Friday, April 28, 2006

Writing My Voice

Soy egoista. Well at least I like to play off like I am. Like when I get up on stage at a tertulia and spit broken spic Spanish poems with fucked up grammar and then smile graciously as people tell me how honest my work is, how real, how it has personality, and is pure and unrestrained by rules like I planned it that way. Scary thing is that I don't feel that fucking brilliant. I don't feel that fucking deep or talented. I feel lazy and stupid and like I said last night in a poem I am working on:

I live in the only sovereign state that I know, the state of insecurity

Despite all the kindness and ego stroking accolades I feel like my writing, the process and its results , is immature and insecure. Despite the years of being considered a poet, a writer, a blogger - I have hidden myself from criticism and critique.

Does it come from the fact that the first time I took stage to perform something outloud, at age 16 my mother said that a ghetto spic Puerto Rican accent came out and I was made to feel ashamed of that. Or maybe its the insecurity of language, the broken Spanish poems, the spanglish the English that doesn't allow to me fit into the niche of being a Spanish writer or an English writer. I once dated a Latino writer who was critical of the way I used language, saying it cheapened me and my work. His male privilege, his educational privilege with his MFA trumped my female uneducated voice. At least that's how it felt. There is no capital, no money, no time for me to run off to writing workshops and school. How about the rejection letters, the not playing by the rules and not spitting out the Spic Chic Lit I see in the chain bookstores.

I treat my writing like a privilege. It comes after editing the work of others and helping children learn proper grammar while developing their own style and voice. It comes after making sure my child's homework is done and making sure she is fed, clothes, and educated. It comes after everything. Scraps of stories and poems languish , missing deadlines and submission dates. There is no room of my own. My writing is interrupted constantly by requests and vacuuming and cries for food and attention and I feel guilty saying no, I am working on something that is mine. Thus I devalue my own work, my own voice.

My writing, the process and its results, is layered like my life. Complex.

After my performance the other night one man asked why I hated men. Another man who missed my performance asked if I did my angry poetry. Another man complimented the rawness of my work but added that he was happy to hear me writing about love. Because apparently writing about abortions and rape and colonialism, and identity , and sex is unbecoming. Writing about a relationship, especially a heterosexual relationship, that's an acceptable, more palatable theme.

Only one women, a mujer, said something to me about understanding the voice and style that I choose, that I am in my writing.

Mil gracias to Pomegranate Queen for making me think more about this and for opening the online discussion on the theme. A thousand and one thanks for her stepping up and creating a new space where women and trans writers of color can share, critique and give our writing, the process and results, the value it deserves.


Blogger Ktrion said...

Hey, Mala, you are so fierce!

Yeah, what that Latino MFA didn't tell you is that in a MFA program they would strip away all your language and emotion and voice and then leave you speaking "universalese" (i.e. gabacho) and feeling superior just like the rest of them.

(Shouts out to the WOC who have survived MFA programs and kept their voices and to the WOC who have walked away!)

Maybe we will someday write poems about clouds that are just clouds. But that won't make them better than what we're writing right now as the clouds of hate and intolerance loom.

Go on and write!

4/28/2006 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger fiercelyfab said...

Eres chingona mala, deberas!

That's what I love about your writing and I've read your work on hm, loudmouth, here...and what you're referring to the critic of that ass mfa'er ex of yours, those other narrow ways of looking at what writing should be..the pretty and comfortable are full of it, the Spanglish, the multi dimensions of your writing, on top of your succint, well written articles/poetry is what makes them freaking good as hell.

And I totally hear you on the state of insecurity, mujer. And all of that you mention, the sovereing state of insecurity, "immature" is fucking vere real for many of us. I don't have much advice but to say let's try and use our spaces to support each other and when ready--take that step for putting self out there searching criticsm and critique, where we know people aren't going to come down on your contnt cuz you wrote about abortions, racism, identity, and all else that makes many folks uncomfortable.

Like you my writing comes after everything, and after admiring other peoples' writing on-line and on books and really feeling that they are where my energies should be at...reading them and enjoying their words not creating. Not creating for publishing (in my case) but just writing to give meaning.

Look forward to seeing more of your work is inspiring.

4/28/2006 12:51:00 PM  
Blogger Ms.Maegan said...

See I never know what to say when people say stuff like what you all are saying so I'll just say thank you because in the spaces we have created is where I have felt the most supported.

4/28/2006 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

unfortunatley, i've never heard you read your poetry, but i think that the writing you present on your blog is moving and often very beautiful.

great post.


4/28/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger Luis Henao said...

El día en que pensemos que nuestros escritos son maduros, vayamos al espejo y empecemos a practicar nuestra sonrisa más espontanea.

Y que el universo llore que se perdió un alma.

4/29/2006 12:16:00 AM  
Anonymous deviousdiva said...

"My writing is interrupted constantly by requests and vacuuming and cries for food and attention and I feel guilty saying no, I am working on something that is mine. Thus I devalue my own work, my own voice"

Wow! That's me too. But I am getting better thanks to this wonderful community that is building. I can't explain to people outside it how important this woc groundswell has been and is. Thank you for your words. Many of us have been there or are still there. Keep on keeping on.

5/07/2006 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger nicolececilia said...

being a feminista in postfeminism is not an easy task. people look at me weird, boys get annoyed. when i was teaching feminist theory at boricua college i heard complaints from my student's husbands all the time. they thought that just because I taught them not to take their crap, I had to be a "man hater", ugly, and lesbian.

sobre tus poemas en español, me ofrezco a hacer grammar check, la mayoría de tus confusiones son con gender and number, which is normal porque las reglas del inglés son super disitntas. es un problema fácil de resolver. y tienes que leerlos con la misma seguridad, fuerza y flow que cuando lees en inglés, porque hasta tu body language cambia cuando estás performing en español. a mí me encanta lo que haces Mala, eres de los highlights de la Tertulia, definitivamente, and I'm sooooo glad that I met you. It made me re-think and re-value the "nuyorican" poetry scene. your voice is fresh and intelligent, and luckily it avoids the cliché identity traumas that I'm tired of hearing about. and i certailnly LOVE your angry man-hating poems *wink*wink* (that was a joke, not the love part though) you get my point. So yes, I volunteer to spellcheck your Spanish poems if that will make you feel more secure about them.
Oh, and btw, when are you publishing your book!!!?~?

5/10/2006 06:54:00 PM  

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