Why I Write – Julene Tripp Weaver
Writing gives me a voice, and it is an avenue to bring my creative self into the world about issues that have personal meaning. In my life I’ve crossed many boundaries: sexual and racial, made the decision not to have children, or to get married. I’ve studied herbal medicine, hands on healing, and have practiced Continuum Movement since 1988; I’m a licensed therapist using a somatic approach.
The things I want to write about are difficult yet important: sex, abortion, sterilization, being bisexual in a long-term relationship with a man, being in an interracial relationship, my work through the AIDS epidemic, and being a survivor. Through my exploration and need to work, writing has gone underground various times in my life, but I experience a constant call to the page that I cannot ignore. I believe art (visual, written, sound) has great potential to impact us and promote change.
Ultimately, writing is my art. It meets my need to be aware, to express myself, and to be heard. It is a source for healing, a mechanism to promote social and personal awareness.
It is impossible to explore why I write without touching on my childhood. My mother was schizophrenic and while I was convinced she did not love me I was very closely bonded with my father. It was my father who insured words were in my life. He made certain I had a supply of magazines and children’s books—Nancy Drew and Heidi were my favorites.
When my father died a month before I turned twelve I found solace in words. I’ve always believed that reading saved my life; it gave me a way to escape from my mother and it helped to ease my grief after the loss of my father and being uprooted from the country to the city. From this time, writing became a strong internal drive; I started to write in journals.
My writing is strongly influenced by the feminist movement while it is rooted in a working class ethic. My father was from a farm family and served in the military (as did my uncle). From childhood I knew that life was much more than the work-a-day world and its obligations to daily tasks. I wanted to live the life of an artist, pay attention, find meaning, and explore my creativity. With this desire, I yearned to get a degree while I worked as a laboratory technician in my first fourteen-year career. I wanted to address issues I was becoming aware of in a creative way. Eventually, I was the first person in my family to graduate college.
In the 1970s, independent, living in New York City, I became aware of feminism and gay rights. I joined a poetry group, took a poetry class, became active in the Feminist Writers Guild; I was a representative at their national convention in Chicago where I gave my first reading. Inspired by the books and poets of the time: Gloria Steinem, Mary Daly, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Judy Grahn, Andrea Dworkin, Adrienne Rich, Sonia Sanchez, Pat Parker, etc., I went to marches, speak outs, readings, and had my consciousness raised about inequities in society and compulsory heterosexuality.
By the mid 70s I had my first relationship with a lesbian—my growing awareness became a powerful catalyst towards developing a desire to promote and effect change in the world.
Determined to fulfill my desire to write poetry, I returned to college full time as an undergraduate in 1982 at the City University of New York. Their program enabled me to study at Hunter and Brooklyn College, where I could study poetry with my chosen mentors: Audre Lorde and Joan Larkin; I was lucky to also find Louise DeSalvo. Immersed as a returning adult student I had a phenomenal experience of college and began my writing life in earnest.
Studying with Audre Lorde clarified important aspects of how I perceive poetry. After every poem was read, she asked, “What do you feel?” I accept her belief that poetry is written to make people feel. My study with her helped me dive deeper into my feelings to discover buried emotions and events. My long history keeping journals and using this material as seeds to generate poems is how I still work. My effort to capture and fully experience life, helps me remember and reconstruct, for me this is a healing process. I like to think that in the tradition of Lorde, my poetry makes people feel.
I view myself as an artist whose primary medium is writing. As an artist, I find the most compelling visual art to be that which contains/utilizes words or language. In my adult years, I’ve explored many art forms with a strong desire to create. I’ve experimented with drawing, painting, pottery, photography, collage, but writing is the most steady, compelling and persistent art in my life.
Also drawn to expressive movement, I took Emilie Conrad (founder of Continuum) and Rebecca Mark’s “Poetry in Motion” intensive in 1996, which combined movement with ‘hand-to-page’ exploration. Inspired by the cauldron of writing they created, I came home excited, and started running groups. I named my workshops, “Muse to Write,” and ran them for ten years. At that first Poetry in Motion intensive I started writing about my work in HIV, work that when crafted became part of my first published chapbook, Case Walking An AIDS Case Manager Wails Her Blues.
Much of my writing stems from the devastating grief I experienced after my father’s death. I write to heal from this loss, which threw my life into trauma for decades. Tom Spanbauer has been referred to as a Wounded Heart writer, he writes to heal himself. He is one of the teachers/mentors I sought out.
Through this Spanbauer-inspired and trademarked Dangerous Writing, I’ve remembered moments from my past and reconstructed my life’s time line. Writing my many truths is a path to healing, as well as a process of profound integration and acceptance. This immersion led to my first full size poetry book—No Father Can Save Her. The processing of emotions and the recovery of memories about my life helps heal my soul. Writing also gives me a sense of hope that through my words my father will be remembered.
For each of us, our obsessions, loves, desires, needs, and fears, start early. We are born dependent and attached. Our early relationships form the strategies we use to survive. So too, my writing was seeded in these earliest days. Writing is the constant in my life; no matter what, I go to the page.