At my featured poetry reading on Saturday at the long-running “Uncloistered Poetry Live” in Toledo, Ohio, one of my fellow poets paid me the highest compliment that I have ever received in my short-lived poetry career. He told me that I “have a poet’s voice that very few people have.”
I always felt that performing my poetry was one of my strongest attributes. My long and very successful legal career in public speaking and presenting workshops served me well when it came time to read my poetry in public. I do feel that I currently have lost some of the emotion, but that is due to the inexplicable and perplexing drop in my estradiol level, even though the doctor has doubled the dosage. I do feel this deficiency in my body and my mind.
I also feel that my poetry has developed significantly since the publication of my award-winning collection, If There’s No Heaven in 2020. I have also won some other awards since that time. I believe that my poetry has gotten edgier, and I am closer than ever to finding my true poetic voice in my writing. I do need to get back to it. I have been so busy being a teaching artist that it has not left much time for actual writing. My mind is constantly active, and I am full of ideas, among other things (which Marilyn may be thinking right now).
Allen Ginsberg once said, “Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.” A lot of my poems are indeed born while lying in bed somewhere between that bleary world of wakefulness and sleep. Some of my poems are actually based on dreams.
I often don’t know why I am writing or where I will end up. I just know that deep down inside is this overwhelming urge to write, which was suppressed for a very long time. I describe my writing style as intuitive. I do make deliberate word choices, but often I just follow the truth that I feel deep down in my belly that Nietzsche described as “a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished.”
Robert Fripp said, “If you censor yourself, you can’t be an artist.” I've tried very hard not to censor myself, avoiding thoughts of what this person or that person may think of a particular topic or word choice. My poetry is unfiltered, leaving me naked and exposed, but unapologetic. It is honest, raw, edgy, emotional, and deeply personal.
Anais Nin said, “The role of a writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.” When we think about the incredibly divisive world in which we currently live it is interesting to learn that things really haven't changed much. Way back in 1954, Charles Bukowski wrote, “...today, when everybody’s so god damned afraid of offending or saying anything against anybody else - an honest writer is in a hell of a hole.”
I always strive to tell the truth in my poetry, at least the truth as I see it, writing in the way Hemingway spoke about, “put[ing] down on paper what I see and what I feel, in the best and simplest way.”
In October, I will turn seventy years old. I will likely be entering the winter of my life. The newspapers and magazines are full of obituaries of people younger than me who have died. That is a sobering thought. However, the irony of my life is that I did not really begin living until I transitioned almost seven years ago. So, in a large sense, I am still in my infancy. I’m still learning how to be a woman and overcoming the male mindset and thinking that dominated my life for over sixty years.
As I say at the end of my poem Masochistic Murmurs, “I am finally beginning
to learn to love myself.”
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, award-winning poet, writer, speaker, teaching artist, and quiet activist. She is a retired attorney and a seventh generation Appalachian. Now based in Tallmadge, Ohio, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and the Akron Beacon Journal Best Northeast Ohio Books 2020. It is available through this website at www.poetryislifepublishing.com. Barbara is also the author of the "Poetic Memoir Chapbook Challenge," and the forthcoming "Dance Naked With God. "Follow her at www.barbaramarieminneypoetry.com.