Rachel Zucker | Terribly Sentimental
(page 3)

3. In 2001, as I was finishing writing my second book, The Last Clear Narrative, my friend Arielle Greenberg asked me to send her a poem for How2, an online feminist journal. I knew right away that I wanted to send a birth poem. I was trying, in LCN, to write my experiences in ways that were personal but NOT sentimental. This was an overt goal. I felt that sentimentality was a way of lying and that I had not been told the truth about motherhood, childbirth, being a woman, being an individual, being a daughter... basically anything. I wanted to write experience in a way that felt accurate; I viewed accuracy as the antithesis of sentimentality. I’d never seen an “accurate” poem about birth. I’d written about the birth but the poem but was too clean and sanitized (unlike birth!) and so I went back and back, trying to get at the truth of that experience, which was traumatic and non-linear and fragmented and broken open. I wasn’t trying to write an “experimental” poem because it was in fashion. I needed to write a broken poem because that’s what that birth was for me—self-immolating, self-doubling, terrifying and profoundly unsentimental.

Writing that poem made the second book clear to me—I’d been trying to describe how marriage and children had broken me physically and upended my understanding of narrative. I was trying to write a poetry that was accurate because to do otherwise was to participate in a culture that tried (tries) to silence women and women’s experiences.

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