Hide & Seek of Holes
by Kristin Garth
To be human is to be composed of holes, the physical pores, sockets, orifices only being the obvious iterations. The devastating, most vulnerable holes are worn into a soul over time and experience – the abuse we’ve suffered, our own carelessness that caused harm, our nightmares, paranoia, insecurities and regrets. It’s what we, as poets, expose every time we open ourselves to the world on a page.
Exposing the emotional, as we do as poets, is intensely more difficult than the physical, in my opinion. While it may be only an opinion and mine, it’s certainly an educated opinion on the subject. I spent five years after I dropped out of graduate school working in a strip club. I did that job in pigtails and schoolgirl uniforms. I did that job to establish my financial independence, to escape an abusive household. It’s the subject of my forthcoming book Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), releasing April 23rd and in preorder now at Amazon and on my website Kristingarth.com.
As much as strippers expose, we are masters at hiding. We show you what we want you to see, and we learn a thousand tricks of makeup, lighting, tailoring of the smallest clothes to hide what we don’t. We are illusionists of confidence while many of us are very small inside, wounded, hiding a need we think that’s not part of the show we think you desire.
Poetry is the real game of exposure. Really great poetry shows holes, the smallness, the seeking. We seek a connection to others that comes often from exposing moments on a page that you might be most embarrassed to put down on paper.
When I write about stripping this dichotomy between the physical and the emotional exposure (poetry) is very clear. I wrote a Shakespearean sonnet (my form of choice) called Stripping on 9/11 about what it was like to do that job in a military town in America on the day that our country was the subject of a shocking act of terrorism. (You can read Stripping on 9/11 here at http://www.yespoetry.com/news/kristin-garth-stripping-on-9/11).
When I was stripping, I had many insecurities about my body (as I do even more now that I’m older.) I grew up with an eating disorder, anorexia, and I still suffer from body dysmorphic disorder. I liked being the schoolgirl and wearing my tiny skirt because it hid what was my most vulnerable quality, I felt: a pot belly of which I was deeply ashamed (just physically cringed writing that knowing people will read this again.) I rarely took that skirt off though if you read Stripping on 9/11, I did that night because it just felt like a night of sacrifice. I managed to do this job for five years and hide the insecurity of which I was most ashamed.
When I started writing poetry about stripping, it was exactly those kinds of moments that became keystones of poems. It’s why, though I was a stripper at 25, I personally wasn’t ready to expose myself emotionally the way I do in poetry until I was much older. Humans are composed of holes, physical and emotional. What makes poetry so relatable is that some of us put our emotional ones before the world. When we do it and people connect to that ache, we realize, all of us, that we aren’t alone. We can’t always entirely fill or fix those holes, but in exposing them in poetry, we seek understanding. We seek to let people inside, past the physical, and when we succeed that is poetry.
Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. Her poetry has stalked magazines like Glass, Yes, Five:2: One, Former Cactus, Occulum & many more. She has six chapbooks including Shakespeare for Sociopaths (Hedgehog Poetry Press), Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Puritan U (Rhythm & Bones Press March 2019) and The Legend of the Were Mer (Thirty West Publishing House March 2019). Her full length, Candy Cigarette, is forthcoming April 2019 (The Hedgehog Poetry Press), and she has a fantasy collaborative full length A Victorian Dollhousing Ceremony forthcoming in June (Rhythm & Bones Lit) and Flutter (TwistiT Press) in January 2020. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie), and her website kristingarth.com