Why I Write ~ Ben Kline

Why I Write – Ben Kline

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I write because of the farm, where my grandfather planted sweet corn and cut his hair based on the moon phases. Where Skunk Tail hurdled a double-wire electric fence and stomped a dog to death for being too close to her calf. The farm was abundant living and everyday death. Grandpa had seizures between the celery in the family garden and while driving the 75 Ford into the hay field. His son my father explained how to pop the truck into neutral and engage the e brake. Skunk Tail liked to have her neck scratched with a rake. The farmable plots snaked between the hills ripe with beauty that might one day be art, despite all the stray cats, drunks from the dry township next door, nosy relatives and shit needing shoveled.

I write because of 1990. The queerest year of “Vogue,” the summer I attended driver’s education three mornings a week at the junior high, and my first STI, for which I feigned ignorance of origin despite knowing exactly who, where and when. My older female second cousins who were nurses in cities looked at my exposed loins with quiet dismay and suppressed worry my mother did not detect. Molluscum contagiosum is no joke. Truckers are the loneliest lovers. Of the seven of us taking driver’s ed that June and July, I was the only one who remained childless by 1992 and the second of three receiving a penicillin shot.

I write because of sex, rich with taboo and risk. Sex with other boys saying no but whispering yes once we were alone in his dad’s Jeep. Sex with men without names at the rest stop by the dam. Sex fast and busy with appendages, parts and actions like asanas flowing through to a zone where the body blurs with the mind, when the sweat splashing near the finish is the holiest water a man can ever know. Because even a fuck can be artful, of value beyond itself. Before the internet sex seemed another dimension. I wanted to know what vibrated beside me unseen.

I write because of Catholicism, which taught me that contradiction, hyperbole and paradox make for the best threesomes and the best short stories. During Lent and Advent, my mother made us kneel around the living room and recite the Holy Rosary. My father would be snoring by the third mystery. My siblings would fidget. I wrote poems about butts in my head during the boring Hail Marys. I cranked my volume on the Gloria Patri, as if it were the chorus of a pop song.

I write because of every issue of Uncanny X-Men between issues 138 and 275. Chris Claremont created a universe, weaving myriad ideas and characters’ lives through and around an epic story that spoke to concepts of social justice and equality in a fun, engaging, soapy serial format long before anyone knew what it meant to clap back.

I write because of John David, my uncle who died of ARC in the summer of 1992, who mentored me on culture, clothes and divas, whose open queerness terrified and thrilled me. He encouraged my writing. His lovers, friends and he died too soon. I dream about what their lives might be.

I write because of Betty Fisher, my freshman year English teacher, who read my first short stories and poems, who said “Do this,” who provided stinging yet constructive feedback.

I write because of Michael, Prince and Madonna. The only holy trinity I will ever need.

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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.

Why I Write – Aimee Baker

Why I Write – Aimee Baker

Aimee Baker 2

Why do I write?

Because it can take less than ten seconds for a woman walking alone along a quiet stretch of sidewalk to be physically forced from her path and shoved into the dark maw of a car trunk.

Because there was once a young woman who was pushed from the backseat of a speeding car into the dust and dirt along the I-10, the hulking body of Phoenix in the distance behind her. The woman had a blue heart tattoo etched into her chest and, if you only look at the right side of her morgue photos, you could believe she is only closing her eyes for a moment.

Because on early mornings waiting for the bus to take me to school my brother would stand close so I could hear him when he whispered that he wanted to kill me. His breath puffed into the cold air and across my face when he said he wanted to rip my intestines from my body. Wanted to hold my heart in his hands.

Because Gary Ridgway killed 49 women. Because Ted Bundy killed 35 women. Because Robert Hansen killed 15 women.

Because in rural Idaho a boy tells a classmate he wants to “kill all the girls.”

Because my Correction Officer student laughs when he tells me that at Clinton Correctional John Jamelske’s name is Bunker Bob. “But I don’t know why,” he adds. I want to say that it’s because over the course of ten years Jamelske kidnapped and raped women, imprisoning them in a concrete bunker buried in his yard. Instead, I remain silent, the words caught in my chest.

Because inside Clinton Correctional with Jamelske is Julio González who killed 87 people at the Happy Land club after his ex-girlfriend said she didn’t want to be with him anymore.

Because once, long ago, a young woman rode her bicycle along the edge of the desert, her legs pumping in time to the music playing through her headphones.

Because a polaroid is found in a Florida parking lot. In it, a woman and young boy are bound in the back of a van with their hands behind them, black tape covering their mouths. By her thigh the book My Sweet Audrina, a favorite of the woman who rode her bike along the edge of the desert the year before. The year she disappeared.

Because a teacher once stopped me in the hallways of my high school. Gripping my forearm tight with her hand she leaned forward and asked me to stop writing about violence. “Have you thought about writing something nice?” she implored.

I write because now you know it takes less than ten seconds to disappear.

 

Why I Write – D. Gilson

Why I Write – D. Gilson

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Ars Poetica

Tuesday and I’m texting to ask:
Do you remember the movie Rushmore?
(1998, Wes Anderson, Dir.) and no,
you don’t and no, it’s been a busy
morning so we’ll have to talk later. Thursday
and later, like Christ, hasn’t come,
so I’m writing you this poem because the thing
I wanted to ask was, Do you remember
what Max finds in that library book
in Rushmore? When one man, for whatever
reason, has the opportunity to lead
an extraordinary life, he has no right
to keep it to himself. That’s Grade A bullshit,
maybe, but how can I tell someone even
though you don’t, I think you are extraordinary?
You know, extraordinary like a library book,
like the one on my desk from the Gelman Library
that hasn’t been checked out since 1978.
Can you imagine? What is the book about?
It doesn’t matter. (Shakespeare and agnostic
comedy) But it seems astonishing, does it not,
that I am the only person to check out
this book in almost forty years! And
here is a list of the things I could do
instead of write a poem for you:

  1. Learn to knit, finally.
  2. Write my dissertation.
  3. Call my mother.
  4. Send a messenger pigeon.
  5. Clean the bathroom.

That’s not exactly fair. Nine out of ten
poems I write, probably more, are not for you.
So I’m thinking of number four, the pigeon,
an idea I got from Rushmore,
which you don’t remember, and which
I would tell you about if you’d pick up
the phone, or maybe it’s better to write
you this poem (thesis: our lives
are extraordinary, even though you
haven’t thought that for three months). Yes,
here is a poem about a movie
which, the one out of ten, I wrote for you.

WHY I WRITE – Michelle Bitting

WHY I WRITE ~ Michelle Bitting 

In the Mining Shaft

The ladder down is rickety
and swoons, each rung a bent bow
under heel. The air thickens;
its black dream seethes. Mansion
of many dooms, chained doors
quicken, haunted, rupture breath
as the lamp-heart flickers, a yellow bird
swaying in sync. I don’t know
what I’m looking for, only know
it is more precious
than coal or gold. Some days
I think I won’t clock out,
won’t heed the weakening canaries,
resurrect or compose myself
in that cold, dim light. I’m lost
if I am anything. Deaf
to whistles, the land-lark cry, click
of my empty lunch pail,
its skull licked clean.

WHY I WRITE ~ Nin Andrews

WHY I WRITE ~ Nin Andrews

Why Write?

I used to play this game when I was a kid.   I’d imagine I was an alien.  I had to report back to the mother ship, tell my people, This is how it is done on planet earth.  They make up rules.  They tell you . . .

This is how you dress, love, think, believe, eat, drink, hold a fork.  (Not like a pitchfork, my father would correct me.)

I had to write it all out. I had to explain it all to someone.  My ideal readers have always been my alien friends.

Why Poetry?

As a girl, I liked lined paper, unlined paper, notebook paper, tracing paper, construction paper, drawing paper, spiral notebooks, dividers, school notebooks, pencils, pens, erasers, markers, crayons, calligraphy pens, paintbrushes . . .

              (But I always hated blue books. The size is all wrong, and I don’t like wide-ruled paper.  How can anyone write a proper essay in a blue book?)

I liked the physical act of writing words, phrases, sentences, pressing my fat pencil deeply into the page or skimming my fountain pen delicately across a page in loopy script.

              (Remember that thick paper you were given in grade school?  It looked like banana peels were ground into it.  You could sink your fat pencil into it and make an engraving.)

I liked defining words, redefining words, making up meanings, thinking about what meaning means.

              (Do you ever wonder what meaning means? Meaning whatever that means, but isn’t it always more convincing in printed letters?  Print is so much more black and white and evokes fewer fantasies. Script is better for personal letters and thoughts and suggests other realities.)

I liked thinking of that distance between what can’t be said and what is said, between what is said and what is meant.

              (Sometimes I get so lost in that distance.  So many words really have no meaning if you think too hard about them.  Like reason or faith or god.)

I wondered about how much of life is invented by words. No matter how “real” the word-world seems, it never is the world.

              (I sometimes think I prefer our inventions.  Like our pretensions.  They might be all we have.)

As the painter Rene Magritte said of his painting of a pipe, Ceci n’est pas une pipe: “Of course it is not a pipe, just try to fill it with tobacco.”

              (Dear Magritte, I dreamt you came to dinner last night. But it was only an idea of dinner.  I woke up hungry for ice cream.)

But what if you could fool people, and I mean really fool people?  What if you could bring them into your imaginary world? Let them smoke your pipe, feel and taste the smoke entering their lungs, exhaling it back out and into the air?

              (I’m so easily fooled. Yes, it’s true.  I prefer to be fooled. Don’t you? )

What is it we’ve been smoking? people might ask after the fact, making up all kinds of answers about the exotic taste and ingredients.

              (I love critics.  But I think analysis is just another fiction. Another kind of smoke, another layer of distance.  It’s like reading about reading.  And then reading about reading about reading.  And then reading about reading about reading about reading about . . . about.  We all live inside so many Russian dolls.)

Isn’t that what a great poem does? Isn’t it like a really good smoke or trip?   Something we inhale deeply, letting it take us to another place?

              (No, I don’t smoke.  But if I started, I know I’d never stop.)

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