Learning to See Experiences Related to Asexuality as Potentially “Poetic”

This is my submission for the October 2018 Carnival of Aces, which had the theme “Poetry”.

I apologize for any autocorrect typos, I wrote this whole thing on my phone. Let me know kindly and I can fix them.


Two years ago, in September 2016, I wrote a prose poem about my asexual experience without really realizing I was writing poetry again. (“Again”, because I hadn’t written any poetry in 4.5 years, since my Creative Writing class my final semester of college ended.) September 2016 was during that blip in time when Imzy existed and I was in the 100 words community, challenged to write exactly 100 words, no more and no less, on a different prompt each week.

The prompt that time was “Clocks” and somehow I ended up writing:

The concept was always framed with a presupposition; there would of course come a point in time when I’d be ready. When that time came, I needed to be armed with knowledge. I must brace for the emotional consequences. Itwas an inevitability.

So I learned. For over a decade of my life, I prepared. I absorbed more information than was really necessary. I planned ahead.

But society was wrong. Maybe all along I’d been a broken clock. I’d felt stuck. I tried to push myself forward.

As it turns out, though, I am the flower doomed to never bloom.

I am still not entirely sure if it counts as a poem. But writing about an asexual experience with metaphors and without ever once using the word asexual seemed poetic somehow to me.

It was a start of something.

A key concept from those hundred words made it into a stanza of my new poem, No “Just” About It that I wrote two years later in September 2018 — just last month (as of the time of me writing this blog post) — and which was published in The Asexual, a literary journal. My second piece of writing to be published in one of the issues of this journal but my first poem.

http://theasexual.com/article/2018/9/28/no-just-about-it

This poem is kinda… Political. It’s also fun. We’re often our own harshest critics but to me it seems apparent that it’s not very impressive from an artistic standpoint. But I’m glad I decided to write it, and I didn’t let the genre of poetry intimidate me away from something relatively simple like this.

If The Asexual didn’t exist as a platform I never would’ve thought to write poetry with asexual themes so I’m very grateful to Michael Paramo and everyone there who keeps it running.

From 2004 through 2008 when I was ages 14 through 18 and in high school, all four years I participated as part of the literary magazine club after school. We accepted fiction but mainly received poetry and a little bit of art. Once a week after school our club would read aloud as a group, discuss the merits of, and also respectfully criticize each submission. They would be typed up to anonymize each submission ahead of the discussion, no author listed and no handwriting to recognize. We were always keeping in mind the possibility that the author could be one of us in the room so we had to be careful not to be unkind in our criticism. (I don’t think the visual art pieces needed to be discussed; I think maybe they automatically got in.)

I became editor-in-chief of the magazine my senior year, pretty much by default as the only person in my grade in the club. That role included me having to be the one to type up all the poems each Wednesday night before our after school Thursdays meetings. I remember over a decade ago doing this transcription task, sitting in my grandmother’s house because that was the year I lived with her and was for the first time relatively free from my abusive mother. I know I submitted some poems, probably compelled myself to write and submit at least one a year. I honestly can’t remember if they were accepted or not, or what the topics were. The year prior to being Editor-In-Chief of the magazine I even had taken my first Creative Writing class (an elective offered at my high school). But I don’t recall what poetry I wrote for that class either. What I do recall is the intensely personal prose I wrote about being stuck in an abusive household. There was not really much else on my mind most of the time, and my writing really reflected that, and my poor teacher — also the sponsor of the literary magazine club and also my regular (well, Honors) 11th grade English teacher and also the mother of a daughter the same age as me — just had to read it all helplessly. She was very kind to me and when I was graduating gave me a gift and a card.

I am a lifelong asexual. My sexuality never changed. So I was definitely asexual during those years of high school, and in fact there were signs even earlier than high school. But I didn’t understand that about myself then. Asexual awareness has increased a lot in recent years, but 10 to 15 years ago it shouldn’t surprise you that I was oblivious.

I first knew I enjoyed poetry prior to high school, which is how and why as soon as Freshman year started I immediately knew it would be cool to join the staff of the literary magazine, something most 9th graders didn’t do.

I love poetry as an expression of deep emotions from a personal standpoint. I love when poetry is an exercise in philosophizing. I love a lot of things about poetry. I came to appreciate the medium even more later, during my final semester of college in 2012, because my professor was so passionate about poetry and the use of the phonetic sounds of our language and aspects of poetry I’d never really studied before.

But after I graduated college, I slipped away from usually even remembering poetry existed at all. And that’s when I started to begin to look into asexuality existing. They were seemingly separate chapters of my life.

But I recently read this article, How Instagram Saved Poetry, and I think that side of culture eventually caught up to me, and I was reminded by memes and Tumblr and stuff that poetry is a powerful way of expressing oneself, and often a beautiful way.

For all the ways asexual and aromantic people are incorrectly dehumanized as lacking as much depth of emotion as other humans, perhaps even perceived as robotic… Poetry written from the unique perspective of an ace or aro person often can really humanize us.

In the past few years I’ve tried giving poetry a chance again. I wrote poetry in a fanfiction story from the perspective of a (heteroromantic) heterosexual teenage girl in the 1980s which was mainly about her pregnancy. Later in that same fic I wrote song lyrics from the perspective of another straight girl after her breakup. I have more to say about song lyrics in a second.

I wrote a poem 11.5 months ago when I felt I needed to say something to my friend who was already dead.

I would like to explore more of what I might want to express in poetry, and some of that might have to do with aromanticism and asexuality. And it’s an exciting prospect. This Carnival of Aces really got me thinking about that even more fully.

So. Song lyrics!

These are totally another, important, side of this for me and I didn’t want to overlook it.

The lyric side of any song is, essentially, a poem. And I’m obsessed with song lyrics and have been probably for nearly 20 years now. I’m 28 years old and it was yeah when I was 10 ish that I started to actually pay attention to music, to popular bands on the radio at least a little, to songs in shopping malls and everywhere else. I heard the amatonormative *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys songs and fell for the boy bands like any preteen might, but without the context that I would never one day really feel quite those same things, and without any desire to look at the singers and choose who was the most “my type” in a “judging the hotness of guys” way. I was so confused when I realized other girls my age had interest in that side of things because… Wasn’t the appeal of the music all auditory? Who cared about what the band members looked like? What I wanted was to know what every lyric was so i could sing along accurately.

And so I got older.

In high school, in my 10th grade (sophomore year) English class, we read an English translation of (I think an abridged?) Cyrano de Bergerac, and I loved the play’s exploration of if looks matter when it comes to love, and other romance stuff explored and discussed through this play too. I didn’t know at the time I was asexual but I kinda knew on some level that looks would not matter to me in choosing a partner. And the man to fall in love with in this narrative was the poet.

We were assigned to do something that in part involved playing 30 seconds of a song that we thought fit the play and I adored this assignment? I think I picked “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” by Bryan Adams, an already quite dated song when I picked it, and played the section:

Oh you can’t tell me it’s not worth tryin’ for
I can’t help it there’s nothin’ I want more
Yeah, I would fight for you
I’d lie for you
Walk the wire for you, yeah, I’d die for you
You know it’s true

Everything I do
Oh
I do it for you

I mean, if my memory is accurate. For whatever it’s worth, I remember this more clearly than a lot of things from high school.

While those lyrics matched the plot well, and rhyme like most lyrics in English language music I know of, it’s not particularly complex poetry.

But it’s the kind of thing that, combined with the right music, can make me very emotional and draw me in deeply.

I got sucked into the world of fandom after 10th grade, when I was 16 years old, and before long my passion within the many potential facets of fandom became vidding. Editing video clips, snippets taken from my favorite tv shows or occasionally films, set to music, usually with the aim to carefully match the lyrics. Usually not just individual lines but also the meaning of the song as a whole.

This has been a very lasting passion, a hobby I still take part in 12 years later. Eventually I did edit a fanvideo set to a cover version I found of the song:

(Lol there’s even a voiceover I included in there, a quote from the TV show, where the character says he’s “finally figured out why poets have been in business for the last few thousand years” when discussing his strong feelings of romantic love.)

And yet certain other songs I’ve vidded kinda have much more… Room for interpretation within the poetry I see in the lyrics. I’ve delved until exploring sexual things I don’t feel via editing fanvideos, as well as exploring things I do feel like familial platonic love – or grief and the emotions of feeling traumatized, etc.

I’ve even taken a song probably meant to be an “unashamed and unforgiving look at the lasting effects of homophobia.

And turned the lyrics into capturing the sex-averse asexual potential experience of not wanting to have sex but still wanting to sleep next to someone:

And just generally using the lyrics, working with the exact words in whatever way I could, to help tell a personal story and convey an asexual set of experiences to an audience of mainly non-aces (and it also resonated strongly with at least one ace, and led to their being brought to tears. It’s such an honor to know my work could touch someone and connect with their story).

I wanna sleep next to you
But that’s all I wanna do right now
So come over now and talk me down
(Talk me down)
If you don’t mind, I’ll walk that line
Stuck on the bridge between us
Gray areas and expectations

I approach everything in my life, everything I do, from a gray-aro, sex-averse, kissing-averse ace perspective and sometimes I decide to use songs to help share specifically ace and aro experiences from my own life with a broader audience.

The following song, “Shout” by Ross Copperman, has so much emotion, musically, but the combination of that emotion with these specific lyrics are what worked perfectly when a little bit under a year ago I was trying to capture my queerplatonic relationship.

It’s weird to think about the lyrics of a song like this as poetry but I really do think in a way it is. In not that many words they capture an expirience many of us can relate to. It isn’t universal, but it’s far reaching.

Love can bring you down
It lifts you up
It turns you around
Love can make you shout
It pulls you in
And spits you out.

I just want to acknowledge that I pay close attention to lyrics in music, in songs with much more detailed and specific stories than some of these mentioned above, but also in the simple ones are hidden impressiveness sometimes.

I have been thinking for maybe two years now, although it hasn’t crossed my mind very much lately, that maybe it would be cool to start a themed series on my blog here of analysis of heteronormativity, compulsory sexuality, and amatonormativity in many of my favorite songs. It would be analyzing lyrics. It would be acknowledging how aces and aros get forgotten and outright erased way too often, but also celebrating the rare lyrical compositions that work surprisingly well for our experiences. I don’t know. It’s still something I could theoretically start doing.

I also probably should explore reading more poetry. I’ve read a ton more (non-fan) fiction, like real books, in the past 1.5 years than I had since around when I started getting addicted to vidding 12 years ago. But Poetry I have not really delved into exploring, outside of music, for ages. And I would enjoy reading more poetry I think. I know I would also sometimes, through some of these poems, grow to understand more about my gray-aromanticism and my asexuality through what I relate to and what very much don’t.

Anyway. I’ve rambled for a long while now so I guess it’s time to post this submission for the Carnival of Aces and call it a night. Please comment below if you have any reactions or thoughts. Thanks!

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5 thoughts on “Learning to See Experiences Related to Asexuality as Potentially “Poetic”

  1. “I have been thinking for maybe two years now … that maybe it would be cool to start a themed series on my blog here of analysis of heteronormativity, compulsory sexuality, and amatonormativity in many of my favorite songs.”

    Please do! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess it’s daunting because where should i begin? What if I criticize a song in a way where people think I’m reading too much into it and just “trying to get offended”, or worse what if I say a song really resonates with me personally in a wonderful way and aces or aros tell me I’m erasing their experiences in the process lol. It feels complicated to even begin although a part of me really wants to.

    I probably should though. I know I’d have fun with it.

    Like

    1. I don’t think you can ever be “erasing” other people’s experiences by talking about your own. Yes, people will disagree with you, but that can be an opportunity for discussion. As for people thinking you’re just “trying to get offended”, I think that an occupational hazard of belonging to a minority group is that you’re going to see the world differently from the majority, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, it’s important to challenge mainstream assumptions and offer a different point of view.

      My advice would be to start with a small number of songs that you can analyse in a variety of ways, some favourable, some critical. Ideally, pick famous songs, but also choose ones that are important to you personally. That way, people can see right away what kind of perspective you have to offer and that you’re capable of seeing both the positive and the negative.

      Liked by 1 person

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