I stopped writing a few years ago.
Dealing with the stuff I wrote about was hard enough to manage in my daily life; rehashing it in words was putting salt in the open wound. So I stopped. No journals, no poems, not a line of metaphors, nouns turned to verbs, nothing.
I hoped that not writing the experience would mean it didn’t happen/wasn’t happening. Now I see the gap in the dates in my written work and the glut of visual stuff that fills the gap is more telling than anything I could’ve ever written.
Later I wrote *this poem about it. Like looking at the pictures without reading the words, the poem was misinterpreted as a love poem. “Was it him? Or him?” inquiring minds wanted to know.
Truth is that the poem that came from that couple of years of self-imposed “silence” was about stuff way-y-y-y-y more complicated than love. I remember wishing I could name the experience as easily as pointing out a “him or him” (it’s a lot easier to treat and eventually heal what we can name).
When that happens—an interpretation of my work that I didn’t intend—I question if I wrote it “right.” I teach my students that effective writing is getting your point across; your reader should be able to clearly identify (but doesn’t necessarily have to agree with) your point.
But to be fair, when an audience brings its experience into the communication equation (speaker, audience, point)—and they always will—what they “get” will always be out of the speaker’s control.
Part of being an artist is telling it all even knowing your audience might/is gonna get something out it that isn’t necessarily what you “intended” them to get.
And telling it all is as hard as crafting how you tell it.
I’ve maintained this blog for years; put my business “all over Front Street” as they say; in crafting how I tell it have only kept names to myself to protect the not-always-so-innocent. Yet I continue to hear from people who seem to be only looking at the pictures.
They ask to be friends on my social networking pages—which gives them complete access to my blog; my business—then ask me questions I’ve already answered. Have I failed to craft my words in a way that effectively makes them know: yes I am single; no I don’t go to church; that I have a twin sister and three older ones too?
While artists often compose in solitude and create like they breathe—without conscious effort to make it happen or stop—we do not exist in that vacuum. The part of us that anticipates an audience is the same part that values our breath, and in kind our art, as unforgiving and frustrating as both can be sometimes.
So we tell it all. Anyway. Look past the pictures and you’ll see.
*The following poem first appeared in Diode Literary Journal.
SOMETHING LIKE AN ASSHOLE, OR, HOW TO READ THE RIND
You know the greasy spot on the side he never sleeps on
is a sign.
are a sign:
The body is more water than flesh.
And if you know how to interpret It right
the way a mango peels,
meat stripping itself like a slow wind from the rind
resisting to slide from your grasp
can be sounded out to tell it.
Lovers are the most obvious people
on earth, naked as sky over glow fish
under a Puerto Rican moon.
More than children.
Censors fail them
may have never been included in the package.
Labels lie that way
Machines miss that way
To catch it all
make your sleeping
Eat the bait, remove the hook later.
Let the blood
Rorsach you into