by Danielle Katz ’18
As seniors agonize about what college to attend, what to major in, and what to do for a living, very few, if any, plan on pursuing poetry.
Sherwood alumna Marlena Chertock released her second published poetry collection, “crumb-sized,” after graduating from University of Maryland in 2013 with a journalism major, creative writing minor, and Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House Notation.
Chertock’s dedication to and passsion for her writing started at a young age, and her creativity and drive to create has only increased since then. “I first wrote a fable story in third grade, and was hooked,” recalled Chertock. “Then in high school, I attended the creative writing club regularly, writing definitely not-alwaysgreat poetry, but just getting practice. In journalism and on The Warrior, I honed my journalistic writing that I’ve used ever since: in internships, in blogging, in college, in journalism jobs and now marketing jobs.”
Using her book and the power of writing, Chertock dives into deeper themes to share her story and express her identity. She includes topics ranging from femininity and sexuality, to biology and disability. Chertock uses her book as a bridge to create connections among topics normally perceived as unrelated.
“I focused on my skeletal dysplasia and chronic pain, which I use as a bridge to scientific poetry,” she explained. “I’m a space nerd, and am very inspired by science, nature, and the universe. I love science fiction, so why can’t we have sci-poetry? My poetry explores the rich images in science and medicine. I use varied scales of nature, space, and DNA to explore pain and being human.”
In the poem “1 to 10,” Chertock specifically analyzes how doctors lack empathy for pain and the trivial, verbal ways with which pain is measured.
“Rate my pain on a scale/ of 1 to 10/ even though I’ve never been a mathematician,” writes Chertock. “What about decimals,/ can pain be a 9.5, not quite 10?/ They ask me to rate my pain in cold, hard numbers. Easy for the doctors/ to comprehend, but what’s the difference,/ really, between a 5 and 6?”
In passages like this, Chertock looks past norms and analyzes the world of medicine beyond surface-level themes. Her vivid descriptions and interesting interpretations of the medical world from her own experiences provoke thought around standard medical practices.
Chertock encourages young writers to pursue writing in any way possible, similar to how she participated in newspaper reporting, creative writing, and personal writing projects.
“Write and share it with friends or someone you trust,” advised Chertock. “Get feedback and don’t be afraid of revision. Revisions are where writing becomes stronger. Read tons. Make sure to read a variety of genres and voices, including writers of color, women writers, LGBT+ writers, disabled writers, immigrant writers, etc. Broaden your voice by reading broadly.”