Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Censorship and the Poet's Persona

I've been writing some more personal poetry lately and I like the voice I'm developing. I also like that I have many voices, some surreal, some bossy, some snobby or distant, but sometimes it's good to settle into a poem that feels like a conversation with a close friend. There is something that is beyond cathartic or confessional that happens when you can describe a private-personal experience accurately and make it a public-shared experience.

This kind of writing also makes people vulnerable. Myself, as the poet, included. But also the community of people stuffed into each personal poem, that aren't poets, that wouldn't tell that part of their own story in the way I have or will. What does a poet consider when writing about their friends and family? I have had this discussion with other writers and none have really been able to give me a solid answer. Everyone tiptoes around things. Some people say that they waited for grandma to die before putting certain things out there or that they don't publish certain poems, just read them at small venues or not at all.

There is also the issue of one's professional life and how that might be affected by making some parts of their life, past or current, public. Some writers are teachers, like myself. In particular, I teach young children. My writing is often not appropriate for a young person, so making work public could affect me professionally. I had to ask that a video of me reading be taken down, not because I did anything bad, but that it showed me drinking and should a student of mine find that they would not have the life experience to put it into context. Some people worry about these issues of seeming professional, but it's less worrisome in higher education.

What do you think about when you put your personal art out there? Do you feel like the personal aspects can be unspoken? That it's not anyone's business? Or do you fly your private life's flag proudly? Or keep them all to yourself?

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