Victoria Chang, "Watchers"

Your truest thoughts, developed in the intimacy of your mind by means of dialogue with the world, deserve better than to be ripped from your possession.

Victoria Chang, "Watchers"

Patrycja Humienik's meditation on Joanna Klink’s "On Kingdoms" brought me both to a lovely poem and this intriguing rumination on the meaning of night:

Site of strangers and shadows, Klink situates us in the night by the third line. Night is full of possibility. More dreams, fewer emails. In my nights, more space is available for thinking than in my days. But night is also a site of restriction—I rarely walk or drive alone at night. Despite the presence of a “you” here, I feel aware of aloneness and possible danger in this poem, in the growing storm of “pelting rains.”

What does night mean for you? I'm up too late most nights, but recently I have been able to better appreciate why this is. I'm trying to make something happen. Find and complete another job application, stumble upon the poem or essay which brings forth my creativity, read that extra bit of news to have a story or two no one else has. As Humienik says, "Night is full of possibility." Of course, there are problems which accompany my behavior. Pushing myself to do more leads to feeling incomplete upon awaking. There are successes which I'd like, but they always seem a bit out of reach.

I realize I'm not being faithful to her commentary, but there's so much in it worth pondering, especially the section about devotion being like arrows. I hope you'll read it. Below, I've written on a 3 line poem by Victoria Chang, entitled "Watchers." It got me thinking about Dickinson's "Publication — is the Auction" and I believe I've said some useful things about both poems.

Victoria Chang, "Watchers"

"A poem is published." On the one hand, an innocuous event. It happens daily. Plenty of people pay no attention; a few applaud the author. For one or two, something special happens, but we'll speak more about that soon.

On the other hand, there's Dickinson's immortal bitterness. "Publication — is the Auction / Of the Mind of Man — / Poverty be justifying / For so foul a thing[.]" Publishing anything is a great blasphemy. Your truest thoughts, developed in the intimacy of your mind by means of dialogue with the world, deserve better than to be ripped from your possession. That you share them willingly for a few morsels of fame testifies to an inability to appreciate thinking. Injustice is done not only to one's reason and imagination, but to one's own sense of possession. To make this clearer, consider that we may not possess the object of love, but we certainly possess love.

Watchers (h/t Jason Myers)
Victoria Chang

A poem is published.
It is posted everywhere.
A tree drops its leaves in secret.

Dickinson's denunciation of publication raises all the stakes. An interior dialogue should be held sacred, so precious that it remains obscure to its own possessor. And if you do publish, if someone receives your words, what you and your reader must get has to exceed the value of the interior dialogue. Revealed truth or a miracles, it seems, are too small a price.


"A poem is published. / It is posted everywhere." Strange to imagine a poem as "posted everywhere." Wouldn't it sit in a literary journal or anthology? But then there's Instagram. Uploaded there, the poem will be posted everywhere. Anyone searching for anything related will encounter it. Likes, comments, and an algorithm bring a lyric to too many. No careful attention will be given. The poem will be ubiquitous, and therefore taken for granted and ignored.

Opening your best thoughts to this possibility, I believe, is the equivalent of "post[ing] everywhere." Why would you take the risk? The question should be how to love one's own truth. The problem is not insignificant, even if it sounds cliche. Life does get better as we learn social adaptation and conform to norms, but there are necessary, revolutionary truths to which we may have unique access. Medieval monks and 19th century Romantics sought these truths through contemplation and seclusion. Nietzsche understood that any one of them could occasion the reordering of society.

A poem is published, posted everywhere. We're watching.


"A poem is published. / It is posted everywhere. / A tree drops leaves in secret."

You watch the posting, you watch the tree. Still, with the latter, there are secrets. The tree proves to be the true watcher of itself. Only it knows what it sheds, as it is not a public figure. What about those of us who invest personally in our creation and publish? What exactly are we seeing of ourselves out there?

I've mentioned being ignored by vast majorities. But sometimes, you do plant seeds. It's funny. If you know you planted a seed, you're incredibly lucky. I see writers I deeply admire get notice and praise all the time. However, real engagement? Credit for a thought which grew like a tree? It does happen, but I believe Dickinson has the last word. She didn't publish, after all. For those of us watching—searching—it is being found which ultimately matters.