How many poems can I write about marriage?

As a poet contributing to Lawfully Wedded, I admit I was daunted by the timeline. I’ve been known to spend more than 6 months refining and editing a single poem until it’s just right. To imagine producing 5 to 8 separate poems about marriage in under 8 weeks had me a little freaked out.

But the topic is so rich and so critical that I couldn’t say no. My process as a poet is to recognize my own emotional investment in a topic and to write through that reaction so that the result is personally important, which is usually pretty easy. But it’s also got to be important to an audience, which is not at all easy. Basically, it’s not enough that I care about what I write. The person hearing me also has to care or it doesn’t work. But this is how storytelling in any form works, right?

So the easy part was having an emotional reaction to marriage equality. For me, this is straightforward: I am gay + I am denied marriage rights = passionate reaction. This is a perfect equation! The problem for Lawfully Wedded was simply that I wasn’t sure how many ways I knew to creatively say that denying me (and other people like me) rights just sucks.

The key became rebounding off the other writers and seeing the stories they were telling. I always have to write from my own feelings and convictions, but I found that writing through (my vision of) someone else’s voice gave me a great deal more to say. In “Grandmother”, in addition to the idea that Danny provided, I literally thought about my own grandmother and how I see her adjust to the changing social climate she’s lived in. When I imagined my grandmother’s motivation for opposing gay marriage, the piece became easy to write.

“Marry Me”, in comparison, is written through my own voice but I’m writing a fantasy rather than reality. In removing the trappings of rights and benefits, I just thought about the reasons I would want to be married…me, personally. I wondered what the reasons could be for me to merge my life with someone else’s. The answer to that question became “Marry Me” and is the piece in Lawfully Wedded of which I’m most proud.

So it turned out that I had a lot to say about marriage. Some things came through different imagined voices, some came through my own voice. I chose to ignore the politics of marriage equality and found that what really moved me were the stories of people, so that’s what shows up in my contributions.

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