Ed. note: This post has sparked discussion on Facebook and Twitter since being published, with feedback from a wide range of perspectives and opinions (some Facebook comments here, Twitter Storify here, some comments on the blog below). I’m delighted that a public conversation is occurring on the importance of trigger warnings, since for some they are essential components to live arts events. As I stated in my post, this is a discussion I think poets and promoters need to be having to ensure that poetry events are safe spaces for both performers and audience members, without censoring the poets’ freedom of expression. My original post is below, unaltered. Let’s keep the discussion going; please comment if you disagree/agree/want to talk. As this space is intended to be a forum for discussion, I’m also happy to have folks write guest posts sharing their thoughts on this issue. Thanks to all who’ve shared their perspectives!
A couple weeks ago I had the pleasure of hosting the April Edinburgh University Literature Society Slam, which was won by the fantastic poet Doug Garry of Loud Poets. Before the scores were announced, I was asked to perform a poem in my role as host and chose to perform a new piece. The poem, entitled “Brightest,” chronicles my relationship with a dear childhood friend, my desire to support her through seriously bad times, and my guilt at moving away and feeling distant from her. It contains mentions of mental illness, sexual assault, and suicide attempts. After the slam, I received positive feedback on the poem from poets and audience members indicating that they had felt moved by it and thanking me for sharing it. However, one young woman approached me and said that the poem had seriously affected her friend who had accompanied her to the slam, bringing back memories of that woman’s friend who had committed suicide, and that she was now crying in the bathroom. She praised the poem and thanked me for sharing it, but I was concerned about her friend and felt awful that something I had written had caused her pain by triggering bad memories. Continue reading