Whew. It feels good to get that off my chest.
"Agenda" is a bad word in many writing circles. Writing with an agenda might mean that you're insulting readers by trying to tell them what to think. It might mean that your work isn't as good as it could be, because you're too busy trying to shove a message down people's throats to pay attention to the quality of writing.
And I get that. I really do. I understand that for the work to be good, the writing must speak for itself. And I get that it's better to give readers questions, letting them reach their own conclusions, than to force them to accept my answers.
At Saturday night's Bitchez Brew Revue, I read some silly poems. I also read the poem I wrote for Trayvon Martin. Did I have an agenda in reading it? Hell yeah, I did. I've been hearing George Zimmerman's name in the media a lot lately, and I feel that it's important to keep speaking Trayvon's name, too. Did I have an agenda when I was writing it? Damn right, I did. When I wrote it, Zimmerman had yet to be arrested. And I didn't believe that my writing a poem would get him in jail or bring Trayvon justice, no. But for me, the whole situation stirred up a kind of sadness and anger that I need to release into the world. The kind that says something needs to change, because no lives should be lost this way.
So yeah, if that's what it means to have an agenda, then I've got one. I think part of it, for me, is that I write stories that feel personal to me, about events and systems that have traumatized me, so I feel somewhat protective over those, not quite ready to leave it up to interpretation.
But it was my "mentor" Audre Lorde who said both "I am deliberate and afraid of nothing" and "I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood."
So maybe as I grow as a writer, I'll still have what may be perceived as an "agenda," being deliberate and unafraid to share my perspective. But maybe I'll develop the skills to be more subtle about it, and really let the writing speak for itself, even at the risk of having it misunderstood.