This morning I am thinking about the internet expression, “all the feels,” which many in my circles have come to roundly reject as a shallow cheapening of emotion. I thought I agreed with them, but maybe I don’t.
In the past several years, though much of what I write is still prose, I have found myself turning my back on “fiction,” allowing myself to be sucked into the glorious vortex of poetry, or identification as a poet. In large part, this has come from my rejection of the stifling regime of “character” that governs literary fiction, at least in its most “respectable” corners and corridors. Fiction writers are expected to write “character-driven” stories, wherein character is defined through one very narrow construct of subjective depth, the liberal humanist or Aristotelian subject who possesses complex interiority, motivations and counter-motivations, etc., often expressed through vivid description of the clouds or a perusal of family photographs or some other such shit I could give two shits about.
Both literary culture and our dominant culture reject expressions of feeling by subjects (characters) who we consider immature: feelings considered one-dimensional, overwhelming, shallow, feelings that are excessively externalized, or worn on the skin, the feelings of children and youth, or the other “others” oppression has constructed as somehow more “child-like”—queers, people with disabilities, the colonized, people of color. Or the feelings expressed through camp (an aesthetic of the marginalized), through theatrical subjects who embrace artifice, what Sontag described as a person being “one very intense thing.”