Poetry News

Liz Bowen Considers Natalie Eilbert & Khadijah Queen’s Poetry of Survivalism

By Harriet Staff
Natalie Eilbert, Indictus, cover

At Literary Hub, Liz Bowen reflects on the #MeToo movement's impact on poetry, specifically, in verse by Natalie Eilbert and Khadijah Queen. In her introduction, Bowen recounts a specific instance when she, too, grappled with unwelcome remarks from a stranger: "After the last poetry reading I did, a stranger from the audience approached me to tell me he had a humiliation fantasy about me." From there: 

Is this a story? What if I start it like this:

Nearly everyone had left the poetry reading—everyone but me, an old friend, and a stranger near the door. The caterers began packing up the leftover wine and fruit salad, so I crossed the room to gather my things. The stranger approached me for the first time. With the slick start of a grin, he asked me, “Do you want to hear my Liz fantasy?”

Does it become a story when I let him speak?

*

We all know this is a moment for stories. The form and content of these stories have varied widely, from whispering Google docs to side-eyeing Twitter asides to namings in the New York Times. But they have one thing in common that has made them what they are: they call other stories forward. #MeToo has been world altering, in both industry worlds and umwelts. But for some of us, as we have watched it all unfolding with gratitude and admiration—and even participated ourselves—a nagging question remains: what to do if narrative is not our medium?

This is not just an aesthetic question. A story can be unsafe or deadly, even without naming any names. A story has a beginning and end, where trauma may have neither. A story begs for dialogue from people whose speech has been stolen from them. It wants an Official Report even (especially) where none has been filed—if it’s honest, it wants a polygraph. If I’m honest, my trauma wouldn’t pass one, even (especially) when it’s telling the truth. And so, as always, I turn to poetry for answers, or at least a more helpful question: where to go when the limits of narrative don’t align with your own?

Read more at Literary Hub.

Originally Published: July 18th, 2018