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Per Diem for November 2014: Writing the Difficult Thing

Peter Benchley famously wrote “I hate writing. I love having written.” This is probably a familiar feeling to most of us. But it is only one of many malaises that affect us as writers.

Guest editor Sonam Chhoki explores another fraught area in this month’s Per Diem gallery. As she has written elsewhere:

“. . . there is another kind of difficulty: that of writing about ‘harrowing’ and ‘dark’ subjects where words themselves break down. This is an instance where the diabolic appears to have entered into the human life.”

She goes on to quote Anaïs Nin:

“The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.”

Bringing perception to language is challenging enough, but to bring that which resists our formulation or our sense of propriety to our art is yet a further challenge, even in a genre so accustomed to the slipperiness of articulation as haiku. Here, then, are some of the unsayable things, as best we can.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. BarbaraWiese November 3, 2014 at 6:04 pm
    Where are the poems that are referred to? Sorry, I don’t find how to access them.
    “Here, then, are some of the unsayable things, as best we can.”

    See the comment I made before you. 🙂 Each haiku appears each day on the home page of THF.

    warm regards,


  2. Where are the poems that are referred to? Sorry, I don’t find how to access them.
    “Here, then, are some of the unsayable things, as best we can.”

  3. “. . . things sit side by side . . .”

    – Alan Summers

    That is true. I’ve been praying the Psalms in different English translations since the mid-1990s, and everything is there. My earliest memories of poetry are from the Psalms and the liturgy from the Lutheran church, where I grew up. I’ve learned from Eugene Peterson (The Message translation) about how honest the original language is. I still love the King James Version too. I could write volumes about this.

    I taught Sunday School from 1981 – 1993 in a church with many backgrounds represented, and most of all wanted the children to feel comfortable with their own study, to ask their own questions. I also read fiction to them by Madeleine L’ Engle and C.S. Lewis, and had a box of art supplies for them to work with while listening. Sometimes, when working from the curriculum, I would think, “How can I teach this?” The content so difficult. But the children could handle more than me.

    Many issues to explore – privacy, for example. Once I read a memoir, and it contained medical details from a caregiving situation I would not share. But I think those involved had given permission. Small world, and smaller every day.

    Thank you to Sonam Chhoki and to all who work with Per Diem. I’ve been reading Per Diem for a few years, and this is a great education.

    Poetry helps to process and heal, I find. I don’t know where I would be without poetry. I was 29 when my dad died, and back then, grief was the subject that could not be discussed. I’ll never forget, when I went back to school, my mother said, “Don’t expect too much from other people. They don’t want to be reminded about their own mortality.” I still miss her!

    Thank you, Ellen

  4. This proposes to be an exciting project establishing that poetry needn’t be just about what we perceive to be a conditional beauty, that things sit side by side, whether ugly or beautiful, dangerous, vicious, or uncomfortable.

    warm regards,


  5. Thanks to Sonam for tackling this difficult subject. And to Robert for his response to the horrific. A fine poem.

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