Tag Archives: self-censorship

#243: A Poem Composed on a Word Processor about Writing by Hand


I read recently that
handwriting is better
for the brain than
typing, what we call
in this information age
“word processing.”
It’s better, handwriting,
because the task is more
physical, therefore more
complex, therefore more
memorable, theref more
meaningful. Did you notice
how I truncated “therefore”
on purpose so that I could
end the line with the exact
same word in the exact same
spot four lines in a row?
I did that because I was typing.
I could never think to do that
if I was handwriting. However,
I tend to believe what I read
and I believe that handwriting
is better for the brain than
typing.

And yet, I type. I’m typing this
poem right now about the advantages
of handwriting. I have a fantasy
that I will write the first draft
of my next novel entirely by hand
in a nice notebook or a series
of nice notebooks. And I think
I should write poems there as well.
There’s something about typing,
and there’s something about typing
publicly that feels so exposed, so
out there, so vulnerable, that sometimes
I worry about whether or not I’m
telling the truth. This is the truth.
But there’s nothing risky about a
poem on handwriting. And I’d
like to be risky, brave, intimate,
and bold in my writing. There are
things I need to say to myself
that cannot be typed, can only
be handwritten, can only reside,
at least for now, in the white,
neatly lined pages of a nice
notebook, which, in this moment,
remains entirely nice and blank.

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#177: Trigger Warning

02-sm-Illustration Photo

Trigger Warning:

The following poem
may contain upsetting
material.  The poet wants
to warn you about it
in advance so you can
decide whether or not
to proceed, knowing
full well that you might
be upset by the poem’s
contents.  It has become
the convention of late
for writers, for readers,
for teachers of writing
and reading, to provide
warnings such as these
to guarantee that no
one is ever unwittingly upset.
This is so kind.
Isn’t it good to know
that writers and readers
and teachers care so
much about your feelings,
care so much about
your emotional well-being
that they would avoid at
all costs writing or reading
or teaching material
that might upset you?
They know and appreciate
how upsetting it is to
be upset–especially when
it could have been
avoided in the first place.
Maybe some day in
the glorious future
writers and readers
and teachers will not
need warnings because
their concern for your
psychological welfare
will prevent them from
writing, reading, or teaching
anything upsetting, anything
that might possibly require
a trigger warning, and the
word trigger will go back
to being and remain always
only the name of a movie star
horse. And that, my dear,
dear friend, is the real
trigger warning.

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#3: Self Censorship and the Creative Writer (You Can’t Say That)

I hate it.  I wish it were not true, but whenever I have penned something delicious or exciting or in some way daring or brave, a series of questions begin nagging my monkey mind:  What will my students think of that? How will my mother react? Will my brother disown me? Will my wife want me reading this in public? Finally, is honesty worth the potential embarrassment or ridicule or backlash or anger in the service of art? To that last question I want to answer with a resounding, unequivocal YES.  And yet, a disconnect exists between the belief that the only art worth doing is the art that pushes an envelope and the realization that ultimately that envelope pushing will be attributed to me, and if there’s a piper to be paid, I will be paying the piper. Here’s poem #3 for NaPoWriMo, interestingly enough, in second person.

You Can’t Say That

and that’s why you write fiction

because it’s one thing to say what you mean
or to say what has happened
and it’s another thing, an easier thing
to attribute that meaning or happening
to an imaginary person
or an imaginary world.

These are not your experiences
or your crazy predilections,
this is not your philosophy,
this is not what you believe.
These are inventions, you say,
based on some studying you have done,
and that’s why the work is so convincing
because your research was painstaking
and meticulous, see.

You shrug at the question,
“how much of this is autobiographical”
in part because it’s a boring question
but in larger part because you don’t want to answer
that
 this is your story.

As a fiction writer you envy the
poet and the essayist
because they’ve put it all out there
and have not flinched
while your reality is disguised,
decorated, gussied up
for the first date
in order to make just the
right impression

Postscript:  I don’t know if I believe all of this–the jury is out.  While there is a part of me that sometimes distrusts the artifice of a novel, I know that some fiction tells the truth likes nobody’s business (Toni Morrison’s Beloved), while some poets might be just as likely to invent or to disguise their own reality in a persona poem or some other imaginative, symbolic way.  The essayist, on the other hand?  Here’s this bit by Annie Dillard: “The essay can do anything a poem can do, can do anything a short story can do; anything but fake it.” But still–the bottom line is this, at least for me: whether it’s an essay or a poem or a story or a novel, it’s always difficult to write about the most personal things, the things truly at one’s core.

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