Note from La Redactrice: Provocative Poem Is Provocative

I read an opinion piece about a woman reacting to a poem. I made a joke on a Facebook thread about starting a journal. The response was inspirational.

So I did it.

If I hadn’t stayed up all night writing that first blog post (which is somewhere in the bowels of Wordpress), figuring out WordPress, linking Facebook and Twitter – if I had known my blog post would be dissected and dismissed – I might have rethought the whole thing and not done it at all.
Some people would argue that would have been the right decision.
Before the first poem even arrived in my inbox, there were Random Dudes showing up to comment. They took issue with every line of my post. They accused me of not checking my facts, they sought to discredit me at every turn, and they ultimately pushed me into a no-win situation: responding fuelled their fire, ignoring them was deemed a failure “to engage in the discussion”. Either way, they twisted my words into an argument only they could win, reframing the whole project about something that it’s not, and then rubbishing it. Or to be more precise, deeming what is and is not ‘productive’ to the promotion of women’s voices in poetry.

They sought out a project designed to support and promote women’s poetry and tried to turn it into a “discussion” about one man’s poem, all the while claiming that yes, women’s representation in poetry needs to be examined.

They did this without irony.

So let’s be clear:
Thank You For Swallowing is about THE EFFECT Bobby Parker’s poem had on some women. It’s not about Bobby Parker, with whom I have no issue, or about his poem, which I did not comment on. Yes, it borrows from his title. This is the effect it had.

Bobby Parker put his art out into the world. His art provoked a reaction. That’s what art is supposed to do. But it touched a nerve among many women who see it as yet another drop in a large body of water that we are drowning in.

And these guys are showing up (not Bobby Parker himself, it must be said) – in a space we created to promote and share our voices – to debate the salinity of that drop of water while simultaneously denying the ocean we’re swimming in.

No. You do not get to do that. Not here.

To quote a poem from Juliet Cook that will appear later this week:

You want to make me want
what you want for yourself,
because you know you are always right
and anyone who disagrees with YOU
is a total asshole
because you you you you YOU.

It’s not about you.

We cannot control how people read and respond to our work. If we could, there’d be no point in producing art. We’d be programming, not inspiring. Sometimes the response isn’t what we intended. Sometimes people see unexpected things. There is no one true reading of anything. Anyone who argues that there is one true reading is presenting their opinions as fact and basically disrespecting the audience/readership.

These guys came out of the woodwork, both here and on Facebook, to try and control how I read Bobby Parker’s poem, to tell me that I read it wrong. They completely missed the part where I didn’t talk about Bobby Parker’s poem itself, only the effect the poem had on someone else, and the greater impact of that effect on the cultural dialogue, and my role in it as a woman who writes poems. They then had the audacity to tell me my opinions on my experience are wrong. They not only tried to control me, they hijacked Parker’s narrative and used it for their own purposes. They are trying to control him as well as any reader who had a response to his poem that was different to theirs.

I was labelled a “lone voice”, or maybe one of only a “few”, and that I, or we, should be ignored.

Ignore us if you want, that’s your choice, but if you like poetry, it’s your loss. You’re only proving our point and you’re missing out on the work of some amazing people.