Dear Linda Gregerson,
In my Creative Writing class we listened to your poem, “Prodigal.” I am writing to you to express to you that I genuinely enjoyed it. I find it ironic that the note above your video reads, “Because of its subject matter, this poem is more appropriate for high school students,” because when my teacher asked us which poem was our favorite nearly every hand went up for yours. I think what really drew me in to like this poem is how you worded it; you painted a clear image of happiness in the beginning. Things took a drastic turn towards the middle but not in a bad way. That joyful image of the girl you wrote about turned very real very quick. I love that you did that because so many people can relate to the issue you brought up. I think a lot of people in life take others at surface value and don’t realize that many are breaking underneath the surface of their skin. Personally, I can relate to what you wrote about and I’m sure several other girls in my class can in some way as well.
Nowadays self-harm is a topic that isn’t brought up commonly. I think it is probably ignored because it is considered a “scary” talking point. No one wants to think that it is real, and those that know it is are afraid they will be judged by others. I admire you for being able to publicly and openly write about something that so many others would rather sweep under the rug. It is extremely comforting to know that there are still people out there who are willing to extend their hand and show they understand. Your poem was beautiful because it offered two points of view, an outside looking in, and an inside looking out. Thank you for sharing that with me.
Thank you very much for your letter. It means a lot to me that “Prodigal” seems like a worthy poem to you. It was not an easy poem to write—I was very worried about trespassing upon pain that belonged to someone I loved. But, like you, I thought it was important to recognize that pain. Self-harm can be a kind of addiction, and like other addictions will take all them best parts of a human being—their intelligence and sensitivity, their concern for others—and turn them against themselves. When I asked the young girl in the poem, who is someone very dear to me, if she could tell me why she cut herself, she said—and I will never forget this—“Because it makes it hurt less.” Which broke my heart.
You are also right about the fact that self-harm is still an under-acknowledged problem in our culture. Those who suffer feel obliged to hide their suffering, may even feel ashamed, which makes the suffering that much worse. You say something very beautiful in your letter about “an outside looking in, and an inside looking out.” I think that’s one of the finest ambitions a poem can have. And one of the finest ambitions each and every one of us can have as human beings too. Thank you for being just such a human being.
Very best wishes—