Public Suffering and Private Joys


Paula Bomer | Dogzplot.

⇒This untitled microfiction by Paula Bomer is beautiful and heartbreaking, as is often the case with strong writing. What I like is how the piece takes the joy-pain continuum and spins it around, reframing the moments of happiness and tragedy of its speaker’s life according to a paradigm totally different from what I’m used to seeing. Among other things, this piece is about public versus private, and the question of which subjects and moments must be kept private and which should be voiced openly.

I once had the opportunity to study with poet Anne Waldman. She told the class to write about public and private spaces—where does one end and the other begin? What areas exist in both public and private contexts at once? (Naturally, one thinks of the internet when it comes to public/private ambiguity, but certainly there are many other examples).

The speaker in this piece discusses her suffering and the suffering she has caused others in her life, subjects we tend to assign to the Private section of our lives and psyches. She, on the other hand, wants this suffering fully on view to the world; it is her joyous moments she wants to keep hidden.

I find this premise fascinating, and I relate it to the question of writing: why and how do we select the subjects we choose to write about? How many great literary novels have been written about happiness and joy rather than sadness and pain? Is suffering essential to art? Further, if I were to write a story about happiness and contentment, would it inevitably suck? Discuss.

Read this story and many other great pieces over at Dogzplot!

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