Here are two ridiculously old (one from 10 years ago) poems I am posting in response to the NWCU prompt asking us to silence our critics. To be honest these poems embarrass me and were written for private consumption but what’s more shameful to me is that I gave such power to one of these critics that I didn’t write for several years in reaction. I’ve experienced intense criticism in relationship to all my artistic expression, from a choir director that insisted I stop singing when I wasn’t making a sound, a viewer at a gallery critique who screamed at me so intensely he had to be asked to leave, to often being accused of merely throwing paint on canvas or stringing words together without meaning or purpose although my process is actually methodical, technically precise, and often requires hours upon hours of research.

Now I don’t respond to these attacks or allow them to hinder my experimentation. I recognize that I cannot possibly appeal to everyone and there isn’t a good response to statements like ‘I hate orange. This painting would be tolerable without it.’ or worse, ‘Abstraction is the work of the devil.’ anyway so why waste creation time replying. There is, of course, a huge difference between being torn down and asking for and receiving constructive criticism, a vital part of artistic growth.

for you who held my fragile hopes

i feel you should have been aware
of the power differential and thought
‘here I am holding a precious
and fragile thing’
the glass key that may unlock
the cabinet of her dreams

a Cornell box, the poetry of fragments
at once beautiful and evocative
touchstone to the past,
future imaginings – soul missives sent out ahead
to comprehend at a later date
full of connections and color

a reservoir of meaning
to be mined throughout her lifetime
a home to fall in love with
filled with work that engages, surprises, and delights
reflecting a passionate love of ideas
its purpose shining forth-
a path to a singular destiny

instead you thought, I can only imagine,
that the key was really a phallic symbol
a tool belonging to you
and ‘the procession of the sons
of educated men’

to be used for your glory
a brief egoistic high
your power eclipsing the tiny box
from my perspective it was the universe

it became your private box –
a voyeuristic titillation of jewels
i became another object
to be put in its place
in so doing you broke the key
in your haste to lock the cabinet
and flee the scene of your crimes

“Responding to a powerful instinct of outrage and rebellion put into my soul by God”*

For me, a woman, they warned:
Do not put your words
with those of the great man,
revered throughout the West –
The patriarch who circumscribed men’s souls.
Thereby holding myself up to scrutiny

To him they cried,
“Lay down the gauntlet”
Go forth and be brave!
Set the mountain in front of you
and rise to its heights

How can they see beyond
what has been shown to them?
Their Pavlovian conditioning?
How can they comprehend
that they beat down with their words
though they feel not the sting of contact-
Nor the pangs of culpability?

It is for a man,
THIS man,
these men
to tread upon my soul.
Hard boots on delicate tundra
Is that imagistic enough?
Perhaps a piercing metaphor
would be more apt

I must ask them to leave
this sacred place within me
Visited by so many xenophobic, petty,
and arrogant foreigners
I will not make the invitation again
All those who’ve gone before must away!

These ghosts will not haunt me

* from George Sand’s preface to Indiana

Alternate Titles:
“Cats do not go to heaven. Women cannot write the plays of Shakespeare.” – Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One’s Own
How I got kicked out of the writing group (in their rules you weren’t ever allowed to respond to criticism, simply accept it)

Linked to NWCU Wednesday Wake Up Call: