One more incident from Asilomar, where my wife caught a ripper of a cold.
The students and I had nearly two days together, so we got to know each other pretty well. The members of the Cambria Writing Group are all friends, but they don’t cut each other much slack when it comes to analysis. One of the topics that came up was the difference between an autobiographical poem that stuck to the so-called facts and one that took liberties for the health of the poem.
Who’d really argue for the former, right? That goes in a diary. But a couple of the folks were pretty adamant about truth: if in fact somebody went to Walmart he or she shouldn’t say Piggly Wiggly Market even though the market has better reverb in the poem.
Here’s the interesting part — one of the gals who strongly favored taking liberties brought in a poem with some guttural-sounding words, and when somebody pointed out that they were at odds with the tone of the piece she said, “But that’s what really happened.” Of course her friends jumped all over her.
She had a hard time letting go, though, and after dinner took me aside and asked if she couldn’t keep those grating consonants. Tongue in cheek, I told her she could keep one. So the next morning there was a revised poem — a veritable field of daffodils except for the single aloe plant.
I never knew the "but this is what HAPPENED" defense would come up in poetry as well. One of the first things a young writer has to learn is that real life is not necessarily realistic.
"This is what happened" is right up there with "But that's the way I want it!"
I love the phrase, "for the health of the poem." Exactly.