Why Though?

So… About my word groupings that i place in the category of “This Is Not Poetry.” Friends have asked me on a few occasions why i say it’s not poetry when it so clearly is.
I have a few reasons.
What follows are a series of judgments and opinions. They are mine and no one else’s, and some of them are harsh and petty. I will present an argument against myself after each. This is to show what i think, and how i’ve dealt with what i think.

JB = Judgey Blurt
3R = Relatively Reasonable Response

JB: For one thing, poetry doesn’t have a great reputation in our day and age. There’s a lot of eyerolling and jokes about those who indulge, in both the reading and the writing of such. I’ve read a lot of truly awful poetry, from the amateur gushings of lovesick and misunderstood teenagers, to pieces that the “professionals” mark as beautifully written, that i just plain didn’t like. There’s more bad poetry than there are bad tattoos – and that’s saying something.

3R: Well, so what? Arting is good for everyone. Doing something creative is uplifting for my mood and nutritious food for my brain. Throwing words together in a fancy, flowery way helps me face things that are hard to face. It helps me express myself to others on a more personal level. It can put a pretty spin on something that isn’t pretty – and that can help me live with the thing i’m writing about. When i was a karaoke hostess i used to tell people all the time that singing isn’t for being good at, so much as it is good for you. While i am unconvinced that such a thing as a soul exists, making art clearly feeds who i am as an individual. It’s good for me, and it’s not at all necessary for me –or anyone else– to be good at it. Also, i think a lot of the dismissive attitude stems from it being seen as old fashioned. And i think poetry seems easy, but can be frustratingly, infuriatingly, off-puttingly difficult. Maybe it’s just me, but as a lover of poetry, i’ve found it arduous to put out something i genuinely think is not crappy, let alone remotely readable for anyone else. More on that later.

(And those tattoos? I’ve got a crap one, too. The lesson there for me was, do not make any big changes, including permanently marking your body, when you are manic. Heh.)

(And those flowery, hyperemotional teenage screeds? They were an excellent tool to say things i couldn’t say, and purge emotions i couldn’t talk about. I think angsty, emo frothing is great for anyone. Not just writing either – READING it as well. Crappy poetry has proved as cathartic in my life as sappy songs.)

**********

JB: Poetry is profoundly personal, to me. There’s a difference between writing/blogging prose and poetry. Okay, that’s obvious… but is it, though? (Poetry rhymes and prose doesn’t may get us to a decent jumping off point – despite it being wrong.) I’m not sure i can define what the difference is, but man, it’s just deeper. It’s intimate. It accesses a part of my psyche and experiences that defy explanation, that evade the grasp of words. Also, when you consider my judgmental attitudes about poetry (judgments that i don’t feel too badly about, mind you, because everything about art is subject to judgment), i’m putting it all out there for others to see. I’m hangin’ my bare nekkid ass out the window while driving slowly down Main Street, so eeeeverybody can have a good looksee.
Here i am, doing that art-thing that so many (including me, sometimes) find cringey as heck.
And if you think this stuff is bad, hey, wanna see my etchings?

3R: Personal is what i do, here. I can’t provide the help that i hope to if i don’t open up and let you see and know. And you get to have opinions about it all – about me. Judgments, too. I welcome all to judge my words here, these thoughts and feelings and experiences i float about in this techno-aether. Not so that you may judge ME (although you certainly may), but so you can judge for yourself, if there is anything here of value to you. I do all this here to help myself, and anyone else who comes looking. If a seeker finds themself here, even if they find nothing in common with me, i hope they move on with the sense that they can know who they are and how they work, and through that, have more of the life they want.

At this point in my life i’m still not fully functional by my own standards, but i am almost there. That is a truly amazing thing, and it is a thing that i have done. I don’t have much to offer the world, but i do have that much. I have my life and the way that i’ve lived it, to share with any who’d know and wish to learn. Glean what you will; discard any or all as chaff.

**********

JB: I still wrestle with core issues like my need for acceptance and my fear of rejection. I want to be liked, and i want my art to be liked, and what if i’m/it’s not? Go ahead and don’t like my online journalling, i can slough that off in a brief season. But the poetry is closer to me, although it’s not as important to me as sharing my experience, strength, and hope (yes, i stole that from somewhere), it leaves me more raw and vulnerable to criticism and rejection. It’s like inviting you out with me. The not-poetry stuff is just us going out for coffee at a local roasterie. The poetry is having you over for supper, and what if you don’t like anything i made?

3R: This is one of those places where the rubber meets the road. Have i properly prepared for what might happen when i share my poetry? It might be ignored, skipped over, skimmed, or fully read and not liked/enjoyed. I haven’t observed it but a couple of times, but someone may even feel moved to tell me so. Am i wearing my armour of healthy self-esteem and reasonable expectations? Do i have on my YouDoYou hat and my ArtEyeBeholder boots? Am i wearing my intention goggles?

**********

And oh, here’s the final bit about my not-poetry, and it’s a sticky bit for some.
My stuff isn’t that good. I don’t think it’s horrible, but i love poetry, and what i write falls short of my personal standards. Imposter Syndrome has been suggested to me, and i considered it carefully, but i don’t think that’s something i wrestle with. I think i’m being realistic, and that is something i personally put a high value on. I understand and appreciate those who would say, You wrote something, therefore you’re a writer; You wrote a poem, therefore you are a poet. I definitely qualify based on their definition, and that’s genuinely nice, and it feels good and i like it.
That being said, i do not see myself as either a writer or a poet.

My journalling is decent because it’s in my voice. I’m mostly happy with it, although i’d like to always be improving.
My poetry ain’t great. It just isn’t. It is nowhere near the standard i’d put on a publishable piece. I’m okay with that. I still like my poems. I mean, i’m not a great baker either, but cake is still cake. Maybe i couldn’t put it in a bakery’s display case, but it’s still sweet and tasty and good enough to share with a friend along with tea and conversation. That’s what my poetry is – afternoon tea with a friend. The cake fell 3/4s of the way through baking, but i slapped some fudge frosting on it, and now i’m not bothered at all. In fact, i think i’ll have another slice.

Art is important to do, for me. It’s food, it’s therapy, it’s communication, it’s connection.
It is not necessary to be good at it to do it, as i believe i am proving. Heh.
And i am not bothered by my art not being up to mine or anyone else’s standards.
Further, i think “substandard” art can be just as enjoyable and therapeutic and resonant and emotive as art that is considered “great.”
It’s not my intention to ruffle feathers. I’m attempting to explain my choices here, and how i arrived upon them. I’m here for the general measure of what counts as excellence. I am also free to use my own yardstick, as are you.

I think the way i look at it is valid, and could maybe be helpful to others who hesitate to share their art.
The bottom line to all of the this, the most basic and simple reason that i can provide as to why i insist on calling it not-poetry, is because…

Based on my fears and weaknesses, without the caveat* attached, i might not ever post any.**

Love and Peace to All,
~H~

* The caveat is the roll that gets my piece on the board. After that, i’m just playing the game.

** Which is admittedly contradictory to all that confidence i showed in my final points. But hey, i am what i am, and that includes inconvenient qualities like ambivalent, contradictory, and all too often hypocritical.

IMAGE: Alvaro Serrano

Yo, Knock It Off!

Growing up, i learned not to complain about anything. There was no point, unless i was looking for a beating. A lot of my circumstances i didn’t even recognise as abusive or neglectful,  and any time i did, i was adept at putting it away somewhere inside myself and never thinking about it again.

When i got away and out on my own, that changed a little. I became hypersensitive to some low-level wrongs (the value i’m placing on these may not be anyone else’s), like being misunderstood, spoken to harshly, feeling excluded or ignored. I had no idea how to address these issues, but i had a great deal of experience with passive-aggressive behaviours, and that became my routine method of handling them. I was the stereotypical wife who slammed kitchen cupboards and furiously cleaned the house. When my husband would ask me what was wrong, i’d snap Nothing, stonefaced.

My second way to express it, was to GTFO; i’d leave the situation immediately, sometimes even end the relationship (if there was one) entirely. My past is probably littered with dead relationships with people who have no idea why i left. I’m a pro at ghosting. When the person who gave you life treats you the way my mother treated me, i think it can create a hard, twisted, dead part inside you.* I have the ability to cut off contact, completely, utterly, and immediately, with a loved one. I close a door between us and it is done. It’s only been in the last couple of years that i’ve been addressing this practise of mine, and it’s been quite the sticky wicket.

More than a few times i’ve heard from friends that there is an uncrossable line inside me, a place where none can come. That one can only know me so well, before approaching the locked door. Implacable me. The big fat NOPE. Reading my blog, you might find that strange, but let me assure you that the observation is correct and well-earned. I was raised in hiddenness, taught that i was bad and dirty, drank down a steady draught of shame until it spilled out of my body and filled the space around me and i had to grow gills to breathe in it. Until only a few short years ago, i believed that if you really knew me, you’d leave me. Immediately, and in disgust. And so i learned tricks to manipulate people into sticking with me. I didn’t think it out as consciously as i share this. Heh. No, i knew i was a sneak and a fake –my mother had told me these things since i can remember– but i didn’t think clearly that i must control the flow of information about me in order to have relationships with anyone. It was the subconscious impetus that guided all my interactions with other humans that i desired to have in my life. I was the Beast who’d give access to anywhere in the castle, save the wing that houses his dying rose. And if i caught you sniffing around, you’d likely get a similar reaction to his; a lot of roaring and throwing things.

If you really knew me, you would leave me.

I have a speckled, rocky, treacherous, traitorous history with friendship. I’ve spent decades now trying to unravel and decipher what i did, what they did, where my culpability lies and where it actuallyseriouslynoreally wasn’t me, it was them. I want to know the truth. One thing i’m not afraid of is truth. Okay, that’s not entirely true, as it is also not totally true that lies are pain. But the lie i was forced to live as truth caused me nothing but pain and suffering and separated me from life and those around me who were truly living it. So, in this particular instance i am not at all afraid (anymore, cuz laws yes, was i ever!) to know what i did wrong and where and to whom.

This need to control every aspect of how i present myself to various loved ones and sundry, has bled into every interaction i have. Just day-to-days, it’s not necessarily a high price to pay, or even wrong. I’m of the opinion that when the cashier asks me how i am today, it’s okay for me to respond Fine, even if i’m far from it, for various reasons. they’re just doing they’re job, i don’t feel like mentioning how much my day sucks, there’s a bunch of people in line behind me and they ain’t here for that, etc. There are times though, when my fear and shame-based tightlipped interactions and forced joviality have cost me too much. I’ve come away hurt and diminished.

All this to relate something that happened to me yesterday.

I went to see a movie with my husband. The last time we went to a theatre we were with one of our sons, and the person sitting behind him kept kicking his seat. He wanted to handle it on his own, and so i had to sit back and watch him do it in a way that i wouldn’t have. Grrr, but he’s grown and he gets to, and that’s good for both of us. I’m excellent at standing up for other people, known and loved or not. But last night my son wasn’t there and the seat-kicking was happening to me, and it wasn’t just 1 person, it was half the row, and it wasn’t just any group, it was a group of teenagers. Ugh.

Teenagers are a tough group for me. Not because i don’t like them – i like them very much. I have a patience, understanding, and tolerance for them that i don’t see often enough. It’s a good quality, but it comes from a bad place, and has required some understanding and some tempering to know when to use it and to what degree. My teen years were hell, and a lot of my peers were awful to me, and if they weren’t awful, they stood by and watched or ignored while i was teased and bullied every single day. So i carried unresolved pain and anger into my adulthood, and when you add in some of my teenage parts, this created an unhealthy need in me for teenager’s approval. I wanted them to like me and think i’m cool. I used them as bandages for old wounds. When mania had hold of me, i’d gravitate towards younger people. I was trying to relive those years; to fix the loneliness, the exclusion, the mean girls who made sport of me, the cute boys who didn’t want me, the parties and crazy adventures to which i was never invited. The fat, dirty, dishevelled, poor, weird girl.

These kids were just being kids, sure, but we were watching a horror movie. I love horror movies, i love being startled, freaked out, and have the everloving crap scared outta me (in a movie – IRL i hate these things because i often lose control of the face). I couldn’t get any buildup of suspense because my chair was being jiggled by giggly teenagers every 30 seconds or less. I consciously decided to handle it. I thought about it and figured they might not respond like i’d want, and briefly went over in my mind what i was willing to do about it. I asked myself how far i’d go, and quickly ran over a few likely scenarios, but not too deeply, because movie.

I started with a polite request for them to stop kicking my seat. It resumed after mere minutes, at which time i looked pointedly back at them, raised 2 of my fingers and said, That’s twice. It only stopped for a few minutes, but i gave them a break while they went and got more snacks and used the washroom. After a couple of minutes of settle-back-in-your-seats time, i looked back at them and said, loudly enough for the entire theatre to hear, Yo, knock it off! When i received more chair jiggling less than 2mins later, i got up and complained to management, who followed me back to my seat, taking note while i pointed out the 6 or so teens that were causing my problem.

I sat back down and was hit with intense body reaction. I was shaking and had to bring my breathing under control… But it wasn’t hard, and i settled quickly. I decided that if it didn’t stop at that point, i was prepared to go and ask for a refund and try again tonight. There were a couple of minor jiggles in the first 2 or 3mins after they were warned, but nothing after that. When the movie was nearly over and it was mushy, tying-up-loose-ends stuff, i asked myself what i’d do if they came for me in any way as we were leaving. I decided i didn’t need to even look at them. If they had words for me, i might ignore or i might engage, depending on what they said, but i found i wasn’t angry at them. I bore no ill will at all. They were just kids being kids, but i had the right to enjoy my movie undisturbed, and part of growing up is realising it’s not just about you.

I didn’t even need to process it with my husband on the way home, which is a wow kinda thing. I’m very introspective (hahaha, no kidding, H) and will often go over human interactions somewhat *ah* obsessively. This happened, i handled it, and it was no big deal. They may understand or not – it doesn’t matter. They may talk about me and what a bitch i was – not my business. I have a circle of friends who know me and care about me and they are more than enough. I don’t need everyone to like me. It’s an unhealthy and impossible goal, and it doesn’t shield me from pain and abandonment anyway. Plus, i’m not a teenager anymore and they are not my peers.

It’s not a big deal, but it is. To hide who i am and to take the shit some people will heap on me was what i was born to do. Standing up for myself, even in small ways like this one, saying No, or Stop! don’t come naturally to me. In fact, it goes against my entire upbringing. That is to say, it’s a helluva thing for me to do, and i’m a bit pleased with myself right now.

Thought i’d share.

Therapy tomorrow. Yeehaw.

I’ll post again soon.
Love and Peace,
~H~

*”Can”, not “will” or “must”.