Tag Archives: Boys of My Youth

Black Marks on a White Page

After yesterday . . . .  Today is another “after yesterday.”  Today’s yesterday was the slaughter of babies.  I have no words for what happened.

I have no transition.  Today my mind lacks the glue necessary to form transitions.

In the creative nonfiction writing courses I have taken, I’ve been required to read Jo Ann Beard’s essay “The Fourth State of Matter” at least five times.  It might have been six.  I can’t keep track any more.  That’s the problem when something happens in great quantity.

If you haven’t read her essay and don’t want the “surprise” spoiled, please stop reading here. Instead you can purchase her book of essays The Boys of My Youth and read the piece there.

In Beard’s piece she writes about being the survivor of “workplace violence,” a mass murder which occurred among a small group of coworkers.  At some point after this occurred (where her life shifted into the before and after), she wrote this masterpiece.  The New Yorker published it and then her CNF essay collection containing the piece was published in 1999.

This morning I wanted to know if Beard had any words of wisdom for me in the aftermath.  In an interview by Amy Yelin, Beard said:

As I said, every piece I write is difficult to write. And no, it did not feel healing because I wasn’t wounded. I write in order to make art, not to pursue or banish personal demons. And not to put too fine a point on it, but nobody gets “healed” from a mass murder by putting black marks on a white page and asking strangers to read it.

“Nobody gets ‘healed’ from a mass murder by putting black marks on a white page and asking strangers to read it.”  If only it could be that easy.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Memoir writing theory