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Old 03-06-2002, 06:47 PM
Shasta218 Shasta218 is offline
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Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Spring,Texas,USA
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I am fairly new here, so please forgive any gaffes.

After reading a number of articles regarding not just literature, but the whole of The Arts, I was particularly struck by a common thread: There seems to be a resurrection of strong emotional content, sometimes called sentimentality, in almost all genres. And I don't just mean romance, but also profound sadness. I have noticed that people seem to be drawn in by heavy emotion, maybe even drama, perhaps as a way to "feel" something they think is missing from our modern society (compassion, intense love, empathy, remorse, and sadness)

I was wondering what your thoughts are on this impending wave of emotional exhibitionism? Is it a reaction to how sterile (or commercial, or ungenuine, or overly analytical) our arts have become?

I must confess that I have many times (once on this board, as well, but in a very nice way) been accused of sentimentality, but continue to write the only way I know how: From my heart. My concern now is that my question does not appear slanted.

Thanks and warmest regards,

Tammy P
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Old 03-10-2002, 11:08 AM
Bruce McBirney Bruce McBirney is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: La Crescenta, California
Posts: 315

I'm with you, Tammy. The writing is only worthwhile if you write from the heart, as well as the head.

I'm a little uncomfortable with your equating deep emotion with sentimentality, though. (Perhaps you're just quoting a charge that others sometimes make at anything with emotional content.) They're really not the same thing. Sentimentality, I think, is the pushing of automatic emotional "buttons"--dying children make us weep, cuddly puppies make us feel warm inside, soft breezes in the June moonlight are romantic. Sentimentality is to emotion what cliche is to language.

But deep emotion need not be sentimental in that sense. It often is best expressed in an understated way, described with the detail and grit of a specific, unique situation, rather than relying on stock images from books.

I agree with you that at least some strains of modern poetry have seemingly tried to squeeze the feeling out of poetry altogether. Many writers are so afraid of being thought sentimental, or unoriginal, or lacking a unique "voice" (which often just means an identifiable monotone schtick, rather than a genuine varied voice) that they intellectualize everything into dust.

In this regard, I always think of one of Jorie Graham's highly regarded poems, "Manifest Destiny." (It appears, among other places, in "The Best of the Best American Poetry, 1988-1997.") The author's explanatory notes at the back of the volume relate that the poem is about the death of her first lover, apparently by suicide. Well, that certainly seems like promising material with strong emotional content, and the notes are quite moving. But, at least for me, the poem isn't. She doesn't use a single cliche and certainly can't be accused of being sentimental. But the whole experience has been hyper-intellectualized into academic code, which is neither moving nor very understandable.

In any event, keep writing from the heart, and struggling, as we all do, with making it new!
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Old 03-10-2002, 11:15 AM
Tim Murphy Tim Murphy is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2000
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What Bruce said.
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Old 03-12-2002, 05:55 PM
Rhina P. Espaillat Rhina P. Espaillat is offline
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Posts: 1,013

I think a good way to deal with emotion and avoid sentimentality is to use emotion, especially when it comes from your own experience, as a window to look through at what is outside, rather than as a mirror to look at yourself in. If the emotion widens out to encompass experience you imagine the reader may share with you, it becomes a means of communication rather than a container in which you wallow in private "stuff." Details help do that, rather than direct statements of "how I feel."
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Old 03-18-2002, 07:31 AM
diprinzio diprinzio is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: San Jose, Ca.
Posts: 2,454

Anyone know where that poem by Jorie Graham, (Manifest Destiny) is on the web? I'd love to read that.

[This message has been edited by diprinzio (edited March 18, 2002).]
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Old 03-18-2002, 11:27 AM
graywyvern graywyvern is offline
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: dallas
Posts: 718

in answer to the original question, i have
noticed a deplorable trend toward earnestness
at times of public crisis. at other times irony
takes its rightful place as the customary response
to all phenomena & experiences. hopefully things
will soon resume that normalcy; however, in the
meantime, unseasonable attempts at being facetious
should be flagged with the appropriate icon .
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