On Personal Investment.

Despite the title of this post, what follows is not a discussion of finances or economics, but rather an exploration of what it takes to relate meaningfully to other humans. In a conversation, one who is able to invest part of themselves in the act of listening lets the speaker know they are being heard. Projecting empathy is evidence that you have walked a mile in that person’s shoes and that now you stand alongside them. Without the investment of one’s self into the conversational exchange, it will never progress beyond superficiality. 

Ancient cultures who offered sacrifices and dowries set a precedent for the deep conversational act. What one requires from a listener before they reveal a private concern is a gesture from the listener that cements their investment to the exchange; saying, ‘I will tell you something personal first, to prove to you that I am trustworthy enough for you to entrust something personal to me’. By investing part of one’s self, by making one’s self vulnerable in front of the other, the timid speaker feels much more confident in revealing part of themselves and thus the deep conversation act can take place. Being vulnerable is the first step toward establishing trust.

And vulnerability is vital component of making great art. I believe the artistic act should be a dangerous one. If an artist is not prepared to make a sacrifice, then what duty does the audience have to pay attention? There is no urgency or onus on the reader in a piece of writing that conforms with their world view and is couched in comfortable language. 

By naming some unspoken truth, poetry should illuminate the dark spaces in a reader’s consciousness. As the poet explores a thought or feeling that the reader has unconsciously had before but never followed or tried to name, the poem should come as an invitation for the reader to delve into their own experience. 

The poetic exchange should originate in a pretence of vulnerability, an honest supplication from poet to reader. In turn this should encourage the reader to shine the same light upon themselves in order to experience a moment of unique clarity; to explore a sensation that had receded into the background, with new eyes. 

In the end, the role of personal investment in poetry, falls upon the shoulders of both the poet and the reader as both are invited to be vulnerable in front of the other.