The most common feedback I get is that it’s all the things they want to say but don’t know how to.

WBC: The emotion in your poetry is so very raw. Is it scary being so vulnerable?

JU: Yes! Always! I don’t think I have woken up from the dream that my books are in so many homes across the world, and I’d like to keep it that way, so I don’t get freaked out by it all, ha! But truthfully, when someone is open and vulnerable, it gives someone else permission to do the same. It’s scary, but it’s powerful. You don’t know who you’re helping.

WBC: Motherhood is a running theme throughout your work. Does anything in particular inspire you?

JU: Honestly, it is so much easier to write about the harder days, and I think that’s because we struggle to make sense of them, so getting it all out is validating. But I try to keep a balance between writing about the highs and lows. Because the highs always outshine the lows. I just like to write about both and keep it real. It’s mostly when I’m feeling something deeply I feel a need to write about it — annoying phrases we hear like ‘enjoy every minute’ always inspires me (ha!), watching them grow into their beautiful bold personalities, my son, who is highly sensitive, is a constant light and inspiration, sleep… I have written a lot about sleep or lack thereof!

WBC: What does your creative process look like?

JU: I have lots of topic ideas and I write those down in my phone or on Trello, but only if inspiration strikes do I start actually writing a piece. I might jot it into my phone to come back to it later when the kids are in bed. I find when the kids are at kindy now I do other things — orders, commission work, manuscripts… the new pieces are a bit more sporadic, and I’ve always written at strange times (in the middle of the night, in the passenger seat in the car, during baths, while breastfeeding at 2am). I don’t ever want to force content; I just want to write when I feel it. That way, it serves me and doesn’t rule me. It started as a passion and I want it to forever feel that way.

WBC: Your poems are paired with some beautiful illustrations and photos. How do you select the perfect art to accompany your words?

JU: I have a few favourites and now most of their art hangs up in my house. I’m running out of wall space! I am in constant awe of some of these artists. I have a folder where I save a lot of art pieces that I think would pair well with a piece of mine. I reach out and check if it’s okay to use with my words, and the answer has always been yes thankfully!

WBC: It’s impossible to read your poetry without thinking about mental health when it comes to mothers and the load we bear. Has being creative helped you with your own mindfulness practice?

JU: It has definitely helped me put things into perspective, by connecting with so many other mothers. It’s also helped me feel normal! I like to normalise the normal. I think that gets lost in the perfect curated feeds of social media. I think lowering our expectations sometimes, realising that we can’t possibly do and be everything all at once, and giving ourselves some grace (because we are actually moving mountains) is the deep breath we forget to take. I hope my writing can serve as a reminder that yes, it’s normal, yes, you’ve got this, and you’re not alone.

WBC: What advice would you give to anyone who was looking to explore their creativity with poetry?

JU: Read poetry, write something honest, be unapologetic about it, and simply start… and then keep going!
To read more of Jessica’s poetry or buy her fabulous books for mothers and children, follow Jess on Instagram at @jessurlichs_writer or visit her website, jessicaurlichs.com

ALL I SEE IS YOU

By Jessica Urlichs

Mama,

I can’t see past you right now, I’m so small and everything’s a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I’m here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren’t lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re making it look easy to me. Even though we’re still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

When you think some nights you’ll never sleep again, you will. We both will. But I’m scared right now. I promise I’m not manipulating you. I just need your smell and comfort. Do you feel that tug in your heart when we’re apart? I do too.

I miss you.

When you feel as if you’ve achieved nothing, please know, my cup has never been so full.

The days that get away on you will be some of my best memories of us playing together on the ground.

I love you.

When you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore, when you turn away from the mirror. That face will be the one I look to when I achieve something, the one I search for in a crowd. The reason for my first smile.

You’re perfect to me.

When you feel like the weight of it all is heavy in your heart, please know I’ve never felt lighter. Can I lay here with you a little longer?

I won’t always need you like this.

But I need you right now.

When you feel as if you have nothing left to give, when I see your hands outstretched at me, pleading. When we’re both crying. I wish I could talk, but I can’t.

If I could, I would tell you,

There’s a reason I chose you.

I can’t see past you right now mama, because you are my world.

It will get bigger, soon enough.

But for now,

All I see is you.

Lauren Clarke

Lauren Clarke

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