Monday, April 06, 2009

Sisters: Voicing the Other



The poems I am currently writing are attempts at voicing Otherness. There is no "I" in these poems and, despite inevitable mediation, I am attempting to let the Other speak without restraint, with force and simplicity, and in the course of miniaturized linear narratives. The question of colonization follows hard on the heels of questions of authenticity: do I colonize the Other by forcing him or her speak? If it is a colonization, is it a benign colonization? Ultimately, I would like to hope that it is. What is the alternative for a creative artist? It would be a repressive, post-Victorian stasis in which certain things (and certain voices) must not be spoken, where worlds are not free to collide and intermix, where heteroglossia is discouraged and an artist must remain atomized by his or her particular circumstances. It would seem, quite simply, to be colonize or ossify. Yet the truth is rarely pure and never simple. Stylistics are a factor, representative tactics are a factor, poetic tone and/or prosody is certainly a factor, and especially the degree to which the poet can, to use an American colloquialism, get out of the way. Those who maintain a veneer of fastidious political correctness will quite obviously (and perhaps bitterly) oppose others with a more liberal bent. Appropriation of the Other's voice puts the poet on shaky ground, but shaky ground is where changes happen and new perspectives come to light. So let me cut out the guff and just present the poem. It is taken from my Last Drop series, and its called Sisters:

Oh, she was really cute,
but she just doesn’t get
it. I mean, she has these
perfect little blue eyes,
and our feet were almost
touching, but she kept
talking about other girls.
It didn’t help that I had
to hear her whole stupid
life story about growing
up in fucking Reading.
Now she wants to open
up a shop with sex toys
and a cafĂ©. I mean, that’s
fine, but it was all about
her, I couldn’t get a word
in edgewise, and now I
can’t go into the bar where
she works because I sort
of don’t want to see her.
But I’m still attracted to
her too. I swear to God,
all these fucking hick girls
come to the city and they
can’t handle it. I wanted
to tell her, listen, sister,
don’t mess around with
a girl that’s been around.
You’re cute but I could
fuck you over if I wanted
to. I’ve got skills that you
don’t. What’s the point?
She’ll learn soon enough.


I do not pretend to know if this can be called a "queer" poem or not. It is not authentic, in the sense that I am not gay and I am speaking not as "I", but in the voice of a gay woman. If there is something authentic in the poem, it is (I hope) the speaker's humanity. "Humanity", of course, as something generalized and universalized, is also problematic, but under the Deconstructive lens, everything, all forms of representation, are problematic. What we are meant to see in this person is our own vulnerability, our own wounded pride, our own sense of desire, the vagaries of desire, and the injustice and arbitrary quality of people's behavior. That the speaker happens to be a lesbian may or may not be incidental. I am voicing the Other because I am, in a certain sense, writing from life, from incidents and situations I have observed at the Last Drop. The biographical details of a person called Adam Fieled would have little relevance, if this text is just a text. So I am going to go out on a limb and say that the evidence weighs against reading this poem as a colonization, and that voicing the Other does not have to be a manifestation of transgressive arrogance.

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