Counter Arts
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Counter Arts

All the Lurid Details

Why you shouldn’t eat babies

Foggy forest and river
Photo by on

I’ll tell you a secret you might already know; writers are liars.

I have an impulse to reveal everything and to make those revelations, and their implications, public.

Years ago, when my children were young and I was married, I had a blog. On it I explored all the details of my life, details which included my mental health breakdown and hospitalizations for bipolar disorder.

I wanted witnesses to my story, and it was hard to hold back. Look, look at what’s happening, I was saying. It’s incredible. It’s awful, and it’s unjust, and it’s happening to me. Look!

I revealed details about the lives of those around me, my children and my husband.

Sometimes those details were too personal, and readers told me to take them down. I did, and I apologized for the intrusion into their lives.

I had the intention of telling the story as honestly as possible. My boundaries tend to be fluid, when it comes to making a point. Too fluid.

It’s a danger of this project. Take writing poetry, for instance. For me, it means delving into the meat of the world, into the truth of it, the essence of the thing, by finding the right word or image. This process sometimes requires exaggeration, to convince.

The meat isn’t just off; it’s rancid, it’s putrescent, it has the potential to kill. Babies aren’t just cute; they’re fragrant, they are the product of life yearning for itself, they’re so juicy they look delicious.

Do I eat babies? No! Should you? Absolutely not! Should you imply that others eat babies? Maybe!

If you don’t create in this way, it’s worth a try, because vulnerability, flaying open your emotions and your experience to bring even the most lurid detail to light is, to me, what the project entails. But it comes at a price.

When the material at hand is your medium, when the lives of those around you and the things that happen to you comprise the substance out of which you form what you create, it is often damaging.

Does this make me a liar? Yes!

Yesterday I wrote an article about my exploration into my own autism. In it, I used the example of family members to make the point that reframing personal history can be revealing. Hindsight is 20/20, in other words. I saw something, and brought it into the light, and in doing so stripped it of context and nuance.

I’m sorry I invaded your privacy. You know who you are.

Telling a story means not telling another story. This is the nature of creation. Bringing something into being means a multitude of other things are not brought into being.

And being a somewhat black and white thinker, I sometimes miss the whole picture, all the shades of gray, and in particular the implications of what I’m saying.

But when I say I love you, it is with all my heart. This is true, and not an exaggeration or cherry-picked fiction. I love you, I love you, I love you. The stars and the hills shout it together. They do! Just listen.



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Jackie Olsen

Come for the insights on aging, leave with a doggie bag full of frogs and exoplanets. Now more poems about vacuuming! she/her/hers