My comp 1 class is just beginning to talk about expository writing. They are writing about concepts, about beliefs. Today we spent some time discussing purpose and significance. “It’s not enough to reaffirm what your audience already knows,” I said. “You have to offer us some new insight. You have to complicate our understanding.” I did not mention that I still struggle with this. For the past few days I’ve been working on a new poem, and my tendency is to shore up the ending. I’ve been incredibly heavy-handed. It reads like propaganda. It’s horrible, but I haven’t figured out how to complicate it. I haven’t figured out how to pull out of the poem without closing it, without giving the poem the last word. Because isn’t this the line that delineates art? Art asks us to enter the conversation, to come to our own conclusions (or, more likely, questions). It requires a viewer, a reader, a response.
I’ve been spoiled by the witch manuscript. Not that it hasn’t had its challenges, and there have been lines and poems and movements that I’ve struggled to make work, but this element of complication has naturally been present in so many of the poems. Want to complicate the question of spiritual salvation? Maybe make the seeker of that salvation a witch. Want to complicate the meaning of love? Perhaps the person who loves could be a witch. Want to question the meaning of the word mercy? I’m thinking, use a witch. I’m oversimplifying my process of course, but what I love about the witch is that she has no mask. Well, maybe she has a few masks. She passes herself off as one thing or another to get what she wants, but when she looks in the mirror (metaphorically, there are no mirrors in this ms) she know what she sees. She knows what fuels her: rage and desire. And I think what’s interesting is that these are really the things that fuel all of us. The narratives we construct of our own lives are how we navigate that space between what we want to believe about ourselves and the reality of how we are. This is what I’m looking for, the complication that cracks open that space.