Robin Richardson thinks poets would do well being a little more unsympathetic in their work:
The unsympathetic writer is concerned, in a JFK sort of way, less with what the poem can do for her, and more with what she can do for the poem, and thus for the reader. The unsympathetic poet enters into the frightening territory of writing the truth of who she is and sees, regardless of the acceptable or admirable norms she’ll find approval in. When we enter into this realm of unsympathetic we sacrifice our desired self image in order to provide what very few do: truth. When we write without the censorship inherent in a ploy for likability we are free, admittedly frighteningly so, to show those things so few ever see, to add to the richness and diversity of the human experience. We promote empathy through exposure to those whose perspectives differ from our own while creating a haven in which those readers who resemble us find solace in the knowledge that they are not alone.
The unsympathetic writer offers Berryman’s terrifying comfort. She uses herself as a tool, pillaging personal experience, opinions, anxiety, obsession, and uncertainty. She knows that it’s not about her, that no one cares how well she looks. She knows that to reach the reader, the way she, as a reader would want to be reached, she must abandon her ego and say what’s true regardless of anticipated backlash.
(Illustration by Stefan Tosheff)