Thursday, August 02, 2007

We Seek To Conceal




My first experience with a negative review came from one of the toughest people I have ever known, my mother. I wrote a story in my teenage angst mode about killing myself (creatively -- NOT -- I slashed my wrists) and called it (wait for it, this is brilliant) "The Razor's Edge." The mother came off rather badly in the story as all mothers do when one is a fifteen year old girl who reads way too much Sylvia Plath. My mother caught me writing on my dad's Tandy computer and made me give her the draft. She was, to put it mildly, royally pissed. I tried to explain that it was "fiction," that I actually liked some of the things that I professed not to like in the story and that was true. My mother worked a lot off and on outside of the home in a variety of jobs -- I loved when she worked as it gave her focus and drew her attention away from me and my multitude of faults. In the story, my narrator complains about this, complains about getting fast food for dinner (in all honesty, my absolute favorite dinner in that house that I longed for), and so on. She grounded my sorry self for a week, a punishment for both of us given my wonderful, sullen nature (I was going to be a writer -- didn't all artists have to be sullen?) and her penchant for turning a blind eye when one of her dogs tried to bite me.

Unlike Anne Sexton who stopped writing for ten years when her mother accused her of plagiarism, I didn't let my mother's reaction stop me. Instead I turned to wildly abstract poetry in which nobody could be identified, not even the point of the poem. I had not a clue what my poems were about -- they read like a cross between the confessionals and the lyrics of Slayer. But I wrote and was glad for it. When I got into my first workshop, nobody had a clue what I was trying to do. So I went back to the hard work of exposing myself and others. Of course, I'm always nervous -- it's hard to see what's beneath all that we seek to conceal under other circumstances. I'm done with killing myself in stories -- life is doing that quickly enough! And nobody grounds me these days except myself, especially when I need to get some writing done.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard." Anne Sexton

Cocktail Hour
Drinking poetry suggestion: To Bedlam and Part Way Back Anne Sexton

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Thursday! Dear readers, check out The Cave of Pythia, a fantastic blog, in my links section. It was her comment that inspired this post! Thanks Lindy!

6 comments:

James Brown said...

You and Lindy got yo ears close to your souls! And yooz listenin,too!

Hillary said...

Now that's cleavage!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sylvia Plath has been all over in my world lately. I was just thinking I needed to read some more of her stuff. Then I saw a research piece from Martin Seligman that mentioned her in relation to poets and suicide. It seems that poets who use "I" a lot in their poetry are more prone to bipolar disorder and suicide than those who use more "he" and "she."

Pythia3 said...

Thanks Michelle for the shout out!
And what a great post! That is why I turned to writing abstract poetry - like a secret code that even I (on my 'better' days) could not understand.
Sylvia was a sort of role model for me too, as I was a sullen child. My mother used to call me a martyr. I am still working on ridding myself of my penchant for self-commiseration.
But, you have given me courage to go forth and expose myself and the real people I know (as the crazy characters we are) between the sheets (of paper in the land of fiction)
:) Thanks again, Michelle!

eric313 said...

This post was meaningful to me.

I don't even need to comment because you know it already. It's all in the text, coiling around the sentaces and guiding them through the dark in the most enchanting way.

Hope the best for you this summer.

Seraphic Single said...

Now that is interesting. My mother gave me hell for working on a story instead of doing my math homework. She was very bitter and insulting about the uselessness of writing such stories. I was so distraught, I destroyed it and, yes, it was at least a decade before I wrote fiction again.

Come to think of it, I would love to read a collection of essays by writers whose parents gave them severe writer's block.