Last night I touched on Ivy's dilemma in my post but was not prepared to comment further. To bring readers up to speed, Ivy received a note from a publisher on a manuscript of poems she had submitted for consideration. In the note, said publisher wondered if it (her work) was based on personal experience. More specifically, he point blank asked if she could shed more light on the background for writing the work... was it based on her own experience? So this was more then just wondering aloud so-to-speak.
Her dilemma of course is how to respond. I am not trying to make this an advise column. Keeping my own life in a reasonable state of order is well enough work. But I think we have all had individuals ask about a piece of work and wonder. I've seen that look like, come on, you aren't fooling anyone... this is you.
For Ivy, I suspect the question is a bit more surprising coming from a publisher whom we would assume has dealt with many manuscripts and you would think would be beyond asking such a question. If I were in her shoes, I suppose I'd say as little as possible in reply. Exactly what... I'm not sure. Then again, I am not trying to play Dear Abby here.
What I am wondering is exactly what our overall roll should be in terms of educating the general public on such matters. I'd like to believe the interest in poetry, even casual interest is growing. This of course would mean there exists a constant need to educate the consumers on the matter of poetic content in work. How do we as practitioners of poetry deal with this? Or do we? Should we just buck up and smile politely when others read our work and ask, "Is this about you?"
The concepts of "truth" and "fact" are not always easy for people to discern. Perhaps this in part is because by definition truth can be related to fact. But truth can also be about sincerity in action, character, and utterance. It can be about a moment. A speck of time. A feeling. In the broadest sense we all write from "truth" but what we write is not always factual. We bring our life experiences, feelings, perceptions, into the mix and these become the tools we use to paint a picture story on a canvas of paper with brushstrokes of words. Then comes the whole issue of the consumer of our work. How many of our readers have lives that are totally parallel to our own? Few if any. The results are, the picture painted by our words may likely appear different to a reader.
So what do we do? What is our responsibility to educate the consumers? Or do we just roll on through life grinning and bare it?