Poetry Helps Winona Filmmaker Overcome Domestic Abuse

Cher Obediah says she used poetry to express her emotions while living with an abusive partner and the results sparked her new book, Shame to Shine.
  • Shame to Shine is a collection of 60 poems divided into three chapters, with 20 poems about Cher Obediah's hurt during an abusive relationship, 20 about her transformational healing, and 20 about her sense of empowerment.

Cher Obediah says she kept her mouth shut when her abusive ex-partner yelled at her because she “wrongly” accepted his outbursts were rooted in her intergenerational trauma from the residential school system.

“I couldn’t talk about my emotions because his emotions were overwhelming us both,” recalls the Mohawk and Ojibwe filmmaker, artist and aerobics instructor.

“Whenever I shared my emotions with him, it was seen as criticism: ‘Now he’s a bad person and now I expect perfection,'” she says.

“I just wasn’t heard. This is one of the worst things you could ask of your partner is not to be seen or heard. It was horrible.”

But Obediah didn’t take the abuse in silence, venting her emotions through poems she spouted on her phone like “vomit” after running for the door, often with shoes in hand because she didn’t have time to put them on.

“Everything I wanted to shout at him to defend myself, I wrote it down. My thumbs were just on fire,” she said.

“I just started getting it out in every way I could. I started writing poetry on my phone in nature. I would just walk around in nature and write, and it would always be very restorative. At the end of the trail, I would go home and feel full again.

Obediah eventually left his partner, moving from Brantford to Winona. But she continued to write poems, shifting her focus from her partner to herself, then to her gratitude to her ancestors for her courage and strength in overcoming her ordeal.

The result is her new book, “Shame to Shine,” a collection of 60 poems divided into three chapters, with 20 poems about her hurt, 20 about her transformational healing, and 20 about her sense of empowerment.

She says her healing came when she realized she couldn’t be her ex-partner’s ‘fixer’ and started writing about mind-body condition, neurology, biology and psychology.

“I really started to take a deep dive to figure out how I got down that rabbit hole. What happened? I knew it was psychological and I needed to understand.

His transformation is evident from the poems. An excerpt from the one titled “Full of Emptiness,” for example, delves into the pain of leaving even a troubled relationship:

“my knees warned me that i would fall in love with you/now you’re not around while i’m crawling/i can cut your face in pictures/but i don’t know how to throw away/the smell of your skin .”

Obediah says the poem, which is too long to print here, reflects her feelings of loneliness after what she calls her dismantling.

“People say, ‘I would just leave.’ I really wanted to show the back and forth, back and forth,” she says.

“I was just existing day after day after day. I really couldn’t do anything…I just started writing about how forgotten I felt. I felt like nothing, but I want people to understand that’s OK.

More optimistic is a poem of gratitude titled “My DNA”:

“my ancestors/cared about nature/like a parent/took and gave/my divine DNA/like lines on a leaf/a language of love/I finally learned to speak.”

Obediah, 52, says she is now the happiest she has ever been, with her multifaceted career blossoming and full documentary potential in the works.

‘Shame to Shine’, $20, is already in its second edition after the first 100 copies sold out and is available at several stores including White Rhino Gifts in Grimsby, Coles and the Bookworm in Brantford and Iroqrafts at Six Nations .

Obediah says she hopes to get it on Amazon soon, and orders can also be placed through her website at cherobediah.com.

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