Flying high above the earth, it’s where I want to be.”
As a pilot or flight attendant, we experience the sense and joy of freedom on every flight. Even for senior aviators with decades of experience, the appreciation for the beauty of the earth seen from above and the fascination for the power of flight remain. Flying above the clouds gives us new inspiration and different perspectives on our life on the ground. The same kind of inspiration you get from reading poetry. Like flying, reading poetry can be both exciting and humbling. It gives the same experience of being lifted out of yourself into something greater.
One group of poets that may not immediately come to mind is women pilots. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2023 [ ⇑ ], we speak with captain Linda Pauwels [ ⇑ ], an American Airlines Boeing 787 check pilot and author of the Beyond Haiku series.
Linda Pauwels began her career as a pilot in the 1970s, when opportunities for women in the field were still relatively limited. Despite this, she was determined to succeed and worked hard to become a highly skilled and respected pilot. “My desire at first was to study medicine. But as a teen during a summer job at Miami airport, I fell in love with flying,“ recalls Linda. “I imagined myself sitting in the flight deck one day. And in spite of the odds, through hard work, dedication, and a helping hand along the way, I was able to make it happen.”
Women have been breaking barriers and making their mark in the aviation industry for decades. From the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean to women that act as commercial airline pilots or air force jet pilots today, they prove to have the skills and determination to succeed in a male-dominated field. And as women pilots fly through the skies, some have taken to writing poetry to capture the beauty, freedom, and challenges of their experiences. In her book “Beyond Haiku: Women Pilots Write Poetry“, Argentine-born Linda Pauwels masterfully captures the sense of joy that comes with flying. “The poems highlight the unique perspective that pilots have, as we see the world from above and witness its beauty in a way that others cannot,” says Linda.
Beyond Haiku was started during the covid-19 pandemic, as a way to unify pilots and build community during a difficult and uncertain time. The standstill of life during the lockdowns has made us all realize how important the little things are that we used to take for granted in the hustle and bustle of the day. “I remember Linda’s invitation in 2020, the year that will go down in history as an absolute disaster for the entire world, and certainly for aviation,” says Carolien Libbrecht, an Airbus 320 senior captain with a Belgian carrier. “Writing haiku gave me both mental peace and some distraction at a time when I was worried about my job in aviation.” Carolien is one of the many women pilots who contributed to the book. Three of her haiku were included.
Beyond Haiku is to become a four book series. The first book Pilots Write Poetry featured haiku and short poems by forty American Airlines pilots, with illustrations by children of pilots. The second book Women Pilots Write Poetry was published in 2021 and contains poems by over fifty women pilots from ten countries. The illustrations were created by thirty two young and adult artists. Both books are translated into Spanish and were granted an Honorable Mention by the International Latino Book Awards. Books three Military Pilots Write Poetry and four Seasons of a Pilot’s Life are coming soon!
“I am excited to announce that we are also adding a non-fiction publication to the collection,” says Linda. “Beyond Haiku: Pilot Stories is a different style book with a selection of real life stories about pilots from different flying backgrounds and locations. The new book will be published Q2-2023.”
Aspiring Women Aviators
“Our audience is those who love aviation and who enjoy a unique melange of flying, art, and poetry. There is also an element of wellness involved in the haiku genre, as it serves to mindfully capture a moment in time,” explains Linda. In addition to writing poetry, Linda Pauwels has also been an advocate for women in aviation and has worked to inspire and encourage other women to pursue careers in the field. All proceeds from Women Pilots Write Poetry book go to fund aviation scholarships for aspiring women aviators [ ⇑ ]. “Our mission is to educate others about the wonders of flight through the literary and artistic expression of aviators,” explains Linda. “Through mentoring and scholarship assistance, we help those from a disadvantaged background navigate a path towards aviation professions.”
From her flying skills to her poetry, Linda Pauwels, together with all contributors, is a true inspiration to all women who dream of taking to the skies.
If you are a pilot and you enjoy writing poetry, share your work with the team. Your haiku may appear in the following book of the Beyond Haiku series. Visit the website [ ⇑ ] for new publications that are coming soon.
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