Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Alienated from poetry? A guest post by #BLauthor11 Andrew Rihn

"Injured Brain = Total Abstinence,"
mixed media collage,
by Brett Stout
I haven't written a poem in roughly two years. As strange as that sentence is for me to write, it is equally strange to see my poem “Tow Truck” appear online. It is the last poem I wrote.

It is strange because two years on, I'm really happy with the poem. At the time, I was writing a lot of poems about alienation: alienation from God, alienation from each other, alienation from ourselves. Most of my poems started from images, from things I've seen that could be excavated as metaphors. In this case, the idea for the poem began by seeing tow trucks that appeared to have crosses on them, and considering the phrase “my cross to bear.”

I was also looking at spaces where alienation became somewhat literal: the space between customer and cashier, between the artist and model, or in the case of “Tow Truck,” the space between driver and passenger. I'm interested in the relationship between intimacy and distance. It is intimate to sit next to someone in the cab of a truck, yet the relationship is quite distant. Proximity may not be fulfilling, yet sometimes it is all we have.

So I have to ask myself: am I alienated from poetry? It's been two years since I've written, but I do still attend readings sometimes (though not as regularly as I used to), and I do still read others' writing (right now, I'm drowning in Li-Young Lee's “The City in which I Loved You”). There is still proximity, certainly. I may not be writing poetry, but I am still trying to live it.

And I am still writing. In the two years since I wrote “Tow Truck,” I shifted the focus of my writing to
"Labor Ready Schizophrenia,"
mixed media collage,
by Brett Stout
academic essays. There is a lot to be said for switching genres, for crossing boundaries. I never wanted to be a writer who only wrote one kind of writing. I love what writing allows me to do. I love that my academic work allows me to be able to write about topics like “the contested, interstitial territory between macro-level social structures and micro-level interpersonal communication.” (Yes, that's a real sentence from one of my articles.) I love the denseness, the specificity, of phrases like that, just as I love the playful, amorphous spaces that poetry can create.

So in short, I am grateful to work as a writer. It is a process in which I find much meaning, and occasionally, even some solace. One of the great joys in being someone who writes is that it keeps me in proximity to other writers. Our words become a medium for intimacy, a means for overcoming the distance I often feel. And that is a very good thing.

About the artist: Brett Stout is a 34-year-old artist and writer. He is a high school dropout and former construction worker turned college graduate and paramedic. He creates controversial art while mainly hung-over and breathing toxic paint fumes from a small cramped apartment referred to as “the nerd lab” in Myrtle Beach, SC. His artwork has appeared in a wide range of various media from small webzines like The Paradise Review to the University of Oklahoma Medical School Journal.

"Pee Wee's Abstract Adventures,"
mixed media collage,
by Brett Stout
From the editors: We're so happy to feature guest posts by our authors, especially ones like Andrew's, which discuss our personal relationship with a writing life, a creative process, and even challenges and obstacles we face. Please check out guest posts by other BL authors, including Leah Lederman and Matt Mauch.  

Featuring guest posts by our writers during their two weeks in the spotlight is just one way we're trying to better promote individual authors, and is the main philosophy behind our switch from publishing quarterly issues to running a blog. We want readers to spend two weeks immersed in one author at a time, to slow down and get to know each other and our work. Comments on poems, stories, interviews, and guest posts are most welcome; we crave good conversation.

If you like our new format and are interested in becoming a BL author, please check out our guidelines. We'd love to get to know you.