Friday, February 20, 2009

On the poem "Doing dishes"

In different ways, some pieces of work are easier to share than others: “Doing Dishes” is difficult for me to present in the written form as opposed to presenting it in a live forum. Anyone out there who actually knows me as a person will realize what a huge statement that is. To say that I am not a fan of public speaking would be a gross understatement. After the first time I did a live presentation from "De die in diem" I veered from the podium, down the isle which had clapping people on each side, through the open doors and into the hall (more clapping people) and to my office without acknowledging a single person. I have regretted that I didn’t stick around for handshakes and compliments – writing that statement makes me feel somewhat shallow (sorry I missed the praise) – but leaving was better. Leonard Cohen made claims of not having room for regrets and in this case I can understand his statement: it was far better to have the breakdown that followed, in the privacy of my office. That was the only time I’ve ever had that violent reaction after a reading but the experience has made me quite uneasy about live presentations of my work. Strangely when I present (this poem) in public a positive response never fails; however, I am also unsure as to how well some pieces will be received in the written word. “Doing Dishes” is one of them.

This issue, of hearing and seeing a writer as they present their own words as opposed to reading the work on the page, is very interesting. I have brought it to the floor with students in every class I have taught (no matter the level of practice they were at) and every age-group (grade 8 to adults). I personally have thought about the issue since my days in university. One of my poems (“Yellow”) hit the table for discussion. The practice was that we (the author) read the piece before it would be discussed. After I finished reading “Yellow” (which I may get up the courage to post) my professor claimed that she had a sheet full of comments but they became irrelevant. She did not have questions; no criticism to give me, nor did anyone else at the table of a dozen. All that accomplished was me doubting the power of my work in the written form (which I’ve never told my students or anyone else for that matter). However, our experiences are not as important as what we learn from them. This is the period when I began to pay attention to the appearance of the word (“I” vs. “i”) and to their position on the page. I also started utilizing the blank space on the page and doing away with most punctuation (which is maybe too often read in association with prose).

So here I step up and present “Doing dishes” in its written form and invite you to comment, question, or criticize…all opinions are valued. And remember that you can click on the image to enlarge it for easy reading.

Thank you in advance.


  1. Edith, thanks for your comments on my Dream article on my Blog. As you know, there are no coincidences. Your poem—WOW—it gave me chills, that “knowing” of going through the grief experience. I don’t know how you could read that to a large group without “falling apart.” Maybe after years, but not when the loss is still fresh in your heart. Your poem is so real, so powerful, showing the denial of loss, the pain of it. Very good, expressive writing.

    Regarding spoken vs. written, I would think the written would have more of personal impact for each reader, more so than the connection to you as you read aloud—although, obviously, there would also be feelings of sympathy for you, mixed with one’s own thoughts. Most of us have gone through grief, and you writing of the ashes takes me back to opening my husband’s ashes with trepidation of the unknown, and the feelings that followed as I spread ashes around the rose bushes he loved, and out into the beautiful universe.

    So it is a sharing of emotions, no matter how it is presented orally, or on the written page.

  2. Thank you, Linda, for your complements and comments. You are right about the timing of reading such work. It required a lot of energy, to be sure.

    I enjoy reading your articles – thought provoking and for me, encouraging. Nothing is by happen-chance…and that’s a wonderful thing