Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2017  Vol. 16 No. 1
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The Stable Ambivalence

My long-term goal in writing is to compose poems that resemble the ambivalence I feel. My outward resolve often achieves a coolness or mellowness or deadpan. I feel stabilized by my ambivalence. I’m a tragically and deceptively passionate and sensitive person: I feel violence is on either end of my ambivalence. I feel compromised when I’m forced to deviate from that ambivalence into a more obvious or overt resolve.

I also write personally, but I’m not interested in writing how things are or were, though sometimes my writing does take that kind of shape. I don’t think my default mode is to write toward historically epic things like love or vengeance. I only seek to write how things make me feel or what my emotions might look like at their extremes. So in the case of the different traumas we sustain, or even the mundane simple things to which we attach significance, I write to show how those things are elevated or transformed by my interiority. I don’t know how well I’ve achieved this thus far, but I keep pushing to get closer. I’m obsessed with different forms of intimacy, disclosure, physicality, and the relationship those things have to human connection.

One of my favorite sounds in the world happens regularly at the airport, when one of the custodians walks around with a broom and dustpan sweeping up debris. I get a hypnotic pleasure out of the sound that makes—hearing the broom knock against the handled dustpan in the transfer of particles off the floor and into the dustpan. It’s a hollow and gentle scuffing that’s perhaps even enhanced by a slight roll of the wheels under the dustpan and the transfer of the sound up the dustpan’s handle. If someone recorded that sound, put it on a loop, and sold it, I would rush to buy it. I imagine there isn’t a high demand for that kind of thing. I haven’t the faintest idea of what that sound does for me aside from giving me some kind of trancelike pleasure, but I’d be interested in finding out.

If I were to write a poem about that sound, I don’t think I would directly reference it. I don’t think the poem would have anything to do with an airport. I would write about my interior-self overhearing that sound and scramble to find imagery reflecting how that sound made me feel, or where it allowed me to wander emotionally. That process might conjure a complete, independent narrative—one that exists solely to render my feelings in a concrete way. Perhaps all that is just a roundabout way of saying if I want to write about a hypnotic pleasure in a way that would yield a semiconcrete product, I might go to an airport.

When it comes to things I write that have an obvious literal or concrete anchor, I’d say I write emotionally on those subjects in order to destabilize them, or at least to present them in an unfamiliar way—to get as close as I can to rendering that literal subject matter as uniquely as possible. That way, when someone tells me they relate to a resulting piece of writing, I’d feel confident following up on that commentary; it would be more worthwhile than the conversations I have in the mundane day-to-day. I imagine that kind of thing could be dangerous, though; I’m torn about flirting with the possibility of getting what I ask for.  

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