Confessions of a Confessional Poet

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Today poet and novelist Stephanie M. Wytovich visits Shotgun Logic once again, this time with a brutally honest essay about the processes–mental, emotional, and otherwise, that she goes through when writing poetry. Like all things Wytovich, it’s dark and lovely and achingly heartfelt. I hope you find as much enjoyment and enlightenment here as I did, and that you will seek out and consume Stephanie’s other works on Amazon or wherever you buy books.

Confessions of a Confessional Poet
By Stephanie M. Wytovich

I feel like poets are usually casted in the role of writing about three topics: love, death, and nature. I have been in love exactly four times in my life. Once was with my high school sweetheart, who I dated for seven years because I was too afraid to be alone. bioImageLuckily for me though, he made that easier by falling in love with my best friend at the time, so cue boy number two who was a whirlwind-inspired relationship that left me breathless with a taste for bad decisions and hard liquor. Follow that up with yet another round of heartbreak that left me clinging to my bed with my therapist on speed-dial and boom! We’re in the present. Luckily, the fourth (and final) time I’ve fallen in love has me with my fiancé brainstorming this very article. He’s telling me to write about things like who inspire me as a writer and what I like to read, and I’m laughing and saying no, that everyone’s heard me say Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and a litany of other writers too many times to count, so let’s instead get to the flesh and bone, the confessional part of it all. After all, if I’m going to labeled a confessional poet, I might as well confess, yes?

Indeed.

That’s what I thought.

So let’s hear some truth then, shall we?

  1. Yes, I write about love, death, and nature, i.e. how love inspires death and how it’s human nature to rip ourselves apart again and again trying to find solace and happiness in it all. And okay, I guess I write about storms, even though they, too, end up being people most of the time.
  2. I like to write a night, but I’ll pretty much write at any point in the day when I’m inspired. I keep a notebook in my purse for these purposes, although I hardly ever write in it. Most of my notes and transcripts are on my cell phone, which rarely ever leaves my sight. Don’t be fooled and think this means I’m good at communicating though, because I’m not. I’m awful.
  3. For a while there, my favorite way to write was with a bottle of wine and a cigarette, crying until the sun came up. I still like to do this, but now I can’t stay up all night and I’ve switched to tea. Also, no cigarette. Well, almost. Every once in a while if we’re being honest.
  4. I love horror because it makes me feel safe and secure. Writing about love and happiness is terrifying. I much prefer sticking to what I know best: disappointment, regret, and sadness. I know, open the oven, new-Sylvia. But it’s true. Writing about the positive and beautiful is hard for me. I feel like I’m experiencing it now for the first time in my life at 28 years old.
  5. No, I’m not obsessed with death. I’m obsessed with life and the idea of not being able to do everything I want and see everything that’s on my list is maddening and scary. The big sleep terrifies me, which is probably why I try to confront it in my writing so much. It’s a coping mechanism.
  6. I cry a lot when I write so I have to be alone when I do it. Very rarely, if ever, will you catch me writing in public. Taking notes and brainstorming? Absolutely. All the time. But story time and seriously drafting is saved for home.
  7. Lately, I’ve been writing with a 40-pound Pitbull in my lap because we both have attention problems.
  8. I’ve been writing science fiction poetry this year rather than horror.
  9. I’ve also been writing and submitting to literary markets and am almost done with a chapbook that I plan to submit at the end of the month. Yes, it’s dark. No, it’s not my usual darkness. In fact, either is Sheet Music for My Acoustic Nightmare, but you all will see what I mean when that piece of my heart comes out later on this year.
  10. I’m always reading a collection of poetry. Always. Next to me at the moment is Lucifer at Starlite by Kim Addonizio.
  11. Over the past two years or so, I’ve increasingly been reading more creative nonfiction and memoir. This has affected my poetry enormously and has completely changed the way I write.
  12. I think the feud between literary and genre poetry is the craziest, dumbest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve since stopped trying to wrap my head around it. Elitism is pointless. We should all be rooting for great literature.
  13. My first poem that I ever had published was about a hanging. To this day, it’s still one of my favorites.
  14. When Raw Dog Screaming Press and I first met, I was in a neon green shoes that were covered with (fake) eyeballs. The first time I went to Dogcon, which was at their house, I (accidently) locked myself in John’s office and then (accidently) covered myself in marshmallows in their kitchen.
  15. I didn’t know horror poetry existed until Mike Arnzen told me it did.
  16. I think the trick to being a poet is honesty and vulnerability. Having said that, every time I finish something, I go into a pretty serious panic wondering if I’ll ever be able to write anything again. This is especially true with fiction.
  17. After I finish a poetry collection, I open a bottle of wine and thank God it’s over. Poetry is draining and it oftentimes takes me a very long time to mentally recover from writing it.
  18. I collect copies of Alice in Wonderland and it reminds me that being weird and unusual and strange is not only okay, but that it makes for better writing.
  19. Sometimes when I get stuck, I get in my car and drive with no destination in mind. Sometimes it’s just around the block, sometimes it’s all night. Driving calms me and forces me inside my head in a way that doesn’t make me afraid.
  20. I consider myself a poet rather than a fiction writer despite having my MFA in it and never once taking a poetry course.

So yes, I confess: poetry is my love, my death, and my nature.
And stereotypes be damned, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Stripped naked with a bleeding heart,
Stephanie M. Wytovich

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One comment

  1. Hi, Stephanie. Number 5 on your list really hits home. Nabokov’s response to the torment of that same reality: “…the utter degradation, ridicule, and horror of having developed an infinity of sensation and thought within a finite existence.”

    Your love (and creation of) poetry can’t—shouldn’t be—stereotyped. It IS a coping mechanism, and also engages those impersonal (and not-so-impersonal) archetypes haunting our dreams. But you know that.

    Thank you for this honest piece.

    Liked by 1 person

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