Why Do I Do This?

I have said it once, and I’ll say it again, I have a vengeance against Sylvia Plath. Make me read her, and I will vomit on the pages, leak black from my goddamn pores. But, I do have to thank her for starting the process of learning to write, and the journey of learning to write well. In high school I had to do a project where I wrote pastiches of her pieces “Miss Drake Proceeds to Supper”, “Tulips”, “The Colossus”, “The Munich Mannequins”, and “Edge”. Oh god how I hated them, but I really liked the poems that I had written. The following school year I started writing my own pieces, all of them so edgy and depressing that several teachers wanted me to go into counselling (little did they know my therapist loved my work). I deeply, and truly, hate Sylvia Plath, but I do have her to thank for working.

In an odd way as well, I suppose I do have to thank my brain chemistry for making life so difficult for me. I have always turned to expression as a way to cope with the crap that life throws at you, whether that be a panic attack at the worst possible moment, falling for the one guy you KNOW will hurt you badly, dealing with depression and suicidal ideation, the list goes on and on. And having friends dealing with all the same things also gives way for inspiration. I have pieces from high school dedicated to friends who were a breath away from overdosing, a piece of art that I wrote an ekphrastic poem on that was created using the blood from a self-inflicted wound (he almost died that night). While its not fun to experience, it makes for great inspiration. Maybe that’s why all my pieces are dark and gross: it helps me reconcile the things that have happened to me, or continually happen to me, that make me feel gross. Poetry is, in a way, a form of therapy. For me at least. I am jealous of the person who can write fictitious, or even non-autobiographical poetry. That’s something I’ll have to try soon, we’ll see how it goes.

2 Replies to “Why Do I Do This?”

  1. I continue to be unsurprising in how I relate everything to music. I think you should give a listen to the song “Just Exist” by Eliza and the Delusionals. In the lead singer’s words the song “is about the balance of feeling depressed and feeling creative and inspired by those feelings. I find a lot of my best and most inspired creative ideas have come from some of the saddest and worst feelings I’ve ever felt which is very bittersweet. I hate feeling down but if I didn’t feel that way I think I would plainly just exist.” I would be as bold as to say most artists (including and especially poets) have had to wrestle with writing about dark things and wondering if they would be as good without those dark things. I really admire how open and honest you are as a person and a poet!

  2. There’s much to be said for the ways that poetry works parallel to therapy, a kind of talking cure, a process by which impossibilities, while not being reconciled, come into conversation. That’s not to say it’s an antidote; the traumas it responds to exist still, but perhaps they’re better understood or felt in nuanced ways thanks to a poem’s breaks and combinations.

    I also, tentatively, want to see what might happen if you return to Plath, reading her collection Ariel in its entirety, but as she arranged it herself, not as Hughes did (FSG released the original ordering/selection). When we read Plath’s books, rather than isolated poems, there’s something fascinating and wonderful going on, and I actually think you’ll find something very different there than you’re expecting. The aim here isn’t to make you ‘like” or even “not dislike” Plath but to find something there that might fit with your own poems’ interests in brain chemistry and the gross and unsettling. (There’s dead rabbits etc.)

    Lastly – let’s think more about ekphrastic poetry and/or stand-up and poetry as horizons. Tracey Knapp’s whole book BLONDE might be a good book to review…

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