Six Degrees of Memoir

Six words.

Choose them carefully because that’s all you have to tell your life story.

Should be easy, right? Anyone can complete a story that’s only six words long.

But can it encapsulate an entire life? Can it fully relate the defining moment in someone’s life? With only six words, you have to precisely concise.

Or is it even possible to pin down a life in six words, several characters?

That was the conundrum I faced with ‘My Six Word Memoir’, a calling for and exhibition of this unique artistic narrative at the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.

D by wall

A dear friend connected with the organization encouraged me to participate in the project, an offshoot of Larry Smith’s Six-Word Memoir challenge. The Jewish Alliance challenged the “community to rethink the notion of writer and memoir and offer a simple platform to share the short, sharp story of your life.”

everyone has The opening night of the exhibit, my friend and I circulated amongst  on-lookers and other writers. Some writers gave themselves away  with the click of a camera by their memoir. Others pointed theirs out  sheepishly when I commented on them. One of the organizers  admitted “[her] six words are always changing,” which segued nicely  into a conversation with another participant about the difficulty of choosing just one story. We discussed the distinction between a story and the story. Would bits and pieces of our lives represent it as fully or richly as an agoniziplace to tellngly selected six-word summary? Or more so? Someone had asked her whether her memoir was too simple. She’d countered with, ‘But is it?

Perspective is everything.

What seemed like a simple exercise in writing opened up many philosophical  and existential conversations – personally, as I sat at my keyboard, and  collectively, once I joined the audience at the art gallery. I realized that what  I put on my ‘canvas’ was not what others brought to it from their own  experiences. And what I read in theirs wasn’t necessarily what they  intended. Another case of artist vs. art critic. Writer vs. reader response.  Intent vs. interpretation.

Who can say that any one of the versions is wrong? Who can say that any one of us is finished writing the story of his or her life? It is the meditation and conversation that comes with that truly defines us.

mine

* A special thank you to the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island for offering this project and showcasing it in such a palatable way in Gallery (401).gallery 401

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4 Comments

  1. Wow! This is such a cool piece and exhibit. Great job! I will have to ponder my six words. But what’s cooler is I just learned we are neighbors! Well, from the same state, so basically neighbors! What a small, funky world! I recently learned that another blogger with whom I am connected on WP live in very close proximity when she posted pictures of something that was about a mile away from my home. How weird is that? I wonder what the universe is trying to tell me out here in the blogosphere?

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    • Jennifer Butler Basile

       /  March 20, 2014

      It’s a small world, after all! Ha! How crazy. We should do one of those blog meet-ups!

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      • Ohhh!! Let’s! You have to maintain my confidentiality though bc if my work. Very cloak and dagger!! 😉

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  2. Jennifer Butler Basile

     /  March 20, 2014

    Will I have to wear a blindfold!?

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