My debut poetry book, Outside In, was published one month ago and the reception has been gratifying. I feel so touched that people have found the poems meaningful and moving. Plenty of soul searching went into the book’s creation, so it’s reassuring to hear that it resonates with its readers.
The supportive feedback has not come without some internal anxiety on my part about putting something so open out into the world. Wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve feels like an understatement when it comes to publishing personal poetry. It feels more like ripping open your chest for all to see: the outside world coming in.
Themes relating to the death of my father, mental ill-health, dislocation and gender identity are covered in the book without sugar-coating. The feelings were raw and so are the words that have resulted. Knowing that anyone can now access, and even hold in their hands, the manifestation of these feelings in print is big. And scary at times.
Ripping off a band-aid is a good analogy. It feels painful for an instant: that moment when a new reader encounters a poem and I fear a negative reaction, or I feel overly exposed. But the result is healing. Beneath the band-aid, the body is new again. Fresh skin has grown over the wound, and the protective first aid strip is no longer needed. The pain is gone.
Self-expression makes the world go around because it’s a form of sharing. “This is how I experience the world; what’s it like for you?” There’s a human connection there and a coming together. This process involves vulnerability, which is scary and potentially painful sometimes. What will the other think? But the exchange is vital. Mutual understanding and growth demand it. We sometimes have to pull off that plaster once and for all, go out into the world and rejoice together that the injury has healed.
Outside In is available to order now via firstname.lastname@example.org or on Amazon.