Last Sunday, after seeking my first cup of coffee, I peered out the window hoping to see the brilliant blue wrapper of the New York Times laying in the driveway. After rescuing it in down-coat-pulled-over-pajamas, I curled up in my comfy chair, sipping coffee and began reading. It is the Book Review I first devour and last Sunday was no exception. Like most readers of the review, I skim and read, stopping occasionally to pull out my phone and add titles to book lists I keep.
It is not, however, the new book titles I am itching to purchase that have crept in and out of my thoughts all week. It is the Bookends article (appearing on the last page of the review) which remains in my mind. In last week’s Bookends section, Leslie Jamison responded to the question “What accounts for our current – or recurrent – fascination with memoir-novels?”
“There’s an electric charge in toggling back and forth between the shimmer of what’s been artfully constructed and the glint of what actually was. The reader is impressed by the panoramic architecture even as she forgets its presence.
This ambiguous territory has a more established place in poetry, a genre never filed into separate “fiction” and “non-fiction” areas on the shelves. But for narrative we’ve long been obsessed with partitioning the actual from the imagined, and the memoir-novel offers, finally, some relief from that Sisyphean taxonomy project. [David] Shields describes the pleasure of ‘blurring (to the point of invisibility)…any distinction between fiction and nonfiction: the lure and blur of the real.’”
I began thinking about some of my third and fourth graders’ recent poetry. I wished I had their notebooks at home with me so I could pour over them to notice where each truth blends with imagination. It may be why adults as well as children appreciate the perfect metaphor.
While Jamison comments on the appeal of the memoir, I believe this “pleasure of blurring” is also present in a child’s poetry writing. There is really no other time in a child’s school day when it is okay to “blur.” When children are offered the opportunity to write poetry, they know there is no “right” topic or “right” way to to answer. Instead there are many ways to approach a topic. We permit poets to tell the “truth” as they experience it, to blur their personal worlds with concrete knowledge. Maybe that is the “lure.”