Monthly Archives: May 2015

To Stand Out or to Fit in?

I read a blog post the other day that is still tickling at my consciousness…or maybe my subconscious, who knows? So I went back and reread it today. It was about Mark Doty, a poet I had never heard of, and one of his poems. Not only did he write the poem, but he also wrote an essay on the process of writing it. Interesting reading!

The poem really struck me, not only in the description of a very unusual subject, but by the underlying question of homogeneity. In his essay, Doty wrote: “The one of a kind, the singular, like my dear lover, cannot last. And yet the collective life, which is also us, shimmers on.”

I think the poem spoke to me so loudly because, for as long as I can remember, I have struggled with both wanting to stand out and wanting to fit in. Growing up in an expat community, I thought I was unique, different. Everyone there was. But when I moved back to my country of citizenship, I felt lost, swallowed up – not unlike a single uninteresting fish in a giant school of monotonous color.

Even though I am all grown up and pretty comfortable in my own skin, I guess there must still be some remnant of that old battle swimming around in the murky depths of my consciousness.




“A Display of Mackerel” by Mark Doty:

They lie in parallel rows,  
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity
barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
radiant sections 

like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery

prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soap-bubble sphere,

think sun on gasoline.
Splendor, and splendor,
and not a one in any way

distinguished from the other
– nothing about them
of individuality. Instead

they’re all exact expressions
of the one soul,
each a perfect fulfillment

of heaven’s template,
mackerel essence. As if,
after a lifetime arriving

at this enameling, the jeweler’s
made uncountable examples
each as intricate

in its oily fabulation
as the one before;
a cosmos of champleve.

Suppose we could iridesce,
like these, and lose ourselves
entirely in the universe

of shimmer- would you want
to be yourself only,
unduplicatable, doomed

to be lost? They’d prefer,
plainly, to be flashing participants,
multitudinous. Even on ice

they seem to be bolting
forward, heedless of stasis.
They don’t care they’re dead

and nearly frozen,
just as, presumably,
they didn’t care that they were living:

all, all for all,
the rainbowed school
and its acres of brilliant classrooms,

in which no verb is singular,
or every one is. How happy they seem,
even on ice, to be together, selfless,

which is the price of gleaming.

 I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject! Please leave a comment.
Categories: Think About it, Writing | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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