Friday, April 24, 2009

A Reader Asks About Correct Interpretation? A note about Obscurity in My Work.

A reader and fellow poet asked me recently if they had correctly interpreted my poem?

My partially edited reply (minus the personal exchanges) is here:

I understand what you are saying about interpretations, and the importance of them. However, I am such a cognitive constructivist, that I never mean in any way to lead someone's understanding. OK! Maybe sometimes I choose some things pretty symbolic in my work--but I never mean to be too leading and would rather be somewhat obscure. This is why my work moves between images of the sacred goddess in both religious symbols and in references to the everyday lives and hearts of all women. Sometimes one does not know which I am referring to in my work which is also the point--the power of the goddess is in both places as it morphs back and forth like a Gestalt! I understand though that a novelist and even a poet can hopefully communicate things clearly enough so that a common point is understood. So, it is the writer's duty to not be too obscure. I think though that in many of my poems about the goddess motif I am obscure at times and that is precisely the point. Discovering the goddess or any form of spirituality often requires revelation followed by relationship. (You can bet I am speaking about revelation when I talk about veils, curtains, or seeing each other).

So what is important to me is what you read in the poem. That becomes the most important to me for my readers. IT is the most paramount and cogent meaning, and I am the happiest, when readers simply read it as a joint part of their experience and what it means to them. In that regard, I think and hope that I would rarely if ever say that one interpretation is more correct than any other. The most important is how the reader interacts wit h it and what it means to them.

However if I cite locations in any of my work. They may provide contextual clues to meaning.

I know some might think that this primacy of the reader intrepretation is a cop out. It gets me off the hook, or I never have to offend anyone then? No, I instead respect a person's subjective experience, that unless some harm were to befall them, I feel I have no right and it is a sacred duty for me not to impose any interpretation on them, as they have already devised the most correct one the moment when they first read the work and co-mingled with it in a real way. That is the most any artist can hope for and that is the 'correct' interpretation.--T.K.

Afterthought: Well I am sure my views on this would or will be tested in the unfortunate circumstance where a reader's subjective intrepretation was so negative and critical that serious misunderstandings to other readers could result if the perspective were stated publically and was not challenged by the artist creator. Anyone knows in media studies that a misspoken critic's interpretation can color the public's reaction so badly that any original point of the work is totally lost. I admit in that context, that the artist might have the duty to say, that is not what this work intended at all. In most interpretations of my work I would never state such unless a view was way off the mark, and I think that most readers are not such critics after all. --T.K.

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