I’ll just get this out of the way quickly. I sincerely apologize for the hurt and pain I have caused people in the literary community regarding some of my poetry (particularly the Misogyny poems), which I sincerely deceived myself into believing had a noble purpose behind it, but was really just me deluding myself of my own importance in a field I still struggle to find a place in. I was wrong, and I take responsibility for it, having done much reflecting and introspection since the time period of which I was embroiled in that controversy. Again, I was wrong, I accept it, and I don’t expect to be forgiven by those who want to hate me for writing obscene things, I just want to put all that idiocy behind me once and for all, and move on with my life. I hope that someday those who I hurt with words, as much as words are capable of causing hurt, can at least try to empathize with what prompted my provocations, as much as I have tried to empathize with the reactions to the work, and that we can agree to just put it in the past. That’s all I am asking here. I understand that forgiveness may not be earned in this case, but I am trying to do the right thing and admit my mistakes for what they were, just pure delusional stupidity, coming from a person who still struggles with self-image and clinical depression issues, and who allowed those issues to manifest in extreme outbursts of hurtful words disguised as awful poems.
This is all prompted from a recent reading of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, from which I gleaned several valuable lessons about perception and the self, and how perception can blind us when stunted by personal belief. One of the lessons in that book that really struck a chord with me, was that in order to understand the world, you must first take a hard unbiased look at the self, and understand your own problems, work on fixing those problems, and only when you are healed can you begin to work earnestly at understanding and finding a place in the grander scheme of existence, and maybe help heal others or larger problems. And so, having this in my mind, and having already been thinking for several months about what went wrong with my poetry, I have had to make some difficult acknowledgements of my own deficiencies as a human being, and try to make some changes. The first of these changes is that I have to stop refusing to admit when I am wrong. The next is I have to sincerely apologize for being wrong. The next is I have to rekindle my inner humility in a world that doesn’t even have to pay attention to the fact I am alive within it. Some of this I have accomplished through distancing myself somewhat from social media and a voracious addiction to attention (or the perception of attention) given by that superficial lust. The rest I tried to accomplish through meditation on healing and empathy.
I have changed a lot over this time period. Aside from moving all the way across the USA, I have tried to reconnect with nature, reestablish authentic connections with friends and family, and just live a healthier life with as little conflict as possible. My stepfather died this past September, and that was particularly hard for me. The challenges of dealing with such a loss amid some petty family disputes really put the finite nature of a lifespan into perspective for me, really had me trying to measure the importance of things. I found that these literary feuds I had previously let consume my time and attention the past few years were in the long run going to be meaningless. These things are not important at all. They are a distraction, a distraction that removes you from the actual experience of being alive and contributing meaningfully to that experience. I am sorry for ever falling prey to such a narcissistic pitfall of an illusion. I don’t want this small blip of a failure in judgment to be what defines me as an individual, or the broader scope of work I leave behind.
Recently, I was shared a psychological profile of Borderline Personality Disorder, and I was disturbed by how many of those boxes I checked for myself. I don’t know if I have that disorder, but it was humbling to me to feel even remotely the possibility of it. I know that I have struggled with depression most of my life, with suicidal thoughts, with an uncontrollable desire to fit in and be liked that I have never been able to fulfill except in small doses, and these issues have only been exacerbated by my addiction to the internet and social media. I was bullied ruthlessly most of my young life and adolescent life, I was raised in a turbulent environment, I struggled with relationships and rejection which culminated in an intense fear of rejection, and now I still bear the burden of how these experiences have scarred my mind, to the point that I am often uncomfortable around others, including things as simple as family get-togethers or friendly social gatherings. In my mind, I still struggle to fit in, no matter where I am.
Knowing that, I can now look back at what went down with my work in the poetry community and see it all as attempts to please others and fit in, and then attempts to self-destruct when those attempts failed. I convinced myself I was in the right, that I was the one under attack, that I was the one being shunned and bullied, and my reactions to those things were to lash out and provoke my perceived attackers. Much like violence only begets more violence, resentment only begets more resentment, and negativity only breeds more negativity. I felt caught in a riptide of a downward spiral of my own making, and I became so far entrenched in it with my own self-righteousness that I was helpless to stop myself. This was in effect, part of a repeated cycle of behavior I had nurtured online through addiction to attention and getting off on stirring the pot of provocation. I had allowed myself to become addicted to the whirlwind of internet outrage. Not only because I felt that outrage was blatantly in the wrong, but because I enjoyed the attention of pissing off as many people as possible. I had seen what others had done in this vein, and I vowed to do it better. In other words, I was an absolute asshole.
I understand that nothing I say or do now can take it back, and honestly, I don’t want to take it back, you can’t take back what you said or what you did, because it already happened. Perhaps if I had a time machine, I could try to talk some sense into myself, but I think the person I am today is better for having gone through it and having to learn from these mistakes. Those poems can stand as a testament of what not to do as far as I am concerned, the most grievous of errors between perceived intent and audience reception, and how art no longer belongs to its artist once it has been delivered for consumption to the world. The artist can’t ultimately decide what their work means. Time and context cease to matter as time continues to move and original context is forever lost to the ether, and so what only remains is how that work is perceived and critiqued, and how those perceptions evolve and maybe over time the critiques will as well. I think artistic intent shouldn’t be completely ignored, but it doesn’t have any ultimate effect on audience perception at all, and has to be considered separately. I can look at those poems for instance and say that they are my own version of Horror Film Poems, that I tried to load them with allusions to popular horror movies and literature, from Don’t Breathe, to Human Centipede and Hostel, to Grimm Fairy Tales, to H.P. Lovecraft, that I was trying to make a statement about the perception of satire and how it can be skewed by the simplicity of titles and dedications, to the difference between real world trauma and the written word, but at the end of the day, none of those things matter. What matters is perception, just like the lesson gleaned from Motorcycle Maintenance. I allowed my own belief to blind my perception of what I was doing. I am not saying I am the only one this happened to, as I am sure people have preconceptions of my work that may have impacted their perceptions of it as well. But I am admitting my own failures here and just finally wanting to put this whole charade to bed once and for all. I am sincerely sorry and will live with the regret of it for the whole remainder of my life. And I continue to pay the price for it, for writing poetry that offended and hurt people in ways I will never understand, and for believing I was totally entitled to write such poetry without consequences. I also hurt those who had defended me in the past, making myself into a character so despicable I alienated myself from peers and friendships I had worked so hard to build by becoming a monstrous villain of truly indefensible stature. I tried to make myself an artistic martyr for freedom of expression, and failed so gloriously that I became a joke. I am a joke.
So, in closing, I continue to find solace in the fact that I am nobody. I am not a great poet or writer, I am not a great person. I am just a person. In the end that is all anyone ever gets to be, and I will continue to try and find a place in this world that allows me to be the best version of that person I can be, as long as I am trying to find out who that person truly is. Thank you for reading this, and if you are one of the people who was hurt by my poems, or one of the people who tried to ostracize me from the poetry community, or even just someone with a vague interest in all this, I hope you can find the truth here, and see it comes from an earnest place of remorse and blatant honesty. I hold no animosity or anger toward anyone who tried to ruin me or my work. I deserved it. I let it go. I let it go and admit to my own part in creating the whole ridiculous circus of that mess. I hurt people with carelessly provocative work, and I am eternally sorry for doing so, for believing that art is more sacred than emotion, and for somehow believing I was the person capable of making such a statement. And I hope to never make the same mistake twice. I believe in second chances and even third chances. Maybe someday we all get them.