Googling Yourself.

I know everyone has done this at one point or another.  I have discovered there is a Viking Cheerleader with my  name somewhere out there who is waving her pom-poms through the google of my poetry.  That’s about it on the name matching though, everything else available when you google my name, “Cassie Mannes” is my own.  My blog comes up, my shewrites page, very old poetry that I hope no one ever discovers (so I don’t know why I’m telling you), and today, I found a review of an online magazine I was featured in earlier this year, and then a review of my poems within its paragraphs.   Why they chose my poems to review as part of it, I’m not sure, but they did, and so here I am in Barnes and Noble cafe, drinking a light caramel frap, because I’m trying to get rid of back fat, and I’m kind of bummed out.

The review from Sabotage was neither good nor bad.  Obviously, the woman writing had seen far too many sexually religious poems (haven’t we all?) and she wasn’t a fan of “masturbating crickets.”  I find that line just pisses people off, for reasons I don’t exactly know other than they think I was going for shock value.  When really I was going for a humming sound, not with the words I chose, but within my mind.  Anyway, I’m not trying to write a response to this review, or defend anything I wrote during that stage in my life, I’m actually trying to do the opposite.

When I wrote these poems, I thought Flood Season was one of the best poems I’d ever written.  Margaret Atwood inspired, from her book Eating Fire, Laux gave me a stellar response with pencil marks digging into the lined page it was written on.  I just felt enlightened after writing that.  I don’t think, now, it was the actual writing I was really involved with, I think it was the story I was trying to tell.  It was a Southern story, it was a story of pre-electricity and the calm before a major storm.  It was my small response to the flooding in New Orleans, but making it my own.  It was my Southern wife, hanging off her balcony, scarve floating on her neck, waiting like the statue in Savannah.  There were a lot of things happening at the time I wrote this:

  • I wanted to be known in my creative writing department for more than just fiction writing.
  • I wanted recognition that my sex/Catholic/dead grandmother poems were doing something right.
  • I wanted to write strong images that awoke people.
  • I wanted to write about the trip to Savannah with CALK, standing in front of Flannery O’Conner’s childhood home.
  • I wanted to allude to a Hurricane, or a flood, or a storm so bad it was left unnamed.
  • I wanted to write about my families heritage.
  • I wanted to write like Margaret Atwood, in the way she’s disturbing, functional, raw, imagistic, and disappointing.  (Many people don’t know she’s also a poet, but she’s wonderful).
  • I just wanted to write; what I’ve wanted to do my entire life.
I often give poor reviews if I think the book is poor.  I talk about the writing like there aren’t dying characters attached to it.  Very rarely do we learn what inspired the author, what this book meant to her, why she wrote it (even in the unconcious).  The more I think about why I wrote this poem, the reasons overflow my mind.  I can’t get out of the poem, I can’t come back to Barnes and Noble with its stick straight chairs.  I’m in Charleston even though I’ve never been.  I’m in Savannah, I’m on the pier waiting for the man I love who is smoked to a large ship.  I’m alone.
Poetry should make you feel.  This was what I was trying to do, and I succeeded in doing it for myself.
Yes, I was twenty-one, these poems define that age.  They tell me where I was: I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant learning about my best friend’s molestation over salsa.  I wasn’t quite over the experience of losing my virginity and the blame I felt inside from years of Catholic Church, and I’m a southern girl who was alone in the world of the page.  That’s what these poems show me, and I just hope that anyone out there writing realizes that whatever you write, at any stage, it’s a process.
Poetry IS revision.  Writing IS revision.  Your life IS revision.  So don’t be ashamed that you have poems out there before you were “good,” or before you knew what the hell a slant rhyme was.  You’ve read books, you’ve read poems, you’ve sent them out all over the damn world and received responses from friends who never even read.  You take this all with a grain of salt, or you take it too heart, or you cry about it under the soft covers of your bed (of if you’re me, in the shower).
I’ve written some SHITTY poems.  PURE AND UTTER SHIT.  Some of them are even out there, unfortunately.  One in particular, I remember being extatic about in the downstairs dining hall of my summer camp.  I was jumping on the next bunk over, telling my campers that I got a poem taken.  My hair bounced too like it was being pulled by small puppet strings in the sky.  I was so excited, this was and is my life, this writing, this thing called “author.”  Now I look back and hope people don’t judge me, like everyone else.  But, you know what, judge away.  I was young, I was in love with the written world (like I still am) and my love affair was like a Cosmo magazine, not yet ready to be a marriage, just a sexual romp.  Now, my poetry is like a high school boyfriend, it can stay a while in my mind, but it isn’t going to college with me.  At this point, I’m just happy we’re going steady for the moment.
I hope for any writer out there, or reading this, that you see growth.  That’s what I hope for myself and for you.  That you grow (even if you’re a wild flower).  Just make sure you water the plants.

8 thoughts on “Googling Yourself.

  1. seth says:

    we stop growing if and when we ever stop doing what we love…so keep going; keep growing. there’s no drought in sight!

  2. sheree says:

    I sometimes think of old work as tenderly as I would a younger sister’s– and I still can only get to the “Real” stuff through writing a lot of crap. Crap to some may be someone else’s treasure. All sooo subjective. Love this blog.

  3. Bea Mannes says:

    I went to Sabotage and read the review. I felt the reviewer was a little tough on all the writer’s she reviewed, but she was also complimentary. She saw abilities coming from all the young writer’s, and she quoted from several of the poems. I think she actually liked your work, and I believe she will always remember that line, “masturbating crickets”, as will I.
    Don’t be afraid to shock your readers with that kind of visual, as long as it’s what you see in your mind’s eye while writing. That makes a good writer. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut.
    Anyway, I enjoyed your blog and Claire’s review.


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