After class on Tuesday I began thinking about the comment one of our classmates made about my poem. Specifically the line “hands folded over bellyfolds.” She said that she interpreted it as a representation of self-consciousness, and that’s what I intended for it to be at the time I wrote the poem. It surprised me how such a direct image was interpreted as something more abstract by most of my classmates, when in fact I intended it to be exactly what it said. A girl with her hands folded over her stomach. Usually this position is taken in instances of discomfort or impatience, and I wonder if as poets we tend to think about a phrase so thoroughly that we forget its simpler meaning.
But what this comment sparked most of all were thoughts about how an image can teach me about myself. Because, yes I intended the image to be a representation of self-consciousness, but I had not thought about my intentions until my poem was being workshopped. And I would not have been able to put my intentions into the exact words our classmate did. Which means that even though subconsciously I was aware that the image represented self-consciousness, I was not consciously aware until someone pointed it out to me.
Which brings me to my main point about how the images we write in our poems, transcribed through a personal lens, are representative of ourselves. Why have I seen this image in this specific way? Why am I describing it with these words? What does this say about me, my mental/emotional state, my past, my present, and the life I have led? And finally, why is this image wanting to come out in my poem? What does my writing want to tell me about myself and the way I see the world? Our writing in general, knows us better than we know ourselves. Through it we are able to see ourselves and evaluate those things which we seem to deny or be blind to.
So this girl, with hands folded over belly folds is important because she reveals to me a part of myself I deny, that is a girl who is self-conscious and who feels the need to fight against that. And that’s part of why I love writing because through it I learn about myself and heal.