Truth About My Pieces & The Addiction Within Them

After my poems that I have written for whirlwind/workshop, I feel as though there has been speculation in relation to what parts are raw from the author as the speaker and which parts are fabricated to create poetry. This information is not something that a poet usually divulges, but I feel it necessary to get closer with you all, and have you understand my writing, and myself as a person.

I do not smoke cigarettes–nor have I ever. I do not plan on having toxic chemicals in my lungs, but I find them mesmerizing to write about. The concept that arises from them, and the sensation (I can only imagine) is so vivid that I crave to write about things in that realm of topics. There’s so many angles to take with an idea like cigarettes–something that is mental, and physical, and emotional–yet literally killing you. It is baffling for me to understand WHY people actually smoke, but it is also baffling how much fantastic language can come from such a cruel idea. I understand that this topic can be ‘overwritten’ about, but I don’t believe in that. I think that anything written is original, and that I can take a spin on something that is mainstream–making it completely my own. I tend to, personally, focus on manipulation of language, and the sonic qualities of words. That is where I took my Marlboro Orange piece. To create an unexpected, sensual experience. That is typically my goal after I ‘finish’ a poem.

Yet, I do have an alcoholic dad–and I always will. I have never truly known my father sober, except for the fourteen months that he dedicated to ‘bettering himself’ AKA rehab. However, that ended this past month–AKA relapse. But, that’s a different story for a different day. What I am here to tell you, is that my “cigarette” poem was a ‘lie’. And my “recovering alcoholic as a dad/not really recovering, not really a dad” poem is as true as it gets. That was down to my core, raw.

Not that any of this should change your interpretation of my piece, or allow you to view me differently as a peer, but it is an FYI to then look at the difference in my pieces. Personally, I think my cigarette piece was easier to write. That might be why the language is prettier, and more fluid and sensual. I enjoyed writing it. As for the alcoholic piece, that seems less ‘Julia’ to me. And that’s due to the fact that I was literally uncomfortable crafting it. But maybe that ‘uncomfortability’ is good. Maybe it will help me–in poetry, and in my family…

I am not sure what causes my inclination to write about addictive things. I honestly did not even notice that was a ‘theme’ of mine until Grace brought it up during workshop. I tend to write about the darker areas of human thought and interaction. I suppose I find it fascinating to experience on paper, in hopes that I will never have to live it in the flesh.




5 Replies to “Truth About My Pieces & The Addiction Within Them”

  1. I personally don’t think there’s really anything wrong in writing about cigarettes without having smoked one, it’s certainly for the best that you haven’t. However, I think it could be really interesting to be honest about this and title the piece something like “How I imagine smoking a cigarette would be”.

  2. You’re touching on something interesting in that first paragraph. There is this thing about “explaining your poem,” at least here at Geneseo. My best friend, Chrissy, once brought a poem to C-Dubz workshop, and said, “Okay guys, I don’t like doing this, but I’m going to explain my poem so I can get more specific feedback.” She hates explaining her poetry, even to those workshopping it.

    However, I think your choice to share some context with people who want to help you become a better poet is not a bad thing. If we eventually know what your background is and what you’re aiming for (even if you don’t tell us until after workshop is over), then we can be more helpful.

    Woo, let’s be more transparent with each other!

  3. julia~~~

    you are incredibly brave for sharing something so close to home, and for that, i commend you!

    after my first poetry workshop ever, i ran to the bathroom and cried wet, heavy tears. it was an intensely personal poem and i felt like it was being surgically disfigured by these people who never felt what i felt. i wanted to explain to them how they should feel while reading it. i wanted to show them pictures and tell them stories to break them into understanding. i was angry at Lytton (sorry, Lytton) for making me a ghost at the workshop for this very reason.

    however, i realized with time that the poem must explain itself. if you’re a harry potter fan, think of JK Rowling confessing Dumbledore’s sexuality. she claims that he is gay after writing all of the books, yet there is nothing WITHIN the books that would make the reader assume such a thing. this is confusing as a reader. the writing needs to present it’s own explanations and pass its own eye exams, if you will. if things are picked up, assumed, or misread during workshop, that is simply a suggestion that perhaps the poem needs some tweaking in order to stand alone in the way it needs to.

    i say this all because i think, in writing the deeply personal, it can be difficult to separate poet from poem. i at least tend to come to the defense of my words and stories. however, whenever i get defensive, i step back and think about why the poem isn’t defending itself. i think you are discovering your voice and that’s amazing!!! just keep writing what needs to be written, you don’t owe us any explanation, though it is interesting to read about.

    hope this is somewhat helpful!

  4. Julia,

    I very much relate to this, and I can definitely appreciate how difficult confronting addiction in your work can be — I write about very similar subjects. Regardless, you’re doing an excellent job, I really do think your work is stunning.

    Poetry is a space for exploration, and you should continue to use it for that.

    Thank you for sharing this with us, though, it definitely improved my understanding of your poem. Keep up the good work!

  5. Julia~
    You are an incredibly brave, complex person! Having read your poems last semester, a new depth has been added to all your poems. I’m so glad that poetry is a space where you can explore the mess of feelings that emerge from life.
    Shara McCallum talked about how she writes under a persona, or from a mythical character’s vantage point to explore feelings from a distance. This is proof that other poets also use poetry to work through life, just as you do. You’re following in the footsteps of many great poets. The way your poetry is written is raw, compelling, and deep. You are brave for exploring these feelings; not everyone has to courage to do so.
    Keep writing! I look forward to reading the rest of your work.

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