Sunday, May 19, 2013

Song to Woody

A beautiful day in CO. Read some more interviews in POETRY IN PERSON: Twenty-five Years  of Conversation with America's poets. Many of these poets were interviewed in the late seventies and early eighties, and they seem to remove themselves from the first person lyric I, which I addressed a few posts ago in regards to trauma and recovery and the fragmented self. Healing involves finding and celebrating that self and reconstructing an identity based on new core beliefs about one's self.

The collection I am working on, as a press has noted, successfully meanders through internal landscapes, once again tied to trauma and recovery. A bit at odds with this view that first person I or internal landscapes are a bad or immature thing to do. We do what we must do as writers. I understand how such self-involvement without concern for the external world is viewed as immature or something young writers do, but again I stress those narratives that have been suppressed and taboo in not only the larger society but in the literary world are necessary. Recovery helps others who have gone through the same thing. These issues are not mere family drama; they devastate lives, harm psyches and objectify women.

Poetry is not an exercise in cleverness necessarily where narrative is something to sneer at because it's been done. So much depends on the poet, what his or her art is doing (hopefully). This is one reason I am glad Sharon Olds received the Pulitzer, though I haven't been crazy about STAG'S LEAP, which I've been unable to read. I do remember in grad school, the guys making fun of her. I think omission and dismissal of violence, sexual abuse and trauma is inhuman of late. When I hear such dismissals in the future people will discover I have found my voice.


danabeesvoice said...

Your comments are certainly true for any kind of memoir writing, Sheryl, whether it is strictly poetry or narrative or both combined. The memoir writer must describe "I" as she as gone through her transformation with recovery from trauma. Most people (but perhaps not other poets) want to read about the "I" you were and the "I" you became.

polarpaul said...

I enjoyed your thoughts on the subject and the differentiation between writings which don't address the needs of an audience versus writings that do and how taboo topics are marginalized.

I think it can be a tough call to make when the subject has strong emotional content because people tend to want to help people. When the quality of the writing is poor and the work is still published due to its emotional content, we must ask ourselves if we're engaging in sympathy rather than empowerment.

On the other hand, critics who wish to suppress writings on the taboo topic may choose to attack the writing when their true concern is the subject.

It can be a difficult balancing act to navigate through when a piece of writing is being considered for publication if strong belief systems are involved.

I believe integrity, time for reflection, and making room for taboo topics in the public sphere can help. As more writers are willing to address the taboo subject, the expectations of the audience for better writing will tend to rise as simply writing on the topic won't be sufficient justification for publication.