When I write poetry, I am afraid. That’s not the only emotion I feel, of course. If it was, I wouldn’t write it. On the whole, writing poetry is a thrilling experience for me. that’s why I do it. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little afraid, too. For me, poetry is an attempt to express and convey ideas that often seem a little too odd or difficult to be expressed in normal conversation. I always hope that, in writing the poem, I’ll find a way to make those ideas understandable, conveyable. But I’m always afraid that nobody will understand, that my ideas will prove too strange.
I was thinking about this yesterday as I was reading the poetry of Patricia Lockwood. Her poetry seems, at least to me, to be fearless. She writes boldly and brilliantly about bizarre, unusual, or taboo topics. In her poems She isn’t afraid to say unconventional things (one look at her brilliant twitter account, @TricialLockwood, will confirm this). When I write, I come nowhere close to tackling the strangeness of the topics that she writes about, and yet I find myself afraid that nobody will understand my poetry, that my poetry will accomplish nothing other than proving that I am alone. I find myself wishing that I could write with the seeming fearlessness that Lockwood does. Of course, I have no way of knowing whether or not she actually writes fearlessly. It is entirely possible that her writing isn’t the product of fearlessness, but the product of overcoming fear. Maybe that’s what I should take away from this—that I can’t avoid fear, but I can fight through it (I am reminded of the Green Lantern comics I used to read, in which Lanterns-to-be are selected on their ability to “overcome great fear”.) Perhaps I shouldn’t fear that nobody will understand the thoughts I try to express in my poetry. After all, Patricia Lockwood has written poetry about Animorphs, and her poetry reached so many people that she was profiled in the New York Times magazine. If that’s not proof that one shouldn’t fear being a little unusual, I don’t know what is.