The Master Stroke Against the Memoir

Who do I admire? Who inspires, teaches me – who blows my perceptions apart and offers  me new ones?

Not confessional writers. I don’t find memoirs, or poetry that’s purely about the poet, all that interesting. A Winged Dream was likely the last time I’ll get that personal, and it was more about me getting something off of my chest than anything. Something I felt impeding me. A weight.

Ultimately, the confessional poet borders on the Hallmark, on the schmaltzy.

It’s more impressive – because of the challenge, as well as the result – when a writer can create something that creates dialogue around the nature of things. Justice, creation, nature, empathy, whatever – when it engages with larger questions. That’s when it begins to matter. When it begins to last.

Here’s the rub: the audience. Drat. There’s a pull there. A desire to be liked, especially in an age where everything has a “like” button (and, yes, even this post) attached to it. To please a mob that shifts trends at the drop of a 140 character instruction. That – frankly – does not know what it wants, with the exception that it quite often does not want to think. To be challenged. We’re in an awful age – if someone disagrees with you, they are the enemy. If they are Republican, and you are not, then they are fools. And, the opposite.

None of it is true, of course – it’s just easier to label, not think, and move on. Far easier to run with a mob, than to stand on Speakers Corner and shout into the wind. Simpler to go along with it all. To consume memoir and biography, watch “reality” on television. Why bother trying to have an impact, to question, to think, when you can have opinions spoon-fed to you. As a creator, it’s easy to fall into that trap: to want to be liked by people who like being told what to like. To run around like a cat chasing a laser pointer. Hyperlink everything, instead of forcing our readers to do their own discovery. To bend and twist and contort and mewl out confessional garbage about ourselves. To become “reality” writers.

So, who do I admire? Dadd. I admire him. For that painting. Stevens, for Key West, and so much more. Tate for well, everything he’s done. H.D., for being near forgotten and not caring – for her walls which did not fall. Stoppard and Shakespeare. Them, and others. Because they make my head hurt, and I love that sort of pain.


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