In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott encourages us to "write the truth."
It's great advice. What does it mean?
I was thinking about it this afternoon, in the context of my current Camargue project. I'm enjoying working on the poems and creating this little history or myth system and a small cast of characters. But I'm nagged by the feeling, "So…?"
Would these poems stand on their own? If you received a batch of them in the mail, would you wonder what they were all about, or why?
I thought about writing the truth in my little series of poems about made-up people in a place I've never been—and I realized that the truth meant an emotional honesty. Does it have to be raw or stark or hard? It has to be passionate. But maybe tempered by something (can you have a whole book of poems that are passionate, or do they modulate between different levels of intensity?).
I realized that my poems might be lacking that emotional honesty, that resonance, and I wondered how to reach into it without slipping into melodrama. As a reader, I appreciate emotion and resonance and passion, but I don't want to feel hit over the head with a hammer.
I've suspected that my passions tend to be muted—or maybe I shy away from them. So let's set aside the idea of passion for just a second (a tiny second!) and think of emotional honesty, emotional resonance.
How do you get that into your poems? How do you open it up when you're writing in character—the voice, even though it's your voice—of someone you will never even meet?
P.S. Arrgggghhhh. Is this what they call fiction?