Wednesday, July 05, 2006


i wrote a poem, called "me too." and i really like it. i like my use of rhythm, rhyming, imagery, voice. cool stuff. the poem has been in the making for about the past fifteen or sixteen years, because it expresses feelings i've had and have been working with since then. to see those thoughts expressed succinctly and artistically in my handwriting on paper was nothing short of amazing to me. i wrote it like how i've written many of my other poems - right when inspiration hit, in a matter of moments, flowing with the current of my train of thought. when i was done with this new offering, i looked at it, checking it all over for weaknesses, examining my choices for words, reading it out loud to make sure i liked the way it sounded... i read it for a couple of people, who both liked it, and then i thought, i really should call home.

for as long as i've been writing my poems, i've been reading them to my mom. not all of them, just the ones that i think she might like or find interesting. i don't really read them to her just for her approval, but it doesn't hurt that she's very supportive. she hasn't hated any of the ones i've read to her. sometimes, i can hear the smile in her voice. other times, i can imagine the forehead lines that she got from her parents deepening as she thinks about what she says before she says it to me. her feedback and constructive criticism have always been honest, but mild. i never fear sharing with her.

when i called, she was especially in an honest mood, i figure, 'cause i'd just gotten her up from a nap. i read her this new piece and she listened in silence as she always does. when i finished, she paused before speaking, then hemmed and hawed uncomfortably. the words she spoke next have been replaying in my mind all weekend long:

"it sounds really personal."

i didn't really know how to react. i was a little surprised by her reaction. she didn't really talk about the construction or quality of the poem - whether she thought it was good or bad until later (when i found out that she thought it was good). but in her honest mood, her first reaction was concern over whether the poem was too personal. that bothered me a little bit, 'cause inside i was asking myself, "what's wrong with being personal?" however, you have to understand that my mom knows that i'm reading these poems on stages all over the city, and that it's not like a poem on paper. people are looking at you and drawing conclusions about you as you read, she always warns, and she has said before that i need to be careful of people seeking to exploit vulnerabilities that i expose through my poems on stage. this particular poem deals with the shapes of women's bodies, and when i started writing the poem, part of what captured and excited my imagination was that i would be calling particular attention to the shape of my own body and the particulars of my own description - in front of rooms full of strangers. that's pretty personal. as we talked, i saw that she was concerned that listeners would think that i was writing the poem from a position of insecurity about myself, no matter whether or not that was actually my perspective.

that possibility really doesn't worry me much. honestly, i do have a little fear of that. but i also know that no matter what i write, i can't control the assumptions that people make about me, whether it be based on my writing, my demeanor, my style (*snickering at myself for saying i have a style, knowing full well my "style" is generally whatever is clean and matches*), or my mere unobtrusive presence in a room. i wrote that poem personally, based on my personal experience, and my personal feelings, and i meant every word of it quite personally. so far as my confidence is concerned, i absolutely love this body. it took work to get to this comfortable place of loving it, but i'm here now, and i'm happier being happy with myself. if anyone wants to think otherwise, hey, that's their thing. i'ma be alright either way. part of the benefit to loving yourself is that you get to care less what other people think about you - not just your physical, but your mental and emotional. they may think what they want, but i can handle it. i am energized by each act of courage in which i make myself shed the shame of being a fallible human being. that's why so much of my poetry is so very personal. that's why my blog is so introspective. that's why people who like my poetry and/or my blog continue to listen to or read what i have to say - i often wind up echoing the things that others are thinking and feeling, except that i do it audibly and tangibly, venting and contemplating and articulating in others' stead. shoot. somebody's got to do it. i ain't scared. so why not me?

i explained to my mommy that all i know to write about is personal - that i anticipate eyes on me and assumptions about me. that provides a huge part of the satisfaction of sharing my writing with others. she understood. i don't think that if we were reversed, that my mom would read that poem about herself in front of a room full of people. but that's okay, since we are not each other. (thank God!) that's part of what makes us friends. we are learning from each other's different life experiences. who knew that one day my mom and i would be two women, sharing and comparing the experiences of womanhood, contributing to each other's growth as we approach life from different perspectives with different personalities? i am so thankful that my mom and dad didn't raise me to be a carbon copy of them, and that they encourage me, even now, in all of my personal piscean weirdness.

i'll probably read it the next time i get on a mic. and i will sooooo be studying crowd reaction. can't wait!