On the issue of whether writers should take the feelings of their loved ones into consideration when they wrote, William Faulkner counseled ruthlessness, saying that "Ode on a Grecian Urn" was worth any number of old ladies. This trade-off -- family harmony versus heartfelt expression, once I invented for myself a glitzier heart -- worried me a great deal when I was young. Indeed, when my mother read my first book, after she'd spread the news of its imminent arrival, she remarked dryly/angrily/wistfully/shamefully: "I wish you'd told me what it was going to be like."
Question: What was it like? Answer: Full of much bad writing. I had too much investment in the autobiographical myth, which I thought was necessary because I lacked the inventiveness not to write about actual life, and I thought that actual life required a grand myth to be interesting -- what could be interesting about a pasty-skinned girl from the suburbs? I hadn't gotten wise to Emily Dickinson yet, a poet who derived her outlaw spark from the sly rebellion of her strange punctuation. To put the brigand into the poem itself, not the autobiography, this is the harder trick.
--Lucia Perillo, from "Bonnie Without Clyde" in I've Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness and Nature (Trinity University Press, 2007)
"To put the brigand into the poem itself." I'm gonna engrave that somewhere. Perfect. I don't think this means you have to be crazy experimental or whatever; taking risks with the poems themselves can mean a lot of things. I think part of figuring out what kind of poet you are is figuring out what kind of risks your poems want to take -- what kind of outlaws they want to be.
(This Lucia Perillo book is excellent, by the way. I highly recommend it.)