When I started to take my writing and my role as a writer seriously, I neglected one teeny-tiny detail: I inevitably was going to hurt those closest to me. I didn’t realize this truth until I allowed some family members to read a couple of my early poems, and they responded with both hurt feelings and concern. It was at that point I had to make a decision. Would I continue writing and risk hurting my dear ones or would I cease and desist from my writing?
I apparently continued with the writing, although it was hard. I worried about hurting people’s feelings. I worried that people were going to worry about me. I worried about many things, but I already had developed a conviction regarding my writing. It was too late to turn back. To turn back would be to fail and to ignore an essential and developing component of myself.
Thus, I continued writing. I began to move away from the personal narrative. Part of it was fear of hurting the dear ones; another part was boredom with myself and my stories; and another part was the dread of being sentimental and cliche. To this day, I rarely explore the personal narrative as personal narrative. It doesn’t fascinate me. I like to find other ways to talk about the things that may or may not be happening in my life. I like to create distance, to allow art to occur.*
Even so, a thread of narrative remains in my poems. People who are close to me may wonder if I’m alluding to a particular incident or if I’m addressing them. I could be. I sometimes am. Many times, though, my poems are the results of things – objects, books or articles I’m reading, experiences, people – commingling. As they commingle, they become more than what they were. They begin to open the world rather than to close it. They become art. Unfortunately, to create that opening, to create art, I may and do hurt the ones who are nearest and dearest to me.
*Paul Celan speaks of distance in his speech “The Meridian.”