Opening the Closed Book

Here’s an essay sort of question to ask yourself: Where is home and how does this influence your identity? Do you feel accepted?

My home is Altoona, PA; my home is the house I grew up in; my home sometimes feels inescapable which is why it is home. It’s straightforward, to me. Acceptance is another, murkier issue. For these reasons, I like to try to become closer to “home” through writing and I also like to try to create a sense of distance. My sense of home is crucial to my identity and unavoidably (whether I want to escape it or not), it influences my work.

Poet Sheryl St. Germain said that “If you think of home as a place where you feel comfortable, where you can kick off your shoes and be yourself, then writing is my home. No matter where I am, if I have my laptop or my journal, I’m home. When I pick up the pen, I experience the most profound feeling of intimacy and acceptance and familiarity I know.” I agree with this sentiment. But it’s also what I fear sometimes the most about writing.

My parents would say, “No one outside the home should know about what goes on within our family.” You might have heard people say something similar, or refer to “a circle of trust.” I became a master secret-keeper, the holder of the-knowledge-that-others-must-know-not. Allowing other people to read my work then naturally became a fearful thing for me to allow. What sort of blood pact could I be violating? What would people think?

This would be perhaps be easier if I was able to fictionalize my work more. This is an aim of mine in my own writing. However, I keep coming back to what I know intimately. After all, it’s cathartic, but why would I actually want anyone to see the nitty gritty of my personal life (whether they know that or not)? Would I upset anyone? Why does it matter for me to write about it? I’ve asked myself, why can’t I just write about other topics or make up something else?

You’ve probably heard the saying, “She’s an open book,” or maybe, “You can never read that one.” I’ve tried to perform both. My dilemma with keeping secrets is that I have a deep desire to disclose what is “meant” to be unspoken. Maybe that’s the obsession. Paper can feel like the safest space there is, because we can leave our mark and it can be torn up or hidden away or we can do the once-unthinkable and let someone see into us. Hopefully our reader takes away something resonate and relatable. Or maybe they will realize that there are “unspoken rules” that are okay to violate. I guess I write because I aim for this transparency and in my own voice, I can further define what it means to be home.


— Heather Myers, Poetry Reader


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