“It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it” -Aristotle..
I have been craving depth recently, especially poetry. My soul feeds off of the depth, experiences, and truths of other like-minded people. Living in Korea now, away from my family, friends and culture.. I find myself starving for poetry. So yesterday I went on a hunt (via Google, Facebook, & O magazine’s book reviews) for something to satisfy my hunger. I didn’t have to look far before settling on one of my favorite writers, Staceyann Chin (a mixed raced Chinese/Jamaican lesbian poet & activist with a knack for harsh truth and honesty). She had written a few new pieces since last I checked and one of them impacted me so much that I thought to share it with Essence. It was about the passing of time, and how we grow & change as we get older (for better or worse, the good and the bad). It’s called “Where the fuck did Time go?” and it is definitely a good read.
Anyway, after I shared it with Essence she commented that she thought it was too vulgar and that it was written with a negative tone. . . I was shocked !! .. and so I prodded her to tell me more about why she interpreted it that way. She basically said that poetry shouldn’t have curse words in it because it takes away from the creativity and furthermore that it was unattractive when women curse (more unattractive than when men do it). Again.. I was SHOCKED !!..
First of all, I think that poets are masters of language and curse words are just words to me, an expressive part of every language, which when used strategically (like any other word) can pack a powerful punch. Essence and I talked for hours about the subject but we just couldn’t see eye to eye. I felt that to judge a woman more harshly than a man for saying curse words was sexist and old fashioned.. even though I understand that many people think that way. In my opinion.. honesty, truth and depth are the most attractive qualities in a woman. I’d rather have a deep, pensive woman with a potty mouth who is unafraid to shake the status quo, than a clean mouthed shallow woman caught up in other people’s perception of her.
I also think that when a person writes something it should reverberate truth, it should be the literary equivalent of holding a mirror up to a situation. “A poem should be equal to, not true…” Poetry is meant to be a snapshot of an experience, whether good or bad a poem should reflect the reality of life. In the case of “Where the Fuck did Time Go?”, growing old isn’t always a peaches’n'cream experience and I think her writing reflected that aspect of aging as well as ending on a hopeful, encouraging note of looking positively towards the future. Curse words are apart of real life, like it or not, and even though there are many ‘vocabulous’ words a writer could use in their place, sometimes the most natural (and therefore most honest) word to use is ‘fuck’, or ‘shit’, or ‘ass’.
I mean, that’s just my opinion, and for the record I think I have only used a curse word once in all my years of writing poetry. But I do not think that cuss words, in and of themselves, necessarily diminish the reality of a situation, just as cuss words in real life don’t diminish the reality of the human experience. Of course, Essence has the right to her own opinion as well but I am curious to know how other people feel about this issue.
Is vulgarity something to be kept secret ?.. Should a woman be held to a higher standard than men in order to retain a ‘socially acceptable’ image of attractiveness ?.. Should poetry, as an art form have stricter guidelines ?..