You can’t please all the people all the time (hint: stop trying)

i have this habit after my poetry workshop of not reading
the feedback the other poets give me on whatever poem I handed in the week
before. it’s fear. i know. i spend a lot of time when I write feedback on their poems,
but, well, I sort of don’t want to hear what they have to say. I have this
ridiculous vision that my poems are like Athena, springing forth fully formed
from my head, and so they don’t need revision.
Which isn’t true. a good writer is/has a good editor. In
fact, these days, for poems to even get typed, they’ve already been worked over
by hand at least once and will likely undergo change several times more before print …
but,  … When I was home in NJ last
month, i found the short story from college on which my teacher had written
that it was … too purple, too poetic, too much. ~ less x, less y, less molly is
how I read it. Even though over these years I couldn’t remember precisely what
that teacher had written, I could still feel how stung I was by her critique.
Looking at it in hand last month, I was right to feel burned by it. It was
pretty much everything you don’t say to a budding writer, or a budding human
for that matter.
It has taken me years to show people my writing. I began to
post my poetry on facebook about three years ago, and it was a ‘safe’ forum for
me, as everyone reading it was a friend of some stripe. And I got some good
feedback, lots of love, and much indifference, but it was a heart-pounding moment everytime I
clicked “publish” ~ “will they/won’t they” … and eventually, much later, “does
it matter.” It did, and it didn’t – I am a sensitive person, and my ego
sometimes needs soothing, but much like with the painting project, I allowed
the poems to go “up” anyway, perfect or not. (though I would still, even after
several years, go back and tweak a word or title here and there)
About a month and a half ago I put up a poem on facebook about being institutionalized ~ and I took it down pretty quickly. About a
month ago, I put up a poem about rape ~ and I took it down after a few days of gnawing my lip.
Then ~ I took everything down. In a moment of extreme reaction/self-protection,
I wasn’t going to have that all public. I even got a “like” on the rape one
before I took it down.  But … things … my poems have recently been getting more
“real”, more graphic, more uncomfortable, ultimately more authentic, and
suddenly, facebook did not feel like the “safe” place for me to put these
anymore. I felt exposed, even though, yes, everyone was/is still a friend of
some stripe. But, over the years, my stripes have gotten wider, and my circle
of “friends” has expanded, and somehow, I don’t really want to expose some
truths about myself or my experiences to such a mass audience.
And so, everything came down. Even the “silly” stuff, even
the non-exposing stuff. It was the pendulum swing – everything up or everything
down. Do I regret it? Maybe a little. There were some wonderful and supportive
comments from people, friends. But I felt myself retracting, wanting to hide
it/me. So, *cue irony* here I am on a blog, a more visible, barely more anonymous
forum, and one of the first things I’ve tried to do now that I’m going to be
using it more often is to figure out how to get a page that will also publish my poetry. (I downloaded WordPress, and am way overwhelmed
with words like “code”!)
So, here’s the thing. The truth will out. It will out on
facebook, or blog, or classroom. People will write it’s melodramatic &
cliché (like a professor said last semester), or, more likely, they will write
supportive comments meant to help *improve* my work, not detract from it. They are
not ticking time-bombs, this stack of unassuming pages. Although I’m not sure I
feel ready to look, and sure I feel melodramatic saying it 😉 I’m warming up to
the idea that creating art implies and demands being vulnerable ~ and being teachable. If I want
people to read it, I have to let them have their ideas about it. And, but,
still, in the end, I have to follow my inner compass, because f*d if that’s not what
this is all about anyway. 

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