Terri Brown-Davidson’s Comments

What I love about poetry is that it becomes, through language, an entry point into what may have never been expressed before. The act of moving into the previously unexpressed, for either the poet or the reader, isn’t always pleasurable. The pleasure is to be located in the beauty of the language, the surface series of linguistic “shocks” or “charges” that give rise to the poem. But the content itself may be off-putting, as unfamiliar content tends to be. In terms of the psychology of content, I’m always excited by exploring states that I don’t often read about or haven’t read about in the ways I try to frame them. Thus I crave an exploration of our shadow lives in poetry, especially women’s shadow lives: menstruation, madness, despair, pharmacologically altered states of being, the strange states of transcendence we immerse ourselves in as we age. We tend to put mental fences or barriers around these states; I know I’ve actually encountered poets and fiction writers who’ve told me, bluntly, “No: don’t write about that subject. You can’t.” But why? Frequently these “forbidden subjects” may themselves provide the blueprint for our essence, our humanity. I’m a bright person (as in “light-filled”) who loves creating a particular and fully realized (if possible) species of darkness in my work. This paradox, though, isn’t unique to me, though I often hear that it is. The exploration of shadow areas is the boldest act we can engage in as artists.

“The agreeable,” though, is what many laypeople crave in terms of an aesthetic experience, because “the beautiful” isn’t as easily pleasurable, involving an intensity nearly harrowing in its power.

I savor that intensity, though. Don’t you?

Return to Archive