As odd and unlikely as it sounds, I come from a family of writers and poets. Both my mother and father are published authors. My sister is the editor for her college’s literary journal, Miambiance, a blossoming poet herself.
And today is Arts & Letters Day. We were invited to read our work as a triad of poets– each of us from a different generation. For the first portion of the reading, we each shared our own works individually. First my sister read, then I and then my professor/poet mother. Each of us presented not only our work, but also our own presence, energy, sense of self.
After a ten minute break, we came back on stage to share the second batch of fruits from our endeavor– our collaborations. We read three poems that the three of us wrote together one afternoon. Line by line, word by word, we concocted surreal patterns in language. We forbade ourselves from editing or changing any of each others’ lines. We read these clunky collages to our youthful audience.
While we were somewhat apprehensive to read unedited work aloud to an audience, we were also somewhat liberated. As a result of the collaboration process, I felt less self conscious, less obsessed with every line. Not only did the strange poems come out pretty well–our images quilted nicely together–but also my state of mind differed greatly from my usual tightly wound (and as a result probably buzzed) state of mind during my individualized readings.
So, the collaboration did produce a kaleidoscope of art, and it inspired me to read work that I had not obsessively edited yet during the first portion of the reading. In other words, I let myself trust my words. Instead of scrutinizing every metaphor to ensure some version of intellectual or literary complexity, I shared work that revealed more authentic self-expressions.
I gained insight from this experience. I remembered that before grad school I was also a poet, with a very patented style. I used to write in short lines with bold concrete images. However, throughout grad school I ventured into all sorts of new territories–the territory of traditional structures, experimental and voyeuristic paragraphs with off centered line breaks, long lines and imitations. Today, I read some poems that are rooted in my pre-MFA self. I wrote them recently, and while I was writing I told myself I could fall back into old habits, old habits that apparently aren’t bad at all. I felt at home writing them. I felt proud sharing them.
I am so proud of us.