By Anne K. Kaler
“I’d tell you my secrets but then I’d have to kill you.”
While the above may be a hackneyed phrase from a spy novel, I’ve discovered a sneaky way to reveal secrets while avoiding the “killing” part. My secret about secrets – write them out in fiction, non-fiction, and even poetry.
Take fiction, for example. Writing your secret is easy when you can disguise it as your creative imagination or sudden insight into the nature of a character. Who among us is going to challenge you when your writing seems to dwell on mass murders, global epidemics, or the loss of chocolate in the world? Other writers enjoy your fantasies and think them clever. They may even envy you without recognizing your secret any more than their readers recognize their own well-kept secrets.
Pshaw! Under every tale lies a truth which the writer has experienced or, at least, hoped to experience – some lesson learned the hard way, some humiliating moment, some sly wished-for revenge. Writers have long claimed innocence by burying the body of a secret in their story plots. Think about that.
Such disposal of secrets, however well hidden, can be excavated later by literary researchers in the biography of an author. Non-fiction can also be a fertile burying ground for the secrets of others to be exhumed and exposed to a secret-loving audience. It is much easier to see flaws in others than we can admit to in our own lives. Shakespeare saw this in Mark Anthony’s response to Caesar’s death –
“The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;”
– Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2
Because poetry lays bare the bones of human frailty, good poetry, perhaps, is the truest guide to revealing private secrets. In its simplicity, the poetic impulse brushes aside fiction’s feeble disguises to lament the inadequacy of mere words to express the weight of secrets.
Poetry best unveils the suffering human soul. When poetry is added to music, the intensity of emotion felt is increased. For an example, read Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” and then listen to it put to music. Or read the Psalm “The Lord is my Shepherd” and then listen to a choir sing one of its musical versions. Notice the different intensities.
Still, some secrets lie too deep in our hearts and brains ever to be shared. Those are best recorded in journals which remain private. Remember the fable of the man who was told a secret by his king but was forbidden to reveal it. He had to run out into the garden, dig a hole, and shout the secret down into the earth, lest he let it slip through his lips.
Use your good judgment with your secrets in journals and diaries. Arrange to have your journals burnt upon your death. Do not, as happened to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, have your secret poems buried with you, only to have your husband dig up your grave to retrieve them. Too gauche and Victorian.
Spring encourages the long dormant seeds and roots to rise toward the returning sun. Writers, like us, use the winter burial of our talents to rest and revisit our secrets. We bring forth new growth from old seeds and roots to blossom forth. If some of those blossoms hint at a hidden message, a secret or two, so be it. All human creativity energizes the earth and the living creatures dependent on that energy to survive.
Now you realize that this entire blog has been a sneaky way of introducing our theme for the Pearl S. Buck Literary Journal’s Spring/Summer Issue: SECRETS. So, now that you see your goal and a path to it, start writing so that our editors can choose the juiciest secrets for our readers to enjoy!
We welcome your entries for our literary online journal by May 31st. Please click here for our submission guidelines.