amongst books

amongst books

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Concerns about my writing…

at a recent reading I was blown away by a featured reader who shared poems that dealt head on with racism. the writing was strong, the delivery was powerful, and the audience was suitably affected, as was I. these are poems we need to hear right now.

while a lot of my poems in the last few years are in their way dealing with subjects such as ageism and sexism, love and death, etc. they don’t do so in a straight-forward way. the way I’ve needed to write mostly, not always, but mostly, has been to tell the truth but to tell it slant, as Emily Dickinson has written. the word truth gives me pause. by truth I don’t mean facts. fact-based writing isn’t what I do, I don't think I do anyway... but getting to the heart of things and universal truths are of interest to me, writing from the point of view of an explorer rather than a prophet or someone who has answers is the perspective that I feel comfortable with.

I am fascinated with the word, both written and spoken. I am concerned with language’s inability to communicate and to articulate. I am interested in engaging with various techniques to reach the depths of the human psyche, to uncover and share feelings of anxiety, fear, despair and alienation because these feelings are not easily communicated. I often try to move away from surface in order to reach those depths.

For my writing, play is a strategy I use to uncover these feelings, to articulate the human condition. Yet play can seem trivial and even unnecessary, especially in these times.

I write to explore and to connect with fellow misfits, but does my writing really connect? Am I taking up too much space? Is my voice shutting out other, more relevant and effective voices? These are my concerns right now.

I have two more readings scheduled for 2017 and I don’t know whether hearing my poetry will be of use to anyone. So I worry.

I suspect these are concerns that other writers and artists are having right now. I’d like to know how you are addressing these concerns.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Social media and photos: let’s question and rethink

I’ve been on a tear of late about photos taken at literary events. I don’t like seeing myself in photos by most people. I’ve also seen awful photos of others, especially audience members, which often make people look bad.

Documentation of readings is sometimes used to help show a large attendance, to show how great the reading was, etc. These are all valid. So how do we document a reading without infringing on privacy?

Could organizers ask permission before posting photos? Could they include a statement at the beginning of a reading asking photogs in the audience to ask permission before posting? It’s not the law in Ontario but I think it would help make people feel more at ease if they were asked.

Privacy is something that needs to be thought about and treated more sensitively, in my opinion.

I’m avoiding most readings these days, in part because I don’t want to find an awful photo of myself later in my feed. I have at least one friend who won’t attend readings for this reason.

Photos of authors are different. If I’m on stage doing a feature, I expect to have my photo taken and used to promote the event. It’s possible, however, that organizers could offer authors a choice to not have their photo included or to have a photo of the work they are promoting shown instead. Photos of the young and beautiful are used as commodification, to show how sexy a reading is, how cool. That’s exploitation, isn’t it?

I’m asking organizers to think twice about posting photos and to ask permission. I get teased a lot about this issue. I’m asking you not to apply peer pressure to make me or others feel like jerks for not wanting photos of ourselves posted online. 

Update (August 20)

I want to make sure that it's clear that my main objection is photographs of members of the audience at public events and posting these photos on social media without their consent.