In-Depth Look: William Evans – “Bathroom Etiquette”
Appreciating poetry is often about patience: sitting with a poem, meditating on it, and re-reading it multiple times. With spoken word, we don’t always get a chance to do that. This series is about taking that chance, and diving a little deeper into some of the new poems going up on Button.
Aspiring poets ask about writer’s block a lot. They tend to also ask questions like “where do you get your inspiration?” a lot. Of course, these are good and natural questions, but I also remember when I was just getting started, asking the same questions; I remember asking them less out of curiosity and more out of fear– the fear that every poem has to be some monumental, earth-moving feat, the fear that if I’m not constantly producing I’ll fall behind (whatever that means), the fear that I don’t have anything to add to the larger conversation.
My favorite answer to that question is brought to life by this poem. William Evans has a gift for presenting “small,” slice-of-life moments, and then really digging into them to explore how history, and policy, and experience, and culture, and more all add up to create a moment. When you can cultivate that kind of critical lens, when you can challenge yourself to really see what’s going on inside– or behind– a scene or situation, you become able to see poems everywhere. This piece takes the most seemingly throwaway social interaction (two coworkers joking about an email memo about urinal splashguards) and excavates something profound about history, bodies, memory, lineage, and even white supremacy.
Note the subtle emphasis placed on the “my” in “But my grandfather…” at 1:26. The whole poem turns on that point. The whole “seemingly throwaway situation” turns into something else. When people ask me about writer’s block today, that’s my answer: it isn’t always about trying to access some brilliant truth outside of yourself; it’s about taking the time to find the “something else” in a scene, moment, or memory to which you already have access.
Find more from William Evans here, and get his new book here!