Where Else Can I Say What Can’t Be Said?
There are terrible dangers in writing what one knows, particularly when the information is personal. In the early days at Black Sparrow Press, publisher John Martin advised me not to write poems about my children. I listened and thought about it. His words have recurred as the years have fled, my children becoming adults, passing into the world, one to pass from it. I took Martin’s advice. It was underscored by one brother’s complaint about the pain I had caused him by thoughtlessly revealing one of his childhood troubles to my imagined immortal audience. However, the difficulties and the constant disappointments of an undereducated/self-educated/workshop-educated/university of the street cum laude Black single mom trying to survive a murderous society couldn’t help but inform my work as I’ve lumbered through time—the influences of the texts read, the musics that inspired and elevated, and the constant dramas and illuminations of human interactions. I considered using the various literary devices available to cloak what might prove harmful revelations to friends as well as relatives. I decided against that, opting to draw some lines in my psyche and not cross them knowingly. I did not expect to be rewarded for the caustic utterings, and occasional downright nastiness, of my particular truths, personal or impersonal. As I matured as a writer, I found the barriers in scriptwriting, theatre and journalism insurmountable. The stories I wanted to tell or sell across the editorial or production desk were usually unwelcomed. To my dismay, many of my rich sources for them began to atrophy, die, vanish as, having the method and the gift, I scrambled to find the time, the means, and the strength—particularly the equanimity and quality solitude most needed while writing anything worth reading. In this new technological paradigm shift, the world I longed to reveal vanishes as I type. (Every near silence seems lanced by something electronic dinging, pinging or zinging.) It began vanishing forty years ago, as I was finally finding my writer’s voice; thus, my ambivalence last Saturday night when asked about my current writing activities before an audience at Beyond Baroque Literary Center. I said that I have become an occasional blogger.
It rhymes with slogger.
Yes. That is what I do—slog.
Poet and writer Wanda Coleman was a blatantly humanist artist who won much critical acclaim for her unusually prescient and often innovative work, but who struggled to make a living from her craft. In discussing “my life in poetry,” More magazine, April 2005, Camille Paglia said of Coleman: “She’s not...