Sinéad O'Connor and the vulnerabiltiy industry
This is the very best thing I have read in response to Sinead’s death. Particularly struck by the capitalisation of vulnerability, the way that society now bays for it, and for authenticity, without really understanding what it is to be asked to do that when society hasn’t also built ways for people to be held as they self actualise for other people’s gratification and to fill a deep need which is actually in the person wishing to do the same.
Katherine - thank you for sharing your beautiful words and for honouring Sinead. Everyone needs to read this.
This made me cry and cry. I read it after I saw my GP this morning who deeply listened to me again as I talked about carrying the lonesome weight of feeling suicidal. I am one of the lucky ones today, I get to see another day.
PS Your gift of a comped subscription to The Clearing last month was a great act of kindness, a social prescription of words to lift the soul. xx
I've been a free subscriber hovering at the edges for a wee while, but this piece resonated with me so deeply that I subscribed, not least to say thank you. I have always been drawn to your heart- centred writing and this article was no exception. Please continue to shine your light on the truth and to speak for the many, many vulnerable creators amongst us. They, you, we, matter.
I am overwhelmed by this essay, and I am so grateful for it, and to you, that I have no words that are sufficient.
The truth is: there is no support for the authentically vulnerable on the business end. No accusation: it just is what it is. Here's the advance, give us your Truth, and you get to deal with the trolls and the horrors and the detoxes and the hours of therapy required after the thing is produced. I recall the days pre-Motherland publication: the book was about a horribly traumatic mother/daughter relationship --- physically, emotionally, sexually traumatic -- still unfolding, and the publicity people wanted to send me out on tour with her, presumably because she is bright and shiny, and I am not. I had to beg them not to; I was called uncooperative. I went home and was iill, and terrorized, or weeks. Sinead, as you said, wore her heart on her sleeve; we always have to finish that sentence -- ...for daws to peck at. Grateful to you, as always.
As one who is not particularly Shakespeare-oriented, I confess I'd never heard the rest of that line. For daws to peck at. Ouch, and yes. I don't have words, just feelings, for the truth we miss in leaving that bit out. This was an urgent, extraordinary reflection. Thank you, as always.
Oops I managed to copy two extra titles at the top of that newsletter. That’ll teach me to hurry 🤦♀️
This is so beautifully written and heartfelt. It expresses and explores some really big issues which I have not seen in any of the obituaries I read today. I don't mean to upset anyone and perhaps it's inappropriate (sorry in advance if any one is offended but I just need to ask) does anyone else think that perhaps Sinead was neurodivergent? She was so uncompromising, dedicated to justice, a non conformist, an artist. She truly was an inspiration in so many ways.
I too subscribed in part so I could say thank you. This has so beautifully captured all the things I've been feeling but not quite able to articulate with such compassion and insight. i really am so grateful for this piece, which I have shared with everyone I know. the responsibility of vulnerability is something i am taking forward with me, not least in the women's circles that I run and which see their fair share of extraordinary vulnerability. thank you so much.
Thank you for writing this Katherine. I recently was on a pilgrimage of types to Emily Dickinson's home, and as a writer and poet, I often struggle and wonder about her decisions--her conviction--to not publish in formal venues, whose white male editors would sanitize and change her work--and which is exactly what happened after she died. It's only in the last twenty years--barely--that we fully can see her brilliance on the pages she wrote herself, how radical and clearcut her riddling words got at the truth of what it is to be alive, in all its vulnerability, pain, fear, and beauty. Reading how everyone is valorizing Sinead now, feels like the only safe space for people to truly be seen for their shining lives is after they are gone, when the story of their life becomes closed to further action. I've thought of this too knowing what you and other published writers--particularly poets and non-fiction writers--have to go through once their book is out in the world in terms of marketing expectations and publicity, interviews, questions, etc. after the act of writing itself is such an act of vulnerability and strength. I agree there needs to be a better way of understanding and holding space for others within the crowd of the public. So grateful for your words today. 💜
As a musician who recently wrote on vocal performance and public vulnerability myself, this resonated so fully, so deeply, so powerfully. Thank you, Katherine, for the gift of your words today. 💜
Oh Katherine, your words as I read this, this morning; so grateful that you have written this and shared it. Beautifully written and expressed, this piece will linger in me - thank you, thank you. Others have already replied so eloquently and richly their feedback, and from me it is a yes, yes, yes.
Thank you for these helpful insights. So many of us are wrestling with the question of how vulnerable to be in our work right now. I’m in one writing workshop that seeks to protect the heart by simply declaring the personal essay passé. It encourages the revival of the familiar essay, writing with more head than heart. At the same time, I'm in another workshop that deals with the issue by exploring how writers might intentionally set boundaries for themselves in their work. The latter approach feels more whole to me. There is power in sharing our stories, and we learn so much from each other’s lives. You are right: it is on us as listeners to examine and alter the way we take in the stories others so generously share.
I’m not sure if your article is partly in response to this piece, but it definitely underlines your point: https://amp.theguardian.com/books/2023/jul/18/were-not-on-the-nhs-frontline-are-we-why-authors-and-publishers-are-calling-for-change
Thank you so much for this. You captured so much of what is missing when people talk of this incredibly talented person. We won’t have another like her. May she be at peace.
Thank you KM for such prose on the uncharted strata of the healing journey we are all in walking each other home for reconstitution ... Rest and Rise SO. for as I heal so shall you .
@Kathryn - me too! This beautiful resonant post clarifies that "The Clearing" is where I want to be, so I also upped to a paid subscription :) I am thrilled to join you all from my home in Los Angeles, and I hope to glean courage from this community for my voice, creativity and art.
Thankyou so much Katherine for this wonderful piece of writing. I can always here your soothing voice reading it out loud as I read it to myself.