September 22, 2015

In other homes

I have a story in Story Club Magazine. It’s about where I’m from.  I hope you’ll read it; I’d love to hear what you think.

Without drawing any sort of equivalency between these two links, I also hope you’ll read this writeup about five British poets who write about identity and displacement. Reading Warsan Shire’s poems gave me a new outlook on a poem I’ve known well for years, Philip Larkin’s “Poetry of Departures,” which I typed up on my old blog because I couldn’t find an accurate copy elsewhere on the internet back in 2011. Larkin wrote:
We all hate home
And having to be there

But home can only be such tedium if you can control it. If your identity isn’t threatened there. If you can take it for granted that you’ll always belong. Warsan Shire’s “Home” opens with a very different statement of what home is like and how we might relate to it:
no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark

“No one leaves home” is a refrain in this poem, one that made me pick apart a lot of things I’d assumed about home and how one makes it. Home isn’t one story. It’s a series of fragments, and it could be a trauma, a darkness that shadows you with the fact of your having left. In Shire’s poem, home is something that can turn, through forces beyond your control, into a place of great danger. Looking back at the “we all” I remember from Larkin through this lens, it’s more obviously a limited set of people, a limiting assumption. One could argue that it’s ironic, like a lot of Larkin’s work is, or just that the speaker is a blinkered old white guy who hasn’t spent much time considering other realities from his. The poem contains both possibilities. And other poems contain the possibilities of other homes.  

It’s likely that I’ll always have lots of Philip Larkin feelings. Reading those poems does the thing in my mind that's like seeing your first favorite movie again:  even the sad and angry and disappointing parts soothe with nostalgia. The things that get into your adolescent brain can be that way. But I’m glad to know that poetry is larger now. I’m a little sorry I didn’t think when I was younger to question who gets to say “we all”.

Thanks for reading, for being here. Reply any time.