I have to go through my inventory to see how many poems I’ve written from the male p.o.v., about men, or to men. It brings me up short to see, of course the polarization (towards the female experience), since, wouldn’t you know, I’d just this month publicly noted my emotional response to what I perceived as a lack of focus on female characters in Per Peterson’s novel Out Stealing Horses (“What is the purpose of revealing yourself in memoir?” posted at http://www.tiny-lights.com/). My point wasn’t that Peterson has to write more in-depth female characters into his novels, but that I feel responsible to write my own stories as a female writer.
Nudged by Sandy’s query, I discover a mere four poems written from male p.o.v. (one as Nefertiti’s sculptor--Thutmose, one as Pharaoh Ahkenaten addressing the sun god Aten, one as my husband, one as a caretaker). Another handful address other men—a hunter, a soldier, a poet friend who recently passed away, my father, stepfather, son). Would a man reading my words see himself accurately portrayed there? I’d have to ask. Not that I believe I should strive to balance the gender ledger overall in my work, but I do find it worthy to observe the habits of p.o.v., to consider how I might grow as a writer by visiting the male psyche as I strive to reveal the female psyche.
Living in the orbit of my husband and two sons, I have no shortage of men to observe. My husband--still addicted to Lee Child crime novels--muses aloud that 1) he can’t seem to put a Child book down, and 2) he can’t reconcile the recurring theme of women portrayed as victims of brutality. Since I’m always looking for a way to insert more poetry into my husband’s life (which he counters by forecasting my future as a triathlete), I was thrilled last month to read a promo snippet for The Man in the Blizzard, Bart Schneider’s detective novel featuring a Private Investigator with a photographic memory of poetry. I rang the bookstore and had it in hand within 24 hours.
I found Blizzard amusing and engaging, replete with a cast of full-fledged female characters (a daughter, an ex-wife, an assistant among others). Schneider encapsulates entire life scripts with levity and ease in the span of a couple sentences, for example describing the main character’s assistant: “Blossom had been a good girl from South Minneapolis...But the summer after her graduation, before she was to head to college...she met a freckly-faced monster named Kevin who charmed her into a few seasons of bondage and a hearty drug habit. She spent the next decade as a living ruin or in prison (p. 26).” Yet, as I discovered, Blossom is no victim in this tale.
I have to admit the book probably ventures closer to my heart than my man’s—with all those references to poetry (from Szymborska to current Sonoma County poet laureate Mike Tuggle)--but my plan is to put The Man in the Blizzard couch-end nearest the fireplace where the Child book usually sits and wait for the slippers to find the right feet and the adjoining body to lose itself in Schneider’s world while the kids plummet off the couch-back onto that familiar washboard gut.
--To sample Sandy's sculpture visit: http://www.sandyfrankfineart.com/.
--To view list of upcoming questions for Tiny Lights on-line Writer’s Exchange (and guidelines for submitting work) visit: http://www.tiny-lights.com/ under Guiding Lights.