One of the difficult things for me as a poet is handling poems that contain details from my “real life” because, once the poem is out there, one cannot control how the poem is read by every reader. Someone will always see something you didn’t intend, or misread something you did intend.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing. If a poem evokes a reaction, that means the reader was moved by it. If I can move someone with my words, that means a great deal to me.
My poem, “Lessons,” has evoked unexpected reactions from a couple of readers. The main reaction they have had is to see the father in a negative light. As the daughter of the father in the poem, I can only see him as a whole, and not the sum of the two instances mentioned in this poem.
I could have included details about how my father wholly supported my mother’s desire to finish her nursing degree, even at a time when he had just been laid off from his job. I could have included details about the encouragement and support my father gave to me and my sisters to do anything we wanted with our lives.
But then, this would have been a very different poem.
Instead, this is a poem about the ways one learns about the body. Lessons we are taught from books, as well as from real life. That is what the poem means to me.