Monday, November 21, 2011


Who says what and how and whose business is it anyway?

Is this especially true in my little corner of the internet? Yes, it damn well is. If I am not writing violent things along the lines of "I'm going to blow up XYZ with (insert explosive thing here) at X time, for sure," then at worst, my words should only be a danger to a reader's worldview or comfy perception of How Things Are.

As far as I am concerned, I can say anything I want. So can you. And so can that other guy. So can JSA Lowe, who is a poet and a PhD candidate here at the University of Houston. This is her blog, lycanthropia. and, to my complete surprise, THIS is what she wrote on HTMLGIANT after someone in her workshop at school read her blog, expressed concern to a workshop leader, and the workshop leader (I don't know who) confronted her saying something like this:

…people have come to me who are concerned…other students in the program… upset… distressed…compromising their experience of the program… haven’t read it myself, that would break boundaries for me…affects their perception of you…their sense of you as a professional…writing about very intimate matters… damage your standing with your colleagues…makes people uncomfortable…took it to the department chair [and here my brain made an almost audible shorting-out sound] and he agrees with me…run the risk of this having a real effect on your career…future employment…could jeopardize your standing in the program….really best that you not.. writing about such personal things so publicly…consider…think about the wisdom of… importance of being collegial…for your own sake….

Lowe continues:

"It’s still Monday morning. I’m sitting frozen in a strange office trying to scramble my resources for some sort of a response. And I’m pretty sure I have The Wrong Look on my face. I’m supposed to be—what, grateful for this intelligence? Contrite? I don’t know. Probably warring on my features instead: incredulity, disbelief, the deepest shame and anger. Of course I am ashamed. I was born ashamed. The blog is part of my attempt to counter some of that—

(Went to the department chair? Students are upset? Who? Why didn’t they approach me like grown-ass people? Why did they go to one of my professors, why this professor? What the fuck did I write that was so awful? If my blog is so distressing to them, why don’t they just not read it?)

(And is there any irony in the fact that my creative writing program apparently wants me to put a sock in my creative writing?)"

You can read the rest of the essay yourselves, if you are a blogger, or a writer or a parent or loved one of anyone who writes. Lowe is bringing up important issues with a lot of investigative clarity in a tone not quite as pissed off as mine. I am livid about the whole thing. I don't write much in this blog that is terrifically personal, but I have in the past. If you read the whole thing you could probably surmise some not terribly pretty things about me, but you might come to the same conclusions about me if you read my poetry. I work in a high school, teaching 14 year olds about poetry. If they're writing dark stuff, I don't tell them not to write it, I don't contact their parents, I talk to them. I use my judgement. I treat them like young adults. I use my judgement about what's a threat, what's a behavioral problem, and what's metaphor, what's creative expression, what's the sight of them processing a tough experience. For me to shut any of that down without talking directly to them would just be disrespectful.

Jennifer, yes, I "still cloak a lot of what (I) write in lyric incomprehensibility, just to be on the safe side, but also because that’s how (my) brain works," but if you don't want to, if the larger You doesn't want to, you shouldn't have to, and anyone who tells you otherwise can go marinate in their fear cave.


Bruce said...

s'pose outcome depends on whether the whiny student's daddy has a pending donation to the football program for jockstraps embroidered 12-0.

A Synonym for Living said...


I don't believe that freedom of speech should be affected by money. Of course, unfortunately, someone's silence is bought every day. My silence is not for sale.

What do you think?

Bruce said...

Oh I was just thinking about how destinies get altered when oligarchs get offended. Ish really does roll downhill, so I imagined student -> rich football booster -> Athletic Director -> dept chair -> free-speaking poet. What I can't imagine is a dept chair (or even a workshop leader apparently) who would ever choose a blog over his or her own skin. Assholes can really bring the pain, so those on the receiving end need to be ready to endure it.

Robby said...

"We love each other so hard. We don’t want to hurt each other. And yet we want to write."

This gets me thinking.