EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - An East Texas physician-turned-poet is hoping his journey from grief to rebirth will serve as an inspiration for others.
David Di Paolo recently celebrated the publishing of his first book of poetry, "April's Kiss."
The book chronicles his emotional journey after the loss of his father, who died two years ago. Shortly after the funeral, Di Paolo was diagnosed with cancer.
"I just was in a very dark period, I guess. Where I was sorting through feelings and the emotions. It took a while to process it," he says.
Di Paolo is somewhat of an unlikely poet. Though the East Texas physician is an avid writer, and previously published a fiction novel, writing poetry wasn't something he considered exploring.
Dr. Di Paolo also serves as a coach.
He says he was inspired by one of his cross country students, Grace, who was collecting submissions for a work she planned to publish.
"It was very therapeutic. It made me feel good to explore some of these feelings I had. After, she kept encouraging me and said 'Well why don't you keep going?' So that's kind of how the book started. It was my introduction to poetry," Di Paolo says.
Troubled by grief and medical issues, Di Paolo channeled his emotions into his work. He later decided to try his hand at publishing his own work, a process he refers to as natural and therapeutic.
"This book is very close to what I hoped it would be when I started," he says.
The paperback version of the book was released March 24, and the hardcover version was published last week.
"April's Kiss" is broken into three sections, featuring repeating themes of love, grief and rebirth. Di Paolo calls Part 1 By the Creek. It reflects the sadness and loneliness he felt after losing his father and his diagnosis.
In By the Creek lays Di Paolo's poem that touches him the most, "The Nomad."
The poem's opening verse begins a journey of self-discovery that offers readers an opportunity to travel along with Di Paolo.
"I was a seed
Blown from far away
on dandelion wings
by April's kiss."
"April, of course, being April winds," he says. But what of the dandelion? That's representative too - of himself, he says.
"I just felt like I wanted to be in a different place," he said, wistfully.
Part 2, The Cave, captures the often turbulent emotions that follow the passing of a loved one. Di Paolo says the poems are angry and reflect his feelings of despair.
However, Part 3 - In the Meadow - assumes a triumphant voice.
"There's a renewed sense of purpose and joy and rebirth," Di Paolo muses.
Part 3 houses the poem he's most proud of, "I Can." It's meant to convey a sense of inspiration and to uplift the protagonist and the reader.
The 34-poem book is illustrated by local artist, Diane Frossard.
The book has been touted as "a hero's journey through despair to hope." But Di Paolo is hesitant to label the book as such or to refer to himself as a hero.
"It's definitely meant to be a spiritual journey," he concedes, adding that the book is for the everyman. "In a way, it's sort of poetry for the common man. These are common experiences. I know people have experienced similar emotions and feelings."
So no, he wouldn't use the word heroic to describe the book.
Unless, he muses, the word hero is used "in the sense that the protagonist could be any of us going through this journey. And we all do."
If people absorb anything, he hopes it's the message of taking time to be appreciative of the present, and to focus on it.
"We've got this amazing opportunity to connect with life. And that theme will come up over and over again in these poems," Di Paolo says.
Di Paolo is holding a book signing from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at Barnes and Noble in Tyler. Royalties from the hardcover version of the book will go toward the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in honor of Grace, who encouraged him to chronicle his journey.