Saturday, November 04, 2006

the uncrackable code

The first thing I remember writing, ever, was a prosaic poem in the third grade. It was a sing-song one-off tribute to spring, something I popped out like an after-supper burp. Actually, I don’t remember the actual writing of it. What I do remember was the critique and the attention. The critique came from my mother, who was in the midst of acquiring a low-residency Goddard degree, and therefore attuned to the vagaries of art.

She was accurately disappointed with my poem, pointing out the dangers of cliché and received text. Only where I attempted a little onomatopoeia [tip-tap of raindrops] did my mother issue a nod. “Explore this direction a bit more,” I think is what she told me.

Conversely, my teacher Mrs. Engle (or was it Angle?) read my banal verse in front of the class, showered me with praise, and crowned me poetess of the year. Go figure.

Thus began my acknowledgement of the range of subjective consideration of the written word. And still, three decades later, I’m wrestling with notions of “good” and “popular” when it comes to production.

I hesitate to write the next thing here, which might come off sounding a tad sour-grapey. If I express it in its raw form it would come out something like: “Yeah, I can write crap people will eat up, I just choose not to.” Considering this a bit more thoroughly, I realize it’s not true. I have come to a point in my life where I simply can’t tap into the expectations of the normative world. I am at a loss to understand, for instance, the popularity of inane television shows like “Grey’s Anatomy.” The wholesale white-washing of emotional complexity, reduced to tired, predictable tropes. That’s what America craves, apparently.

Perhaps that’s why I’ve delved back into writing community news. I need to consider audience more than I have been. I must face my arrogant notions of art every time I tap my keyboard. And, acknowledge that if I was as deft at my craft as I need to be, I would have an audience, but, alas, I do not. It’s sobering. Very sobering.

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