There are two types of poetry writing. One is writing for yourself, the type of writing that you do when your dad hits you or your girlfriend breaks up with you or you’re trying to come to grips with the fact that you think you’re gay. It’s the kind of writing that you do for you, you’re the only one meant to see it, and it eventually gets tucked in a box in the bottom of your closet to be forgotten.
The other type of writing is when you write for an audience, when you want to make a point, when you want to get published. And then your work suddenly becomes very important, because it can be interpreted in many ways. Wouldn’t want anyone to think the wrong things, so you have to be careful with your word choice.
The easiest and probably best way to do this is to avoid explaining emotion. Explain everything in the scene to depict the emotion, and the reader will feel the feeling without having to be told what the emotion is. The emotion will be self-evident. It will be so self-evident, in fact, that the reader can’t avoid it. They couldn’t escape it if they wanted to. You have to set a scene and be as concrete in your description as possible so the reader can feel the wood finish on the bench at the church, or they can smell the glass cleaner from the window they’re reading about leaning on. When the reader is forced to feel the images in the writing, then it suddenly becomes strong, it pulls them into the story, kicking and screaming.
And that’s often frightening, because it seems so real.
The easiest way to describe a scene with such vividness is to not write fiction. Study your surroundings in such detail and you’ll realize the vast amount of information your senses overlook. For instance, just think about your body right now. How do your shoulders feel? Are your fingertips cold? Are your legs crossed? Is your hair tickling your forehead? As I’m writing this, I realize that my legs are crossed, and it’s actually quite uncomfortable. In other words, I wouldn’t have even noticed that I was actually in pain unless I made this conscious effort to think about it. We neglect to notice these daily things, these things that make us feel the way we do on a daily basis. And all of these things, when described in a certain way, can portray a mood with more power and strength than ever saying, ³I feel tired.²
I try to do that with my writing, and sometimes people wonder if I’m disturbed.
And sometimes, when people say that, I feel flattered. That’s when I know I’m doing something right.
But I think there are two reasons that people are scared of this kind of work. One is because the emotions I present are painful, and it reminds people of similar experiences of their own that are painful. Many people have gone through pains like some that are described on one level or another in this book. Most, however, want to hide it.
Some of the emotions (not all, but some) are emotions I have gone through at one time or another, and believe me, I’ve tried to stop the hurting from those feelings. But the pain only started to subside when I wrote it down. When I felt I did something about it. When I validated my own feelings. When I accepted those feeling as mine and took them beyond mere thoughts.
The first step toward healing from a pain is accepting the pain, accepting the problem. The second step is expressing that pain. Then it is easier to come to terms with it and move on. I think what frightens people about my writing is that it’s about things they don’t want to think about, they don’t want to accept. I’m going so far as to express them, what gall she has, how dare she do that... But I think I’m stronger for it in the end. I’ve taken that pain and I’ve changed it into something constructive, something to be proud of. Something to learn from.
The second reason why people may not like the harshness of this work is because they view it as reading nonfiction about a bitter, hurtful person.
And this isn’t true.
Some of the work in this book was written for an audience. Some was written for me, and possibly should have stayed in the box in the bottom of the closet. Some of the work in this book is fiction. Some of it is not. Some works have truth and lies so woven into each other that I couldn’t even tell you what was the truth anymore. And I don’t know if I’d want to.
I just want you to feel like you have been sucked in by this work, that hands have come ripping out from the very fibers of the page itself and taken a stranglehold on you. That you’ve just lived it all.
Don’t try to figure it out. Just try to feel like you’re there.
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