The content of the below post may be disturbing to some. It involves gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia, dissociative identity disorder, body horror, gore, and contemplations of suicide/death. Please only continue if these topics will not prove too upsetting to you personally; only you can make this judgement for yourself. Consider yourself forewarned.
In all honesty, these poems weren’t tailored to a specific reading for this syllabus, but they did happen to touch upon some great themes found in “Paradise Lost.” It’s unsettling to think that your brain could be adjacently distressed to the literal origin of demons without even realizing it. So let’s get into the “how” part of their connections for the sake of those who wish to exit this experience quickly.
‘A Taste of Freedom.’ discusses internal perceptions of body parts, specifically the juxtaposition of those that cause the speaker to dissociate and those that empower the speaker (not gonna pretend it’s not me, the process gets painfully into detail about that later, but that feels more grammatically accurate). The piece is adjacent to how I imagine Satan’s post-fall realization of being chained to a burnt husk of what once was his angelic form; everything is familiar, but different, and that uncanny feeling slowly grows as he descends into utter despair and ruin. The piece grows in length as Satan would work to define his body as a coping mechanism, going from frustration and self-loathing to a sense of pride in even the most broken parts of himself, finding joy in what will be his downfall. Or mine? The walls get blurry there. Please ignore the undertones of vore, they’re kind of integral to the descending chaos/insanity of the piece but I don’t know how they got in there in the first place.
‘on plurality.’ is connected to Eve, the moment of her creation where she’s transfixed in her reflection. Unknowingly, she’s a shadow of Lilith, created after Lilith’s banishment in a similar body and placed in her exact position (forced into a relationship with Adam in the Garden). She contemplates later the idea that she could be easily replaceable, not knowing that she is already the replacement. This horrible paradox of being doomed to repeat a mistake of your predecessor due to your unchangeable ignorance of their situation is unfortunately a place in which I’m stuck as well, being the third (or possibly fourth) emergent personality in my DID continuum. I am a replacement for a past difficult personality, much like Eve is of Lilith, so ‘on plurality.’ unintentionally crossed some boundaries there in being a situation that Eve could be in as an emergent personality if Lilith were still trapped inside of her mind. It’s difficult to put to words, but definitely something I wasn’t conscious of when writing the piece.
If you wish to be free, here is the place to exit if you so choose (the rest of my reflection will look suspiciously familiar to those who have multiple classes with Nic, or, well, to Nic himself. Sorry Nic, the process was all the same, so I didn’t change anything important.)
To be frank, I hate making poetry. I tried to like it, I did my best, but my pieces always got horrible reception. Turns out, I was handing them to neurotypicals and framing them as the only people whose opinions existed. Yeah, this was years ago, but it really set in motion a deep distrust of poetry that lingers to this day. But the way people are connecting to the self-hatred and body dysphoria I tapped into is actually really helping me to understand that maybe I just hate structure and boundaries. I need to be able to set my own boundaries to flourish. That being said, I didn’t want to make poetry when I started this project, but I did it anyway because I wanted to suffer? I can only assume. After some difficult introspection, I fell into these poems with the vigor of someone who desperately needs to give voice to something they should probably take to therapy.
The best part about this project is, “I” didn’t technically write a lot of this, one of my other personalities did. One of the only functionally helpful parts of being a plurality I’ve found is when it comes to creating art in all its forms. To start, we made a list of body parts that made all of us feel something (mainly dysphoria, but some were empowering things, which was a refreshing change), then spent some time all together just using a blended “stream of consciousness” to type out how each part made each of us feel. This was the basis of every poem I created in that session. I think “eyes” and “lips” were probably the most fruitful, and really expanded on some weird thoughts I’ve been putting off dealing with for a while.
After there was a page and a half or so of just solid text, I sliced it into pieces and divided the topics up by theme and started breaking them up into that comforting, familiar shape we think of as a “poem”. The editing process was a struggle. In part, because I could only really get three people to read it (though those three people did a Wonderful job!), but also in part because poetry is such a different beast to edit than prose (part of why I still abhor it, like the background radiation of my distaste for it). They aren’t much different than how they started, and I wish that weren’t true, but I guess if you start with a strong foundation the house you build atop will be strong. I hope this lives up to the Unessays of others; I know I have a lot to live up to.
Why Does Literature Matter?
Literature was, is, and will continue to be a living, breathing entity. It shapes, and is shaped by, culture, and so it should matter to those in that culture. It can give readers a glimpse into the past while also providing cautionary themes to be mindful of in the present. But in the way that I care about it most, literature can give hope for a brighter future. If it shapes culture, that is what it must be coaxed to do, and it must constantly be moving forward. Literature matters because representation matters. Literature matters because people matter, and how they feel is relevant. Text, subtext, language – it can all work to make the world safer through bringing understanding and representation through literature.