Purifying the Well: Listing as Catharsis by Elisa Albo
The TMZ tape from which this anthology got its name and the 2016 election were unwelcome triggers for millions of women, appalling, incomprehensible events. Within a week I wrote a poem published in a quick, post-election anthology called Howl, 2016: Poems, Rants, and Essays on the Election, edited by Trish MacEnulty, one of our contributors.
My poem begins,
The uncle in Miami Beach who each visit hugged a little too hard, a little too long
The Catholic high school friend, son of close family friends, we girls nicknamed octopus, . . .
The poem continues listing indignities, molestations—many, some long buried or forgotten--and a final rant or reaction that brings me to a place of empowerment because I discover that I am so not alone.
Prompt: Create a list of the people who wronged you as a child, a young person, and an adult. Focus on the people and the context with minimal commentary or explanation.
At some point, if apt, transition to some type of resolution, for example, with a line like one I use: “That one, and the other one, and the rest who….”
Return often to your list to expand it or to tighten and refine items. If writing prose, choose one particular item and expand its story. I find myself changing the poem almost every time I reread it. Listing is a natural and effective way to purify the well, so to speak.
For some revenge catharsis, here’s an alternate first line from another list poem of mine: