In writing a current assignment I have to discern my own aesthetics for writing poetry. This was trickier than I thought it would be. In looking over what I’ve been working with lately, most of it deals with failure and breaking, with fracturing and displacement. I’m a real joy to be around these days.
But in thinking about it, of course I’m interested in failure. Back when I used to participate in performances (Peddle to the Meddle days, oh how I miss the debauchery) my interest rested on failure of body. I liked to push myself to the edge of what I was capable and see if I could slip over the other side into complete failure. As a performance artists, I didn’t succeed in failing (which would be failure at failure… cyclic headache of a logic problem). We most often joked around and tried to make people laugh, and I found it frustrating but wasn’t sure what to do about it. It isn’t surprising that I didn’t continue with performance art after the group went our separate ways.
We learn our bodies from the edges of pain. I think that’s something originally from Elaine Scarry, but it might have been a different philosopher. Regardless, it makes sense. We learn our bodies from where they end, and what better way to feel the end than pain? This isn’t to say masochism is a way of defining self, but if I look back at what I’ve done, pain (of a sort) has been important. What better way to feel alive than a hard workout on the track? The best I’ve felt has been after pushing my body beyond what I thought possible and still going further, crossing a line and turning to scream for my girls coming across the line right after me. Or stumbling to find the girls who had already crossed. If it didn’t hurt, I hadn’t tried.
Love, too, can be debilitating- even when joyous. The pain of separation is something that numbs away through ignoring it, but focus on it and it can be as sharp as blades and as equally capable of damage. I am shocked again and again at my capacity to feel loss. My losses add to the displacement and again, this is how I define myself. Where my edges stop.