Last night at my show, for the first time that I can recall, a woman left the room because she was triggered by my poem, To The Oklahoma Lawmakers where I describe an assault scene (similar to the one that happened to me) that results in a pregnancy.
I sometimes give a trigger warning, or at least give a blanket statement that when listening to poems, always take care of yourself. Last night, I didn’t do that and when I saw the student get up and leave, her friend going after her, my first thought was OH NO, SHE’S UPSET, LETS FIX HER. I wanted to stop the poem and run after her but then I realized that she was doing exactly what she should do. She is taking care of herself. She is giving herself the space to feel the feelings. She doesn’t need fixing.
A few minutes later, she returned and enjoyed the rest of the show. After the show, she eagerly asked for my autograph and I talked to her about what happened. I told her I was proud of her for taking care of herself and apologized for not giving a trigger warning and she said it was okay and that my poems meant a lot to her.
Sometimes I’m not sure that trigger warnings even help. The word itself feels triggering to me. Plus, poetry is a minefield of triggers. It would be impossible to know what kind of traumas the audience is dealing with and what words will incite what feelings. I’ve been in spaces where someone’s inflection on a certain word made me think of my rapist (a word that is still hard for me to use) but it took me a while to even acknowledge why my stomach was turning.
Last night was a reminder that I always want to be the best facilitator I can be. I want to prepare the space, give permission, speak the truest things I know and listen to my intuition. We are all some brave, bad ass creatures.