Risking Sentimentality


I recently got my contributor’s copy of Kindred. “Grand Cayman,” the poem they published, is one of my personal favorites. It’s about my husband and a really great vacation we took and how transformative being in love in a new place can be. I am not great at writing love poems, and maybe this poem isn’t the best poem I’ve ever written. In fact, I found it hard to place and I’d almost given up on it when Kindred accepted it. So I’m really extra grateful to the editor, Amanda Mays, who makes a point to curate her issues with work that is beautiful and life-affirming. One of the things that scares writers the most, I think, is the possibility of accidentally falling into sentimentality. So much of what is published in many literary journals today leans toward expressions of violence and ruthlessness. I like reading that kind of work! We live in a violent, ruthless world. But I also like reading quieter work, even uplifting work. I like feeling connected to other people via more than just the worst commonalities we share.

So maybe “Grand Cayman” is sentimental. The memory that inspired it definitely is. When I picked up writing again in earnestness after many years of only picking at it, one of the things I told myself I would do was to risk sentimentality. One always hopes not to go veering off the edge into Hallmark territory, but just being open to the possibility of accidentally writing a sentimental poem or essay or short story opens the door to really feeling the emotions that turn into writing. In other words, there’s an authenticity of emotion that can come from risking sentimentality.

This whole issue is lovely, full of work that risks sentimentality while never devolving into something saccharine or mawkish. As a bonus, bonus, bonus (!) my very talented friend Melissa Oliveira has two poems included in this issue too! I have never been so excited to see my work placed alongside another person’s.

P.S. In other great writing news, I just got an acceptance from The Fourth River. They’re publishing two of my poems in their spring climate change issue. Boo, climate change, but I’m also really pleased to appear in this journal.