we are not the poem
Whilst lounging under a cabana a couple of weeks ago, I re-read a go-to writing book, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. This time one particular chapter left the page and has been stuck somewhere in the back of my mind ever since. It reads as follows:
…We think our words are permanent and solid and stamp us forever. That’s not true. We write in the moment. Sometimes when I read poems at a reading to strangers, I realize they think those poems are me. They are not me, even if I speak in the “I” person. They were my thoughts and my hand and the space and the emotions at that time of writing. Watch yourself. Every minute we change. It is a great opportunity. At any point, we can step out of our frozen selves and our ideas and begin fresh. That is how writing is. Instead of freezing us, it frees us. …It is important to remember that we are not the poem. People will react however they want; and if you write poetry, get used to no reaction at all. But that’s okay. The power is always in the act of writing. Come back to that again and again and again. …Don’t identify too strongly with your work. Stay fluid behind those black-and-white words. They are not you. They were a great moment going through you. A moment you were awake enough to write down and capture. [Emphasis mine.]
As I reflect again on her words, I think about how much I hold back from this space… for fear of being frozen by my words. I avoid talking about my experiences with religion, social justice, politics, and other things because I don’t want to be put in a box and have someone say… “but you said…!!!” I feel so much more fluid than my words or photos might suggest. I am constantly learning and growing and I don’t ever want to be in a position that I have become so cemented that I can’t gain a fresh perspective. Just because I have articulated an experience about x,y,or z doesn’t mean that a new experience couldn’t make me think/feel very differently.
And a huge fear of mine is to appear flaky (i.e. changing my mind on things), and flaky = stupid and (according to my therapist) I value competence A LOT (in others and the way others perceive me).
But I guess I shouldn’t be making decision out of fear in the first place. And I need to remember that I am not the poem… I am not my essay on x,y, & z and I am not my photography, etc. And if others don’t understand that, maybe it’s not my issue, but theirs.