Tag! You’re It.

“You know those categories at the end of your posts? Does WordPress pick those, or do you?”

I tried to keep my voice calm. “I do.”

Damn tags. I hate them. Why was he asking me about them? What had he read in my post that made him question the tags I had chosen? One question and there I was, back in English class, being asked to explain the theme of the day’s reading. Ugh! I wanted to scream now as I had wanted to then: I DON’T KNOW! It depends. It’s not that easy.

At least it wasn’t for me, and that got me in trouble with teachers more than once, as they insisted that I should be able to discern the author’s intended theme, always so cleverly woven into the story, while I resisted pinning it down. I wanted it to remain subjective: the meaning should be up to the reader, no matter what the author might have had in mind. (Besides, I was never convinced that the author HAD an intended theme that was supposed to be that obvious and sticky and universal and clever.) And if the meaning IS up to the reader, the reader has a right to decide the meaning on the spot, depending on the mood of the day and the emotions brewing within.

That’s why I hate tagging poems; I don’t want to force an interpretation that might not hold even for me. What’s that poem about? I don’t know. I just like the way it sounds. But ask me on Tuesday and every poem will be about death, depression, and loss, whether or not I had any of those feelings when writing. What does it mean to you? Maybe a poem about nets is just about nets. And maybe a poem about sand castles is nothing more than a reflection on a day spent at the beach with my granddaughter, coupled with an offhand comment about retirement made by my husband when getting ready for bed. I can say it’s about relationships, and impermanence, but maybe it’s also about fearing the unknown, or fate, or loss of control.

I’m talking in circles, aren’t I? All to say—you decide. You pick the theme. My interpretations may not be the best ones. I was never good at this game. Ignore the tags. They’re suggestions, nothing more.

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