The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Everything Else is Meaningless

Before I started teaching, I was a voracious reader. I would devour any book I could find, typically reading it cover to cover in a couple of sittings, and then either writing a review or paper or some type of notes on what I had read, and how I felt about the book. When I started teaching, this all seemed to change. I was so focused on building proper curriculum, and keeping a step ahead of my students, that – with the exception of the novels I was teaching – books fell by the wayside. During the summer I’m able to finish a few books, but I’ve never gone back to the type of reader that I was during my formative years.

One of the last books I read prior to teaching was Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. I’d seen the movie, and I felt that it was missing too much. Characters seemed to trail off, and I wasn’t convinced that Patrick Bateman was just simply evil for the sake of being evil. I knew there had to be more. I purchased a copy of the book, and sat down for one of the greatest roller coaster rides I’ve ever been on.

I read that book cover to cover, only putting it down when I felt so ill from the descriptions that I thought I was going to lose my lunch. There has never been a book that has felt so visceral, and so beautiful at the same time. Through all the evil, and all the abuse, and all the destruction of person and persona, I felt that it was such an honest look at the darker side of the human psyche.

To me, Elis had written an updated version of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” or “Porphyria’s Lover.” A stunning look at how the mind might work if every dark thought were to take precedence over anything good. Patrick Bateman was an honest character, who just decided that he wanted to take control over every situation – even if taking control meant that he had to manipulate and murder everyone he cared about, much like the lover in Browning’s poem.

Elis’ quote, found above and in the Paris Review interview, speaks perfectly to how someone should write. A writer writes what they want, and not what they feel they should. If one is honest with himself in the writing process, then he is more apt to write the piece that best represents who they are, and how they are. Everything else is meaningless. Never forget to just write.

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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