“You are not obliged to write raw autobiographical poems that reveal things you are not ready to have revealed. Honesty means, in part, to be able to feel one’s anger and grief and envy and frustration, to have the courage to look at one’s own life and thoughts so that one can tell the truth about how human beings think, feel and behave. It does not mean exposing yourself in ways that you do not find appropriate.”
– from the chapter “How To Begin” in In the Palm of Your Hand: a Poet’s Portable Workshop by Steve Kowit.
*Though I like Kowit’s idea here, if I could, I would add something to the middle sentence, to have it read like this: “Honesty means, in part, to be able to feel one’s anger and grief and envy and frustration [and joy and serenity and pleasure and wonder], to have the courage . . .” It does disappoint me that, here, he relegates honesty to something poets should apply only to negative expressions. We have to also be honest about the good things in our lives, too!