William Wordsworth said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings, taking its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.
Diane Guarnieri, a buyer for the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Medical supply chain and published poet, is living that truth as a buyer-by-day, poet-by-night, expressing her emotions – most recently about the COVID-19 pandemic – in the form of poetry.
“I would like my poetry to be reflective of a kind of timelessness that, maybe someone in the future picking up my journal of the pandemic would still be able to relate to some of the human emotion I was writing about.”
Finding the outlet
Guarnieri admits that she has led an interesting life: As a DLA employee in the early 1980s when childcare started to be more readily available for working families; as an adult student at the Community College of Philadelphia and Holy Family University to advance her education; as a high school English teacher; as a stay-at-home mother; and now, coming full circle, as a DLA employee yet again.
Throughout her life’s journey, there was loss, pain and joy. Sometimes overwhelming amounts, Guarnieri said. Like many people, she lacked an outlet to express those emotions until she found one in poetry that helped her cope and connect with the world as she experienced it.
“A lot of the beginning of my journey was probably more trying to understand my life when my dad died,” Guarnieri said. “Trying to understand where I had been, where I am at and where I am going. It was very soul-searching.”
At the urging of the minister at her father’s funeral, Guarnieri wrote a poem to express herself and the loss.
“It was called ‘Ode to a Fisherman,’ for my father,” Guarnieri said. “I read it at his viewing, and hence started my career as a poet in 1997.”
At the time, she was in what she described as a “very bad situation, a very bad marriage,” but continued to find herself in the pursuit of her art. While enrolled at CCP, she started to write more to help deal with the challenges she faced in her life.
“The poetry was cathartic and also it helped me to grow as a person,” Guarnieri said.
She went on to get her certification in high school education, all the while pursuing poetry through avenues such as volunteering as a staff member on the college literary magazine and hosting a writing workshop at the historic Bourse Building in Philadelphia.
Poetry is her art, and she humbles herself to it throughout her journey.
“I think I just keep doing whatever it is I am interested in or influenced by or inspired by, and I never know where that road is going to take me,” Guarnieri said.
A tool to process it all
When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, Guarnieri once again felt the need to soul search and process what she was experiencing. As she watched the news, Guarnieri was impacted by the stories of loss and felt vulnerable, so she started writing.
“It was a journal. I said, ‘I’m just going to journal my feelings ... I was really journaling a lot out of fear,” she said. “I felt vulnerable, especially March 2020 when everything kind of just hit. And then these poems started to come to the surface.
The result was her latest published collection of works, “COVID-19 2020: A Poetic Journal.”
“The numbers in the news were staggering, and I thought, ‘Well this is important.’”
Guarnieri used her journal to capture the overflow of emotions caused by a year of isolation in pandemic conditions, social uprisings and a politically charged election. It wasn’t just her emotion, she said, but a collective processing of emotions.
“‘A Poetic Journal’ is more … outside of me; like what’s going on around me and how I empathize more with that which I am living through – not just an individual, but as a member of the city – Philly – Pennsylvania, the country and the world,” Guarnieri said.
With such polarizing and wide-swept reactions to the pandemic, Guarnieri found herself not only out of her comfort zone in the world, but in her art. She tried new methods such as using statistics, word art and acrostic poetry to convey information in an expressive and artistic way.
“The numbers in the news were staggering, and I thought, ‘Well this is important,’” she said. “So that’s why I wrote ‘State the Facts 1’ and ‘State the Facts 2’ in May and December of 2020 – to capture some of that in my art and relay the information.”
She hopes that her poetry will not only help those now as they struggle to process the events of the past year and a half, but perhaps inform and create a connection with readers down the road.
Hope for the future
“I would like my poetry to be reflective of a kind of timelessness that, maybe someone in the future picking up my journal of the pandemic would still be able to relate to some of the human emotion I was writing about,” Guarnieri said.
Throughout her poetic career, Guarnieri has been inspired by many things, including nature, love and dreams. Her identity is deeply rooted in Philadelphia, having grown up in the city, but has grown to encompass experiences shared by people across the globe, and she hopes her poetry will resonate as such.
“I hope that maybe [people will] identify with a character that I write about or a situation that I’ve been through,” she said.
Guarnieri experienced that herself as she read a poem about a love story in the time of famine and disease in Ireland in the 1800s by Eavan Boland called “Quarantine.” It spoke to her in its beautiful story, but possibly impacted her so greatly because of the connection between then and the current pandemic, and she tries to do the same in her writing.
“Sometimes I’ll try to weave history and real-life events that have happened over the course of time into my poetry,” Guarnieri said.
From the death of a loved one, such as her father and the pain he suffered, to the struggles of her community and nation during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gaurnieri hopes readers will take the time to connect through her art and process the past to help more clearly navigate their unwritten future, she said.
“It’s evolutionary,” Gaurnieri said. “You, as a human, you evolve through life, hopefully, from the beginning to the end to become a better human. And hopefully your art is also reflective of that mental, physical, spiritual growth, and hopefully you can give back. I think I am at that point – trying to give back.”
Her published collections include: “Images of Being,” “Night Sweat,” “Light’s Battered Edge,” “The Handheld Mirror of the Mind,” “City of Shadow and Light: Philadelphia” and “COVID-19 2020: A Poetic Journal.”