When I Show People My Poems

Wow, I had to make a new category for this, since it’s not a poem. This post is about the catastrophe that ensues whenever someone other than myself reads my poems. Or at least, that’s what used to happen.

In April, I was rereading a poem that I had written earlier that day. I was quite satisfied with it at the time, so when a friend who sat next to me asked if she could read it, I said yes, far less reluctant than I would normally be. She read it and absolutely freaked out. She is a close friend and I love her to pieces, but the rest of the day was devastating. You see, her interpretation of this poem was that I was depressed.

Alright, so I used the words “torturous” and “agony” once apiece. It wasn’t necessarily a poem about my feelings; rather, it was an exaggerated expression of thoughts about life passing too quickly with too much focus on the bad things. I couldn’t explain that to her. In an attempt to quell these accusations and get another, hopefully different opinion, I let a friend who sat in front of us read it. He was already curious about it because of her reaction, and he read it quickly. He had the same view. Both of them were insisting I was depressed and I, stunned by the reaction, which was opposite of my expectations, floundered with words and resorted to saying something along the lines of, “I am NOT depressed, okay? Now shut up and leave me alone!”

Of course, the more you insist upon a statement’s validity, the more it seems as though it is false to others.
To condense the events: I ended up showing this poem to four other people, still convinced that they would see my true intentions behind it. Only one person did not freak out on me and claim that I was depressed. Only one person! And I had not even planned on showing it to him; he read it over the shoulder of another friend. Out of six readers, one person caught a glimpse of the purpose of that poem. I am so glad he did, because otherwise, I would have feared ever showing anyone my writing again. Thankfully, he did realize part of what it was supposed to be, and even asked me to clarify my intentions behind it. I am so thankful for the one reader that made an effort to comprehend.

Yesterday, when I was texting a different friend and he asked what I was doing, I replied, “Writing,” for about the fifteenth time this summer. When he asked if he could read it, I thought oh, why not, and sent him the poem Appearance, which I posted yesterday. A lovely conversation ensued, in which he said it was one of the weirdest things he’d ever read and he regretted asking to see it. Well, I regretted showing it, so there. He certainly didn’t sugarcoat his reaction. But even though that friend didn’t like it, Appearance received a like on my blog, and I had two texts from some bloggers I know saying that they liked it, as well.

In between these occurrences was a creative writing course, at which I met many amazing, encouraging people who reminded me that some people know how to separate the poet from the speaker. At the conclusion of the writing course, all of its attendees created blogs, and I’ve found that random, awesome strangers, as well as bloggers I know, appreciate my poems. It’s an amazing feeling, especially after all of the negativity. My friend who asked instead of assuming about the “depressed” poem has read two others that I’ve written and reacted just as openly to both.

So, what is my point in this post? I suppose I just wanted to say, from personal experience, that writing goes two ways. Remember your audience when you consider showing someone your words, but don’t let that influence your work and don’t take their remarks too seriously. And when you’re reading, offer super-nice comments and purely constructive criticism instead of pointing and insisting, “You’re depressed! You’re depressed!”
Not that I think any of y’all would do that. 🙂

-Heather

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