Monday, July 19, 2021

putting it all out there

Sometimes, it feels like as writers, we are very much used to putting ourselves out in the world through our work. Sure, some poets are more autobiographical than others (this would shock the novelist who I once heard speak on a panel at AWP who insisted he assumed all poets were writing from a strict first person "I.") So much of my own work true and also sometimes not true at all. Or the tiny kernal of truth is there and the seed and flower grows around it maybe not entirely true. Or maybe true, but not what actually happened. Or maybe, as Bjork said, "you should not let the poets lie to you".

But even still writing is a way of knowing. Or reading a writer is a way of knowing. Some more, some less. There is much trickery and slight of hand in my work in the name of artmaking. This space is perhaps more authentic. More real. Some say social media is not real,but I've never been one to front in those spaces.  (the things I geek about and talk about and things I say are the same things I am geeking about and saying to the people around me IRL..sometimes verbatim.) My James Franco poems, for example, were culled much from this very blog. In them, I aid the same things I said on social media and to my friends at the library and to other poets-- so much so that my sister said it is the most real thing I had every written. Not all poems and projects work like that, of course, but some things are closer to the real me than others. Closer to the actual things that happen--barring persona-driven or narrative work.  And in some ways, even those things are built around a certain sort of truth. 

The closer to me something is, however, the more self-conscious it makes me being out there. While I talk about many things here--in other spaces--in my writing, it makes me really uncomfortable, for example, when so people I work with read my books.  When potential or current romantic partners read something.  (I feel quite differently about exes weirdly, since everything is in the past.) I don't know if my state of being "out there" so much works against me or for me sometimes.  I always am fascinated by mysterious writers, who speak to us only in the form of their work.  Like an oracle that only opens every once in a while.  These writers we only know through the pieces they have given us. If they inhabit social media, it's usually in a promotional capacity only--linking to publications and other news. Many have said they stay away because it interferes with their writing and concentration and wastes their time. I like it overall-some platforms more than others--but it's my way of connecting, esp. since in real life, I don't know that many writers--so my entire writing world lives in an online space. This has always been true--journals, blogs, social media--all integral to how I move about in the writing world, barring some early local open mic participation and my MFA years (and trust me, my online community experience was far more rewarding and productive.)

I often say I'm not sure how people did things--published poems, built audiences, engaged with community pre-internet.  My taste of it in the 90's as a young writer -even just submitting poems into the void of SASE's and form rejections from editors you never got to know felt lonely and isolating. You had to be hard core & resilient--especially if you lacked a local community to buoy you up.  But truth be told, sometimes putting yourself out there makes you vulnerable. But then again, sending your work out is a similar vulnerability. A friend tells me she hates social media becuase she doesn't want to know people that deeply and micro-level.  But I am curious. To know people by what they put out, even if it's not entirely genuine.  Even if it's a shiny, glossy shellaqued version of their life as some instagram influencers have been accused of. Even in the gloss there might be a bit of truth that is more interesting than nothing at all. Sometimes even truth in the fiction.

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