Sunday, 25 September 2016

Should Poetry Deal With Difficult Issues?

While I was studying creative writing last year I came across a phrase that stuck in my mind ‘happiness writes white’ a phrase attributed to Henri de Montherlant. I duly wrote it in my writers' notebook and thinking that I’d write a poem resulting from it at some point. I started several but each time they took on a life of their own and went in new directions – apparently, artists like Harvey Danger and Edward Hirsch had better luck focusing.

My attitude was that happiness doesn’t write white; in fact, my attitude is to find some black paper (metaphorical or otherwise) to pen your white poetry or prose on but… what of the black? What of the dark? I recently went to a ‘comedy night’ poetry reading where Luke Wright, Mike Garry and the fantastic Dr John Cooper-Clarke were many different shades of white through grey to darkest black and poetry, even jokes, definitely felt the right place for that mixture of emotional tones.

So what of myself? Do I write with a breadth of tones or do I slip into the dark and bring it with me to write blackly on my white page? Yes and no. I do feel that poetry is a place to bring my concerns – I can’t imagine myself as a ‘nice’ writer dealing with safe issues alone.

Luckily there are sites and zines where the editors feel the same. There are the nice, safe, comfortable places where the supposedly white ink can pen supposedly white reams of joy and light yet there are those who are brave enough to welcome a spectrum.

Perhaps this is why 'Thank You For Swallowing' has just published what I imagine might be a difficult subject for some readers – the rape of children by UN soldiers. The poem ‘New Hues of Blue’ may be difficult but surely needs to be exposed by diverse means?

A friend commented that poems of mine published by I Am Not A Silent Poet concerning breast-ironing fall into the same category and perhaps I am a dark writer. Perhaps. However, I don’t feel like one. I feel like a multitude of inks – a rainbow you might say – and in many gradations of colours too. I also think that poetry has always, and will always be a good home for these colours.

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