You Just Never Know…

what response you will get when you write a poem and send it out into to world!  Below this post is a poem called ‘In Passing.’  What inspired it was a combination of frustration with our society and the seemingly slow and tedious movement forward, toward peace and equality for all. It actually all started to be written in my mind when I read a racist comment by someone on a very popular news website.  The article being commented on dealt with the death of Osama Bin Laden and the white house. I read that comment a few times and thought about writing something ambiguous that could apply to all people who feel they are on a treadmill of bigotry of some sort, be it race, gender or sexual orientation related. The result was ‘In Passing.’

Before work this morning I checked my blog and what I found shocked me a bit but then it intrigued me. The perception of a reader or two was that it was Val doing some man bashing, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I thought about it all day actually and I wondered if it would have been read differently if no one had ever known my gender. If I didn’t have a list of feminist sites on my blog or identify myself as a feminist would it have been read and digested in another way? How would the reader have been affected by it?  If I had been black or a gay man what would you have thought of it then?  I’ll leave it with you lovely scribes to discern and consider. As for me, I’m going to keep a promise to a wonderful photographer, Adrian L, and balance ‘In Passing’ with a poem about my uncle whose birthday is now. If anything, my opinions of men are not colored by the men who have mistreated me but rather by my uncle who was my hero as a child and an adult.  Such was his strength, courage and generosity of spirit. If anything, there are very few men or women for that matter, at least in my mind, who could live up to the ideal of my uncle, the man, the human being and soul.

I’m going to say one thing about the feminism label before I end this diatribe, and why I like it. I’m female. I like being female. I like what it represents.  How you define it is your completely up to you. How I define it is equality for everyone regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. These are things we don’t choose, they just come with birth and existence. Stereotyping anyone is idiocy, but to close our collective peepers and deny that those of color are oppressed is  blind, to deny that women are oppressed is blind, to deny that gay men and women are treated like second class citizens is blind. To make it abundantly clear just how far we have come, let us recall that it wasn’t so long ago that black people and women were considered property, let alone the fact that neither had the right to vote in an election.  In 1865 black men were given the right to vote in the United States of America and women were given the right to vote in 1920. In Canada it was 1917 for women and 1837 for black men. All we have to do now is stop killing/abusing/oppressing each other in every corner of this planet and we will finally be moving forward as a human race.

Ask Coolio, he knows.  😉


Author: valo

I am a poet, writer and activist with a special interest in human rights for children and women as well as the elimination of poverty worldwide. If you read this today, feed someone locally for me will you? Drop off a non perishable food item at the food bank nearest you and consider yourself hugged. Thank you!

13 thoughts on “You Just Never Know…”

  1. I read all of this and the poem yesterday, purposefully put everything out of my mind and then commented on the poem alone as I interpreted it without any influence. Maybe I’m naive but I didn’t see any gender in it. I felt it was more an inward interpretation rather than a reflection, but then that is perhaps saying more about me than it should.
    There were two things that struck me about your post and then the following comments here and that was a) I was kinda pissed off and b) I was very … what’s the word… refreshed(?) by how easily and gladly you declare your love of womanhood. But the kinda pissed off was because extended commentary can kill kneejerk emotion that makes poetry, can’t it? I mean, if we actually look again at our poems of love or hate or cakes or incest or death or poo (and no, I’m not being flippant) and thing about how others would interpret them, then that is not in itself a bad thing. But to then categorically ensure that they don’t interpret it in their own way for fear of offense or accusations of bias.
    And no, it’s not a criticism of you but meant as a shoring up if I may, to let those reactions to your work add to it rather than restrict it.
    I have always maintained that my work is fiction – which may be true, it may not be, who’s to tell (certainly not me) – but when you have a situation with inviting comments from people, you do run the gauntlet of them referring the work back to you personally rather than ‘the author’. But that doesn’t need to bother you. That can be taken as a compliment in itself I suppose. (using the royal ‘you’ there)
    So, sum it up Kizz, stop blithering.
    So, I would say don’t worry about tags. Don’t worry about interpretation – interpretation is not concerning that which you have written, it is concerning the person reading it. I would say eat cake and be happy. And I would say that your eloquence is admirable.

    1. I felt exactly what you are saying Kiersty. I felt it at the time I read the comments. I felt it for about two hours afterward. Then I decided to make light of it all and to point out that people internalize art and define it by more than the art itself. Biases abound and we all have them but it is my sincerest hope that my writing makes people think about things and perhaps, talk about them and gain an understanding they didn’t have before. Yeah, I know, I’m an idealist but between birth and death, what else is there really but to make this world a bit more bearable. Hugs

  2. Coolio = One more reason to love you, Val. I also consider myself a proud feminist (one doesn’t have to be female to be a feminist, you know). After all, I was raised by one of the best feminists… my mom! Keep up the good word, Val.

    1. Tel, I think you are da bomb! I’ve met some folks on here who I clicked with immediately and knew we would always be friends no matter the distance and you Tel are one of those people. You and I both know what feminism is about and why it exists. HUGS

  3. Very interesting Val – I assumed that it was about men because of your tag and who you are – but on rereading your tag, I find there is no mention of men – so that is again our reading of your stuff based on what we know about you). After writing my comment I started to think about it for the rest of the day and how I wouldn’t have got away with saying such a sexist thing if I was a man – so I apologise – I was just being facetious and have come across quite a few men with backbone and humanity in my time.

    1. I write fiction as well as poetry and so sometimes I write poetry as fiction. I’ve been completely shocked by this so from now on, I’m going to make certain I post something in the tags to identify it as either my position and belief or an abstraction or observation of another. I do still believe that if this poem were handed to each of you blind the content would have been interpreted differently. HUGS

  4. Hi Val. I’m enjoying your blog and the poem “In Passing.” I think it’s a sad and easy to relate to sentiment you’re expressing. I hate to say it, but I think the reason some readers assumed you were talking about men is because the poem talks about searching for someone, someone with a heart full of love and backbone of steel (IIR your words correctly). The assumption might be that a woman who is looking for someone with a heart full of love and a backbone of steel MUST be talking about looking for a man, a mate, a lover. I think people read it as a lament about love in the romantic sense, as opposed to love in the humanist sense.

    1. I completely agree with you R.Cohen, that this is what many readers assumed it was about and of course, poetry is whatever the reader perceives it to be about. What I found interesting, is that nowhere in that poem did I identify my gender or the gender of the others but I felt that because of my gender being known as the author it colored it and said a great deal about the lens through which we see/read/experience art and how much of it is already decided by our biases before we view it and I of course include myself in this. This whole episode is very interesting to me and it has inspired me to try something with the other poets who visit my blog. I’m still considering posting a challenge for them, an exchange of sorts to further the dialog on this matter. I feel there is a great deal of self knowledge to be gleaned from this. It’s wonderful to have you visit and leave your words and I do hope you come back again. 🙂

      1. Will do!

        You’ve hit on what is, I think, part of the magic and at the same time challenge of poetry. Not unlike comics, poems live in the empty spaces between words (or panels). How people fill in those empty spaces depends on so many factors — their perception of the author and his/her perspective being a crucial one.

        You don’t want to write poems which over-direct the reader’s interpretation. I suppose if that’s what you wanted to do you’d write essays, not poetry. But isn’t it amazing to see what your words can evoke in people’s minds?

        Anyway, thanks for visiting my blog too!

      2. “How people fill in those empty spaces” that is such an astute statement R.Cohen and precisely why I have always felt that the arts, be it poetry, music, art, literature and even fashion are a perfect barometer by which to measure our progress socially and spiritually. Your visit has been intelligent and has added to our dialog here and I thank you so much for participating. 🙂 You are now on my blog roll.

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