Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Trumpet Sound

I began Monday with Tutankhamun's stolen trumpet, and the sound resonated and echoed throughout the day. I must confess to being worried: it has been known to herald disasters (the World War began shortly after its first sounding). I have since agonized over it: should I have heard it? Should I have refrained? Was there a cosmic message in the trumpet being stolen during the recent unrest in Egypt, a message that I was missing?

This is a common agony for me. I write a story or a poem, which sometimes is accepted or published, and once it is out there, I worry that it constantly misrepresents me, that I shouldn't have said that in this way, that maybe it was too personal or too impersonal or too sappy or too cynical. I feel like chasing my words, netting them, and somehow controlling what they say about me. Of course, I know this is as pointless as tying a brick to my child's head to prevent her from growing.

I think everyone who dabbles with the pen and keyboard would agree that the minute one decides to create a fictional landscape or, even just voices, a part of the self gets split. There is the writer, whose horizons include the reader, and there is the real person, who often refuses to acknowlege the writer in public, even sometimes is unable to recognize the split part of herself.  One of the most rewarding experiences can be when these two selves meet, are introduced, and smile.

Last weekend, on Friday, I had a reward like that, one of those gem-evenings, beautiful, perfect, when all the universe smiled down on me. My book club had chosen my book for its discussion and I remain humbled and honored that so many of my friends came for the discussion. I learned more about my work than I could ever have imagined learning, and it has defnitely affected the way I have written since.

Of course, often, this smile at the split self sketches itself in fear at the recognition. How much does the writer reveal? In a world where the idea of privacy is so treasured because it is getting to be so rare, how much of the real person has the writer self laid bare for all to see?

One of the messages from that evening tells me that through my poems, I have revealed much of the way I mother, the way I respond to the world. However, I remember, while constructing the poems, I agonized endlessly over being too intensly personal, and labored over making them more universal, more impersonal. I look at them now, and maybe because I see the poems through the lens of my soul-searing revisions, I still think they are really not about ME, per say. Maybe my friends know me very well, and if this is the reason they see me so clearly in my written voices, then there is a great deal of comfort in that: at least I have not misrepresented essential truths to my friends!

One of my stories has just been accepted for an online journal's anthology, and it is a story I spent months over. This story follows the first person perspective of Sita, from the epic, Ramayana, a story I grew up with. I find myself worrying over my story: have I offended? Have I misrepresented her completely? What shall this story say about me?

I have also been working on a short story and I am trying very, very hard to make it more universal and less personal. But somehow, Oedipus-like, the faster I try to run from the real person, the more the writer self seems to run into it.

And it is boring to show what already exists and is so easily knowable. I like to write because it gives me the chance to explore alternate selves and realities, the heady, addictive world of "what if?". I strive to be that enigmatic writer whom people look at and say, "I can't believe SHE wrote this . . .", but alas! All these alternate selves seem to be nothing more than reflections of the same image, multiplied exponentially, as though through a couple of parallel mirrors.

I wish I had and had not heard Tutankhamun's trumpet. How different would I have been? How different my agonies? How would it feel to straddle both possiblities of hearing and not hearing?

But then I think of Odysseus, tied to masts, the Siren Song resounding through him. Does he agonize over the Song's influence? Does he wish he had chosen the safety of wax for his ears? We all are subject to our single natures, and our stories, then, are bound to tell of our real selves, the ones we often refuse to recognize, the selves we leave behind on retinas once our ships pass, and these selves speak a universal language, true and recognizable, and this song resounds precisely because the story is personal.


  1. Shefali sometimes the most personal a story is; the most universal it becomes.
    Have a lovely and sweet Easter weekend,

  2. Happy Easter to you too, Ofelia! Thanks for visiting!

  3. Interesting ideas here--it was a great evening!

  4. yes it was! we must pick your poetry after jane eyre! it'll be a treat!