Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.

24 Nov

I’ve been struggling with a bit of writers’ block on this blog. As a poet, one who takes and gives a lot of criticism and lives very publicly, you’d think I’d be able to shrug off the very abstract idea of People’s disapproval.

You’d think.

Well, after the National Poetry Slam I wrote a quick post on FB rebutting what I read as resentment or disapproval of St. Paul’s victory this summer. There was an incendiary sentence in there, I’m afraid; I was feeling pretty defensive for my friends from Minnesota, who are stellar poets, and work very hard to be the best they can. A couple of my friends from an opposing team got pretty upset. Shocked and apologetic, I pulled the post immediately and called the people who’d let me know I’d hurt them. These folks chastised me, but accepted my very, very humble apology.

About a month ago, I met with another poet whose opinion I’ve come to trust deeply, although we don’t always agree. He warned me against being seen as a blogger/commentator who’s nasty and starts shit for fun. Hearing this saddened me so much. I can be highly judgmental, yes, but throughout the history of this blog in particular, and the notes I’ve posted on FB as well, I’ve tried extremely hard to stay positive, to talk about what’s brilliant and exceptional in our community. I champion it every chance I get, and I try hard to be fair.

So I was thinking about stopping all this. Is it worth it? If I might lose friends or gain any kind of infamy? If the very family I want to support and love misreads my intentions?

I remember once reading about Robert Hayden, a man who wrote some of my favorite poems. At a certain point in his career, some of Hayden’s peers in the Black Arts Movement berated him for considering himself an artist first, and black second. The criticism didn’t change Hayden’s stance, although it probably reinforced his lifelong outsider status in his own mind.

I think it’s time for me to stop thinking of myself as a slammer or slam poet (which I’ve stubbornly, loyally called myself for the last five years), and start just thinking of myself as a writer. I can’t be so worried about belonging that I don’t write what feels true. And my primary loyalty is to the writing.

I’m not going to stop. I’m returning to this with a heavy heart, but with new focus. From this point on, this is officially a blog about poetry as a whole, and also a blog about whatever the fuck is on my mind, no longer a blog specifically on performance poetry. Back to the wilderness, y’all. Let’s see what happens.

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4 Responses to “Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.”

  1. karen g November 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Some of the best debates are with friends.Keep standing by your words.
    Also, you can still be a slam poet as well as a writer.Nothing has to be either/or —/ es make that possible.
    😉
    I look very much forward to hugging on you & your tender heart very soon.
    🙂

    • Laura Yes Yes November 24, 2010 at 2:02 pm #

      Very true, Karen. You know me, I’m not one to shy away from debates with friends. It just seems like, ever since this spring, I feel more drained by online slam talk than joyous and energized. I’m also cool with still slamming, but the pressure to be all things to all people that seems to come with slam, especially, doesn’t feel really healthy to me right now.

      I miss you, love. See you in a week or so. ❤

  2. Chris Gilpin December 15, 2010 at 3:55 am #

    Laura,

    The more I wonder what separates poets with talent from innovators that change everything, the more I think the defining attribute is conviction, staying true to your beliefs however unpopular they may be.

    This sucks because nodding to groupthink wins friends and conviction to personal beliefs gains enemies.

    I support your shit-disturbing tendencies! In the long run, punk wins. Stay bad-ass.

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