“When I teach, my analogy is that fiction is a huge tree while poetry is a bonsai. It’s immensely helpful to toggle between working on different scales. Fiction helps me infuse my poems with narrative. Poetry makes my fiction more deft, descriptive, and concise.”
Pittsburgh’s self-styled Premier Poet answers the door in a shimmering, jewel-blue blouse, hair teased into a softer version of a mullet. He’s wearing understated make-up and a mild perfume, something between vanilla and baby powder. On his fingers, rings set with blue jewels catch the early evening light.
The thing about identity is, people are always trying to define who you are for you, to tell you what you mean. And we should be interrogating our positions in society, our privilege relative to our oppression, but we should also be skeptical of those who insist we are definitively one thing or another.
So here’s the thing: I didn’t learn how to diagram a sentence until I was twenty-eight.
We don’t owe it to anyone to make our writing nice, or easy, or palatable. Maybe we should start asking ourselves who we’re protecting when we pan away, and why we’re protecting them.