Why I Write – Julene Tripp Weaver

Why I Write – Julene Tripp Weaver

Book photo
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.

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Sometimes Out of Turn: Ben Westlie

Thanks to Facebook I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with Ben Westlie.  He’s a cutie and good poet, which is a great combination.  Doesn’t a cute poet writing good poems just melt your butter?  I want people to read his work, so I’m sharing a poem from his chapbook titled Sometimes Out of Turn (Finishing Line Press, 2012).  Oh btw.  Naomi Shihab Nye–maybe you’ve heard of her–had this to say about Sometimes Out of Turn, “Ben Westlie’s poems are so well-shaped, so authentic and caring; they transport a reader fluently and soulfully into a sometimes difficult but deeply tender world. I love them.”

Invitation

My heart is alive, listening,
making no sounds,
speaking of nothing, as if language
never was.

Now your heart must try to confess
before your body lies down forever.
A voice cannot be heard
through dirt or sand.

Your heart needs to speak,
sometimes out of turn,
so we don’t become a lie.

 

You can find Ben online here.

Double Ds: Nin Andrews

Nin Andrews joins the Double Ds.

Nin received her BA from Hamilton College and her MFA from Vermont College. The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, she is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Spontaneous Breasts, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press.

Denise asks:
What is your favorite dessert and why?

Nin Andrews:
For the Love of Ginger . . .

1. Yes, I love ginger.
Nothing else will do.
I love any desserts with ginger in them.
Ginger.
The the name, the taste, the word on my tongue.

Ginger.

The g’s like gold, like yellow, like brown, like orange,
like a burn on my lips, my mouth,
like a sunset inside.

As a girl, I liked to think about the flavors and flow of letters,
like the letter g.
I could taste it when it was hard
and when it melted and grew soft,
softer, softest…
into a j.

I wished I had a name that began with G or J.

Ginny, Julie, Jacqueline.

(Did you ever hear Jacqueline Kennedy speak?  That lilt, like her words and
thoughts were written in perfect cursive . . .  Like her figure, like her hair,
like every bit of her was manicured, pressed, folded.  But I digress.)

I remember reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
What is Turkish Delight?  I asked.
(Turkish Delight was that seductive sweet the Queen of Narnia fed to
Edmund. I wanted to try it myself.)
My mother said it was a special candy, flavored with ginger and cinnamon,
eaten only by white queens.

She lied.

But for years I was certain that Turkish Delight was akin to the ginger cake
my mother made.  She almost never cooked desserts, but when she did, she
made a ginger cake that tasted like magic.

It was a recipe she knew by heart.

2.
There was a girl in my ballet school called Ginger.
She was the girl I’ve always wanted to be.
Ginger was all ginger.
Ginger had long ginger-colored hair.
Even her freckles were ginger-colored.
I wondered if she was named after her hair.  Or her freckles.
Her hair swung all the way down to her buttocks.
(I was not allowed to grow my hair.
I had short cropped hair until I was twelve
and allowed to grow my bangs
and buy Goody barrettes in every color.)

Ginger was long and thin like a blade of meadow grass,
like a tree in the wind,
and her head rose high above the other children’s.
Ginger was in the dance-class before mine.
I would watch her through the tinted glass,
dancing on point, her long arms extended,
her fingers dangling, her every movement a liquid song.
Ginger won all the parts in the recitals.
Every year a mother would ask,
Who will dance the solo?
Who will be our Clara?
The answer we already knew.
Ginger.   No one else would do.

Dustin Asks:
Plath or Sexton– Why?

Nin Andrews:
Sylvia or Ann?

The two ladies of darkness?  Which do I prefer?

I am afraid of both of them.

If I had to pick, I would pick Sylvia.

But I would read her only in small doses, only if I had to.

I come from a family tree where suicide is a legacy.  It’s a curse, passed down through the generations.  Last year my beautiful young cousin stepped in front of train.  In my parents’ generation, a few decades ago, my cousin Billy did the same.

With Plath and Sexton, it seems to me that their deaths were their last poems.  In my family, suicide is only an open confession that we do not belong in this world.

When I think of my cousins, when I think of Plath, I picture that famous painting by Edvard Munch, “The Scream.” And I feel a scream opening like wings inside me.
Poetry, I believe, is a spell, an enchantment, a drug.  I want to be careful who and what I am enchanted by.

There was a time when I read all of Plath’s books. I was a teenager.  I was miserable.  The more I read Plath, the more miserable I became.  I even had a recording of Plath reading the “Ariel” poems. I listened to it many times.

I admired Plath then because she was, I believed, a bitch.  I liked the bitch in women.  I liked the not-so-nice, not-so-quiet, smart-assed, mean-mouthed bitch-women.  I liked Plath’s angry letters and poems and journal entries.  It was as if she were writing back to the world that never wrote to her.

I was grateful for that.

As a woman, I never liked being the weaker sex, the scared sex, the silent sex. The gender that was supposed to be pretty and stupid and nice.

The gender that was supposed to lie flat on her back in a missionary position and just take it, whatever it was, if her husband or culture said so.

When I was a girl, my mother, a Greek scholar, read me many myths.  I remember, even then, being creeped out by the role the women played. Persephone, for example.  The King of Darkness just swept her away. And then there was Daphne, Helen of Troy,

Leda . .  The women were mere pawns in the men’s stories.

I liked Circe. She could turn the men into pigs.  If Plath had lived, if she had directed her rage outward instead of inward, she could have done the same.  There is that power in her.  I feel it sometimes, like an electricity, when I revisit her words.

The two ladies of darkness?  Which do I prefer?

I am afraid of both of them.

If I had to pick, I would pick Sylvia.

But I would read her only in small doses, only if I had to.

I come from a family tree where suicide is a legacy.  It’s a curse, passed down through the generations.  Last year my beautiful young cousin stepped in front of train.  In my parents’ generation, a few decades ago, my cousin Billy did the same.

With Plath and Sexton, it seems to me that their deaths were their last poems.  In my family, suicide is only an open confession that we do not belong in this world.

When I think of my cousins, when I think of Plath, I picture that famous painting by Edvard Munch, “The Scream.” And I feel a scream opening like wings inside me.
Poetry, I believe, is a spell, an enchantment, a drug.  I want to be careful who and what I am enchanted by.

There was a time when I read all of Plath’s books. I was a teenager.  I was miserable.  The more I read Plath, the more miserable I became.  I even had a recording of Plath reading the “Ariel” poems. I listened to it many times.

I admired Plath then because she was, I believed, a bitch.  I liked the bitch in women.  I liked the not-so-nice, not-so-quiet, smart-assed, mean-mouthed bitch-women.  I liked Plath’s angry letters and poems and journal entries.  It was as if she were writing back to the world that never wrote to her.

I was grateful for that.

As a woman, I never liked being the weaker sex, the scared sex, the silent sex. The gender that was supposed to be pretty and stupid and nice.

The gender that was supposed to lie flat on her back in a missionary position and just take it, whatever it was, if her husband or culture said so.

When I was a girl, my mother, a Greek scholar, read me many myths.  I remember, even then, being creeped out by the role the women played. Persephone, for example.  The King of Darkness just swept her away. And then there was Daphne, Helen of Troy,

Leda . .  The women were mere pawns in the men’s stories.

I liked Circe. She could turn the men into pigs.  If Plath had lived, if she had directed her rage outward instead of inward, she could have done the same.  There is that power in her.  I feel it sometimes, like an electricity, when I revisit her words.

RIP: Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton, one-time poet laureate of Md., dies at 73

I just got from an evening with friends to find out Lucille Clifton has passed away.  We’ve lost a treasure.  Lucille Clifton, you’ll be missed.

Here’s a Clifton poem in tribute:

miss rosie

when I watch you
wrapped up like garbage
sitting, surrounded by the smell
of too old potato peels
or
when I watch you
in your old man’s shoes
with the little toe cut out
sitting, waiting for your mind
like next week’s grocery
I say
when I watch you
you wet brown bag of a woman
who used to be the best looking gal in Georgia
used to be called the Georgia Rose
I stand up
through your destruction
I stand up

Check out Charles Jensen’s book!

TheFirstRisk

 

IT WAS OCTOBER

I was love when I entered the bar
shivering in my thin t-shirt and ripped jeans
and I was love when I left that place, tugged along at the wrist
as though tied, with a man I did not know.

I was love there in the morning
when our sour kisses bore the peat of rotten leaves,
fallen October leaves.  And it was love that we kissed anyway, not knowing
each other’s names.

I was love in that bed
and I was love in the hall and down the stairs and into the freezing rain.

I was love with hands punched deep
into the pockets of a coat.
I was love coated in frozen rain.

Back home, I was love stripped of the cigarette-stung shirt, love pulling the stiff jeans from my legs.
I dried my hair and I was love.

It was October.  What did I know of love that year,
shuddering in my nervous skin.  Miles away, the boy was lashed to a fence and shivering.

Where that place turned red and the ground soaked through
with what he was, I was love.

What did I know of love then
but that it wasn’t enough.

Dustin Interviews Denise Duhamel

DB: Your sestina, “Delta Flight 659: to Sean Penn,” is one of your many ‘fun’ poems in your latest book, KA-CHING! I’m glad to see “Delta Flight 659: to Sean Penn” up for discussion in poem: a virtual poetry group. I sent the poem to Penn’s publicist, and I requested Penn respond to you with a poem. When it happens, as a thank you, you can write a poem about Dolly Parton and dedicate it to me.

DD: Consider it done! It’ll be a ghazal with the end words Dolly and those words that rhyme with Dolly.

DB:I was about to commission you to write the best Dolly ghazal the world has ever seen; however, I checked my bank account balance, and it is four figures, two of which are behind the decimal. I’ll have to take my chances with Penn. By the way, have you seen Milk?

DD:Yes, Sean Penn was fantastic in Milk! I am so happy that he won the Academy Award for his performance.

DB:Yes, even more evidence that besides being a poet goddess, you are also a fag hag. (Mark your calendar for when you’re Atlanta; we’re hitting a gay bar!) This reminds me of a conversation we had about our dislike of the term fag hag. Did you ever think of a friendlier term?

DD:What about Dear Queer of Queen Princess? Or a Queen Colleen? Maybe there should be some kind of contest, conducted by a “fag hag” to come up with something more complimentary? The winner could get tickets to an Elton John concert or something…

DB:I’ll end our brief but lovely conversation with a challenge. Write a villanelle, or my arm could be twisted for it be a free verse poem, titled “Queen Colleen,” and the poem must address the need to replace the term fag hag.

DD:I accept your challenge!!

WHY DO I WRITE ~ Erin Murphy

WHY DO I WRITE ~ Erin Murphy

Because writing is my dialysis and my crack and my church.

Because Laura Ingalls could have been Nellie.

Because Bill O’Reilly dipped girls’ pigtails in ink.

Because Bill Clinton should have done more with his pen and less with his penis.

Because life is not a Hallmark card.

Because we are never out of range but always out of touch.

Because besides Whac-a-Mole, writing is my only skill.

Because thought is the wind and writing is the wave.

Because unchanneled intelligence is a loaded gun.

Because Stringer Bell on “The Wire” was a genius and still died young.

Because my 3rd grade teacher told me never to start a sentence with “because.”

Because every fragment wants to be an independent clause.