I recently read at a poetry event. I read one piece which I wont post in full here as it is to be part of a poetry publication that prefers I not post it elsewhere. The poem was homage to Charles Bukowski and contained the line:
he wrote poems about darkened hallways
and the murder men do
making words like fuck and cunt
sound like religious incantations
After the reading (which was generally well received and resulted in the publication offer) another poet from the event approached me and rather rudely demanded I 'splain myself.
Now, generally I am quite capable and more than happy to 'splain myself. But in this case the guy seemed angry in a way that was quite disproportionate to the trigger (my poem). Wanting to escape his hostility but unable to resist my inner mischief demon, I smiled and responded that I only discuss poetry with real poets.
I could feel his anger, hot on my neck as I walked away.
Since he struck me as the sort to go home and google me (in a who the hell does she think she is sort of way) I thought he may find me here, so I decided to write him an open letter:
Dear Mr. Angry At Something Else But Aiming It At Me,
you asked me if the language i use in my poem is necessary to the piece. you think you're being all literary sounding by saying "necessary to the piece".
of course those words are necessary.
i am a poet. i select and arrange each and every word with thoughtful care. those words are the muscle of that poem. they're holding it together by sheer force of will. they are holding the reader in place, with the shock and powerful magic that only words know. you say its offensive.
i heard you read your poem; the one suggesting husbands should dominate and control their wives. oh, it was subtle, cleverly hidden between the folds of stereotypes and cliches and what passes for humor. you thought you were being so cute...
but then... you think cute is a compliment.
I find that sort of cute offensive.
This is for you. or perhaps... for your wife:
because he couldn’t stop her flying
he pinned her to the earth
wings fluttered feathers frayed
breathless gasps whispered
don’t look up
because he couldn’t stop her singing
he drowned her in wet music
she woke each morning soaked in it
tracking it like evidence room to room
don’t look down
because he couldn’t stop her dreaming
he bludgeoned her with monochrome
harsh strokes of gray and black
she tried to adjust her eyes
don’t look away
because he couldn't stop her falling
she fell apart last night
her joints melted and pooled
dripping between the floorboards
like brightly colored wax
don’t look back