Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Manifesto

I don't do well on New Year's Eve. Friends have a wonderful party at their house each year, with great food and great music. Most of us are musicians of one sort or another. But one effect of SAD is a tendency to be anti-social, so even among good friends I tend to want to curl up in the corner of a couch and just listen to the tunes and conversation around me.

This year there will be thoughts swirling around me as well.
Thoughts, memories, sensations...
A rich, compelling voice.
A body crushing mine.
A stabbing pain in my nipples.
An astonishingly perfect, gentle, violent kiss.
An intimacy unlike I have ever known.
A growing acceptance of my own beauty and talent.
An afghan of peace that increasingly surrounds me.
And a man with red hair whom I will never see again.

You'd think by now I could think of the philosopher without my eyes growing moist and my gorge choking with tears. But two years ago he was here, he was with me at the New Year's party. And we threw a party together, here, at my own house, cooking together, creating together, entertaining as a couple.

There are many kinds of dangerous fantasies.

Which brings me to the central point of this post.

I do not claim to be an educator. I am a writer. The name of my blog is submission & metaphor. The subtitle is Life and Love as Performance Art. Think about those phrases. Take them to mean what you will. A poet is not required to provide textual analysis. That is for the readers and scholars. I find it fascinating to hear what someone thinks I am doing, saying, aiming for. Me, I tend to let myself float in what I read, feeling the words caress me and sometimes push me under.

And if I don't like what I am reading, or don't enjoy the challenge of reading something I may not necessarily like, then I don't read it any more. It's that simple. There are a lot of other things out there to read.

A writer, a poet, a composer, a painter, has no "responsibility" to please all of the public or to deliver a message that will be found morally acceptable. And even things that society may deem ugly, frightening, or reprehensible can have what might be judged socially redeeming value because of how they stimulate thought and discussion and re-evaluation.

In a recent post, Orlando, in his usual brilliantly creative and adorable analytic manner, speaks of how every community, no matter how ostracized by "polite" society as unacceptable, always has those within the group that are too disgusting even for them:
[...] I came away with certain conclusions about what kinky fantasies were normal. (Isn't this funny? No matter how deviant or marginal the space, there is the same concern around norms. In the mental asylum for criminally insane Danish stamp collectors, in the special wing for the violent offenders, on the top floor, there's a three-person space cult. And two of those three people are whispering to each other about the third, because dude, he's a freak.)
Add to this that a writer who is not a hack rolling out easily-digestible pablum for the masses will evolve in her writing. Grow, change, explore. And her audience may or may not like the direction she is taking.

In which case her audience can decide to stay and learn or go elsewhere. But the writer has no responsibility to confine her writing to what will maintain her audience. It's not like you've paid a subscription to read me and expect to keep getting what you paid for. And even if you did, you can always cancel.

Yes, I lost some readers over the recent flap, and one removed me from her list of blogs she reads. I'm more saddened by the rejection, especially coming from someone who had admired me and whom I liked, than by the loss of referred readers. I also found that I have gained new readers, and new people have been speaking up. Readers come and go all the time, just as blogs come and go.

I will stay. For now. But I will write what I need to say, and I will say it the way I need to say it. If you don't like my paintings, move on to the next room, to the next gallery, to the next museum.

I do not have a responsibility to write what you will find safe. I do not have to decorate my work with footnotes pointing out and explaining my metaphors, or telling you what percentage of what I said should be taken at face value. I am not trying to teach you about BDSM. All I am doing is giving you the chance to see the world through my eyes.

Back in high school, in a highly competitive summer theatre program, an acting teacher explained that this is what an artist does. A fairly ordinary concept, it was brand new to me at the time. An artist sees the world differently, and through her art, whatever the medium, allows other to get a glimpse of her vision.

Obviously, I see the world differently from most people. And in fact, I really do. Something is wrong with one of my eyes and I don't have stereoscopic vision. Recently, I was thinking about the way modern animation presents the world, presents people, and this amazing, two-dimensional light bulb went on over my head. Everything I see is two-dimensional. But I suddenly realized that the world in fact looks rather like those new animated figures that always look a little weird to me. They show me - or at least suggest - that third dimension I cannot see.

That is what an artist does. He shows you that other dimension or two or ten that you cannot see. Is that reality? Who knows? Does it matter? It is the artist's reality. What is important to the reader, the listener, the viewer is if it then makes you look at the world a little differently. Even if only for a moment. That shift in perspective may make you dizzy, may even make you nauseous. And if it's too disturbing you may not come back. But never imply that I have no right to write as I do. And never jump on the stage in the middle of the show and try to stop me.

In the last year, my Master has taught me a lot about writing. About my writing. He likes to say that as a writer I am courageous. He values that. And he expects that.

I will not stop being courageous.
I will not censor what I wrote.
If you don't like it, then go away.
I assure you, others will take your place.
And even if they don't, it doesn't matter.
This is my space.
My little writer's notebook with its faux leather cover.

You are, in fact, eavesdropping.
You sneak into my house in the middle of the night.
You take my diary from my bedside table.
You read my most private thoughts and fantasies.
And then, very quietly, you sneak back out.

Well yes, I know the metaphor isn't quite apt, as here you are invited to leave little Post-it notes with your comments. But, considering you are in fact trespassing, you are not allowed to imply what I may or may not write.

So that's my Manifesto. I hope to take risks in my writing, whether or not I take risks in my life. You can't rely on me. You can never be sure what you will find here. But if you are very quiet when you sneak into my bedroom, and then free your mind from its chains, you may be able to see inside my own mind and get caught in the dreams and fantasies and sometimes even nightmares that inhabit my sleeping and waking hours.

And if you are really, really good, you'll be allowed to stay.

Best wishes to you all for a happy and healthy and peaceful year ahead. May it be a time of growing and learning and loving for us all. (And to John, if you do happen to still be reading here, this is especially and most personally for you. Always. I miss you.)


Anonymous said...

No nobody is sneaking in because YOU are putting it out there.

We're not seeing anything you don't show us, we can speculate but still it's nothing.

I like reading your blog and I'm glad you are willing to share.

weirdgirl said...

i like the word-pictures in your gallery o.g. and i've always liked the idea of being in galleries at i will continue to sneak around, gazing in wonder

thank you :)

nancy said...

I love your words, you know that.
Thanks always for letting me eavesdrop.
I agree about NYE.. bah humbug!

Wish you lived around the corner so we could take a brisk walk and then say goodnight.
Be well and happy in 2010!

worm said...

Happy New Year, Oatmeal Girl!!

I love the vulnerability of your Manifesto. It reminds me of what I used to tell my sons when they were young; Being brave doesn't mean that you are not afraid, it means you are stronger than that, it means that you are not sure of the outcome, but you do it anyway!!!

I love your art- when things got wonky last week, I wanted to quote your subtitle, but was pissed off at the time, so I didn't. When I was a young woman (well, late teens) I had a close friend whose father we would visit a few times a year in Boston. He was smart, and confident, and arrogant, and sexy, and rich. I had the major hots for him!! He would always shower us with great food and lots of wine! We would stay up late, debating this and that- my bf would go to bed earlier, always ordering me NOT to hit on her dad. I never did- but I thought about it a lot. One night he took us to a very swank restaurant. The walls were newly decorated with a local painter's work. He proclaimed, "Its shit. If it doesn't speak to me, it isn't art." The crush was crushed. I never visited him again.
Like Agnes Macphail said, "Never apologize. Never explain. Just get the thing done, and let them howl."


sephanipaige said...

I applauded. I read bits out to my Master. I adore your frankness and your amazing literary abilities. I will always be here, usually quietly, admiring your pen and wishing mine moved with the same grace.

Happy New Year sweetie.

Louise said...

Happy New Year to you.
Love, Louise

Paul said...

OG, it's the beauty of your words that draws me back, always.
If sometimes your words are frightening I'll try to remember that Shakespeare could frighten as well.
I'll continue to visit your gallery, but try not to disturb you.
Have a wonderful New Year.
Love and warm hugs,

mamacrow said...

I rather like the idea of me sneaking into your bedroom and reading your diary - which you have, of course, left out in a prominent place for me to read!


i love your writing. sure, sometimes your desires etc go places mine don't but that's ok. It's interesting, sometimes it takes me places I hadn't considered, sometimes it takes me places I know I don't want to go again, it's all good... If its not for me I probably won't comment - but I'll always read.

With your writing? just couldnt stop myself.

Happy New Year OG xxx

thedirtyblonde said...

Are you really saying you don't want the post-it notes (comments) or don't want to be challenged or questioned by commenters. There's a deep meaning in this post and I'm not sure what it is just yet.

Regardless, I will always wish you joyous and free expression x.

oatmeal girl said...

Happy new year, all. I'm still rather blurry from being up much too late last night, so I'm not up to full proper replies to everyone's comments.

But I do want to offer a quick clarification to dirtyblonde's questions. I do really want the post-it notes, and even full-sized pieces of lined yellow paper clipped to my pages. I'm not asking for silence - or I would have turned off comments - and I certainly don't want no more than snippets of praise. Not that I object to snippets of praise, we all need our egos shored up. But I love real discussions.

What I don't want, and am not sure I can define clearly enough, are comments that imply I should be other than what I am. All sorts of images and metaphors and scenarios may flow out of my unfettered mind, and I don't want to feel I have to censor myself. I saw a beauty that many of my readers couldn't understand. I appreciate people being concerned about my safety, but you shouldn't, in fact, think of me as a diarist. Think of me as a poet. There are many ways to explore one's dark side. Hence Baudelaire.

Thanks for the question. AS for the full meaning of the post - I probably don't even know it myself.

cutesypah said...

I'm glad you're writing. And, I'm glad you're not censoring your words. The world is your oyster. Gulp it down, or savor its taste. The choice is ours.

I'm still here.

love and hugs,

Anonymous said...

If you could see my face, you would see a warm smile that spread after reading this warm and sincere piece of writing, and if i could hug you, there would be heat radiating from my chest to yours. You've truly warmed my heart tonight.

You are precisely the voice i needed to hear, since i seem to evoke negative reactions from the things i write lately as well.
My voice is not always a gentle one - it can be raw and abrasive, depressing and brutally honest, but it is real. They are pieces of me, the things i write, and i often have trouble even exposing those writings to strangers, but push myself to do so. The reactions i garner, well - they can be critcal, at times, but i am activelt trying to view that as more of a challenge to stimulate more growth, instead of viewing it as a negative. i suppose that's a better way to handle myself, but with this post, you further validated my decision to continue with my writing.

i've always believed that messages come to us when we need to hear them most, and here you are - saying exactly the things i needed!

For that, i thank you more than you know.

There are voices that i value deeply, and yours is one of them. i'm so very pleased -relieved-? that you have decided to stay and continue to allow us to share in your evolution, even if vicariously.
i may not always speak up, but i enjoy visiting your 'journal' and am grateful to have been welcomes into your little corner of this world we go round in. Please know, i am behind you 101%.

Thank you so much for helping me see more clearly through your eyes.

In admiration,

Anonymous said...

Dear Oatmeal Girl,

Thank you for the wonderful manifesto and for keeping comments open. I will be a loyal fan of your work for as long as you allow it.

Miss A

TFP said...

*Reads, then slips out quietly with a smile, as usual...

oatmeal girl said...

Thank you all for your comments. I was really quite moved by how many of you chose to chime in. Much more successful than Love Your Lurkers Day!

Seriously, though, it means a lot to me to know who is out there. Stat numbers are incomplete and characterless. They do tell me where in the world my readers reside, what brought you to my pages, and whether you're following any of the links I have offered. I have seen that "may I cum" is probably the most common search term to lure people here. But to read your words, and see your names, pseudonyms though they may be... that makes it feel like a community.

So thanks again to all of you. I won't do a whole long litany of individual comments except for just a few.

Miss A, you sound relieved, and I am very glad for that.

gd - I was very moved by your words, and am so glad that I was helpful to you as others have been to me.

TFP - thanks for letting me know that you still hang around here. I didn't realize I missed you until Is aw your blue flower.

And finally, to Paul, a special thanks for this:

"If sometimes your words are frightening I'll try to remember that Shakespeare could frighten as well."

Damn.I know you are not comparing my writing to Shakespeare's. But just to be mentioned in the same sentence... anyway, the point is a good one.

Again, thanks to you all. You gave me the support I needed.