Monthly Archives: February 2018

Truth, Experience, Imagination

Hello. I have had a overwhelming couple of months. I’ve read a ton, written a ton, done a lot of readings and been sick a lot. At one of my readings I read a prose poem, “Storms Upon Us,” At the close of the readings, a number of people approached me to offer condolences, and asked me how I’d survived it. I said it didn’t happen to me. Well, then, who did it happen to? I said, Nobody. And they couldn’t believe it. Surely I must’ve experienced it; otherwise, how could I have written it so vividly?

Well, this got me to thinking about truth and experience and imagination (again). What is “truth”? Is it a batch of facts that can be independently verified? Can a fact have more than one truth? What are the facts of a poem? I don’t even begin to know what that means, let alone how to answer it. I think the truth of a poem lies in its ability to share an emotional or spiritual experience, and that experience includes an appeal and activation of the imagination. And that is done by manipulating literal (to a degree) and figurative language to generate a new, living experience not only for the writer, but for the reader. And as we are all different human beings, and as words have different meanings according to context, so the poem is a multifaceted experience. Every time either the writer or reader looks at the same poem, it is different each time, although there might be a few constants. Some invalid readings can be conjured up; if so, that may be a problem with the writer’s use of language, or it may be some problem with the reader. My poem, “Storms Upon Us,” can be read a variety of different ways, and we could say, in its proffered imaginative life, one thing I can say with certainty is that it is not about a group of 4 year-olds playing tea party. That would be patently untrue, and if someone persisted in it, it would not be true, a “fact,” but a distortion, a lie. (I can’t show you the poem, because it’s out on submission.)

And as one last thing: as writers of any kind, from journalists to textbook writers, to short fiction, novel and poetry writers, you have the responsibility to tell the truth. To honor words, and our humanity in it, as part of the world. As part of the spiritual. As part of the past and present (I’m not sure there is any “future”; we’re always stuck in the here and now).

I know this is short, but I’m too tired to go on, and I need to think more on this.