“At the Monk-a-stery”: Bending the Facts to Tell the Truth by Lowell Jaeger from Issue 297.4

At one of the most challenging poetry readings I’ve ever done, my mother was in the audience. My mother was the challenge. She became my fact-checker, expecting that my partly- autobiographical poems should report the facts more accurately. I read a poem about a “second cousin” who died in combat early on during the War in Vietnam. “That’s not your second cousin,” Mom spoke up at the close of the poem, “He was your first cousin.” I read a poem about having been bullied by older boys in the schoolyard. “You weren’t in second grade when that happened,” Mom insisted, “You were much older.” I smiled and blushed my way through poem after poem, a young poet with his first book in hand, summarily flummoxed.  A year later, still reading from the same book, someone or another in the audience invariably asked, “Did that really happen? Is it true?” I had armed myself with an answer: “Sure it’s true,” I said, “Some of it’s even fact.” I heard chuckles when I said that, but also I observed some raised eyebrows.Image

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