This is my seventh or so attempted post that isn’t poetry or frivolous stuff.
I’m trying to figure out what it is, exactly, that I’m trying to share, but it all seems terribly phony as I get towards the end and I think what I’m trying to say is that phony is starting to grate on my nerves a bit. I’m trying to make plainspeak part of my nature, but poetry tends to be the opposite of plainspeak — with the value we put on allusion, allegory, and indirect imagery as poets, how can it be anything else? And I don’t know that there are allowances for certain people to write more direct poetry in this day and age, depending on the topic involved.
For instance, it is okay to suggest or imply physical self-harm as long as it is masqued by big, floral, or abstract words, but everyone wants to lock you up if you write: “Tonight, I held/the razor to my wrists/unable to decide/to make lateral/or longitudinal cuts”. I’m impressed and gladdened to see women writing descriptive erotic poetry and prose — but now it seems (or is it just prudish me?) that when a man writes something without the aforementioned romantic tropes, it becomes labelled “crude” instead of hot an sensual. How would people react to me talking about stroking my penis thinking about some fantasy woman, I wonder? I also sometimes hesitate to write about my experiences outside of Caucasian perspectives because I might be accused of appropriation — even though these are my stories and experiences that I share. I have grown up in a non-white neighborhood as a white man; I have hung out with various native tribes; i had to learn pidgin Hmong to be a backup supervisor for a cleaning crew so I could give direction to non-English speakers. Those are my stories as well. This isn’t me doing a “why can they, but not me” whine. It is a real decision that needs to be considered each time I write. Who is most likely to be offended and do I need to offend anyone to write something close enough.
Sensitivity drives what I allow myself to write. Do you know how many times I wrote and rewrite variations of last night’s poem containing the word “whore”, concerned that its use would be more off-putting than if I wrote “fuck” fifty times in a row for no obvious artistic reason? “Whore” is the appropriate word.
I had a teacher once ask a student about a part of a story. Essentially, the student ended up waffling and said something to the effect of: “…then he went to the bushes and, erm, defecated in the bushes.” The teacher was livid. “He didn’t go into the bushes to defecate,” he told the student. “He went to the bushes and took a SHIT.” It was there, right in the story, the teacher read it aloud (I forget what the story was, sorry). Defecate wasn’t the right word, and so the author didn’t use it. Shit was the right word. Vulgarities are just words too; words that somewhere, someplace decided were somehow naughty. As a writer, however, I feel you should be sensitive to the sensibilities of the reader, and I had to weigh if the word “whore” was going to be too offensive to maintain my follower counts. Or if I was willing to risk the loss or any backlash. Ultimately, I chose to accept the risk.
Which is why I’ve enjoyed the microfiction I’ve tossed out lately. It satisfies my desire minimalist writing, but I can cut out the obfuscating words that poetry seems to demand most of the time. I can, using the above example for suicidal tendencies: “He bounced the razor blade on his wrist, making cuts that often were not deep enough to bleed, but occasionally one did, in fact, bleed. He considered doing more, but couldn’t decide if he wanted to end up in ER or the morgue tonight. Maybe a few more shots would help him decide.”
Nothing hidden. Nothing masked. No shadowplay.
So, I don’t know — maybe I need to change the subject matter of the poetry. Or move to more microfiction. But something is bothering me about things (hell, it could be the state of our nation that is bugging me), and I wish I could figure it out. But I know it has something to do with indirect speaking.