Tag Archives: poem

“render, render”

Good morning good morning. It’s grey here today, the clouds soaking across the hills, coating everything in an impenetrable foggy frost that I am deeply grateful for. How has the day begun for you? Where is your sun just now?

Sophie has gone after a squirrel this morning, who is now stuck up on top of the neighbor’s garage and is letting forth a stream of chitters that I can only assume is squirrel for lots and lots of expletives. Sophie stands guard, ball in her mouth (thus rendering her fully incapable of catching anything else between her teeth, but the squirrel doesn’t know that) — she and the squirrel have this sort of antagonistic relationship when he gets close to where she can catch him, but I’ve seen her watching him in the garden for long stretches, those times he risks coming down from the walnut tree to grab one of the fallen green walnuts or takes to examining the garden to see if there’s anything there he might like, and Sophie will stand up at the top of the garden, on the patio, watching and watching, still and quiet, not wanting to disturb him, waiting for him to get close? Or maybe she just wants to see what he’ll do? Maybe she wants to be friends?

He’s made it now, from the garage roof, across the top of the backyard fence and back to the trees where he lives — Sophie chases him along the fence, every time he comes down far enough that she’s aware of him, and he chitters his curses the whole time, though now I think maybe it’s more like, go ahead and try it, you land-bound thing! Perhaps something better, more vitriolic.

I’m sitting on the back deck, a good place for quiet when the whole house is up (save for the chasing, barking dog and the teasing, chattering squirrel). The squirrel makes it across our back yard, from tree to tree, and I can’t hear his old-man chattering anymore. Sophie goes to the side fence, next to the other neighbor’s yard, where the squirrel sometimes hides down at ground-level,and she stands up to peek over the fence, using her front paws to grab at the fence and pull herself up and forward to get a better look. The squirrel suddenly appears on the top of the neighbor’s house.

It’s a serious drama here in the backyard this morning.

This morning I woke up thinking about the word render, which means things like: provide or give (as in a service); cause to be; represent or show artistically; melt down (fat); and comes from old French meaning “give back” or “yield.”

This brought to mind a poem that I hand out in the workshops sometimes:

Render, Render
-Thomas Lux

Boil it down: feet, skin, gristle,
bones, vertebrae, heart muscle, boil
it down, skim, and boil
again, dreams, history, add them and boil
again, boil and skim
in closed cauldrons, boil your horse, his hooves,
the runned-over dog you loved, the girl
by the pencil sharpener
who looked at you, looked away,
boil that for hours, render it
down, take more from the top as more settles to the bottom,
the heavier, the denser, throw in ache
and sperm, and a bead
of sweat that slid from your armpit to your waist
as you sat stiff-backed before a test, turn up
the fire, boil and skim, boil
some more, add a fever
and the virus that blinded an eye, now’s the time
to add guilt and fear, throw
logs on the fire, coal, gasoline, throw
two goldfish in the pot (their swim bladders
used for “clearing”), boil and boil, render
it down and distill,
that for which there is no
other use at all, boil it down, down,
then stir it with rosewater, that
which is now one dense, fatty, scented red essence
which you smear on your lips
and go forth
to plant as many kisses upon the world
as the world can bear!

I lay in bed long after the alarm went off, hitting snooze, turning back over to cuddle into the blankets, writing this post in my head: render is what we do with the material we live through when we decide to offer it down oto the page. When we write out our joys and struggles, we render the experience from something we lived through, from a vast and uncoordinated series of memories and neuronal interweavings, into story.

Rendering a story takes work. We decide what details to include, what to leave out. We create a structure: a beginning, middle, and end — even when telling just one piece of our day, we tend to create an arc. We build tension, we use sensory detail, we develop characters, we use foreshadowing and backstory — we aren’t intending to do any of this: humans are storytelling creatures. We learn how to do story early, just by listening to the other people around us. We play make believe, we dream, we gossip, we remember aloud to friends, we write poems and fictions and journal entries — we render the constant influx of sensory experience and data down to the stuff of deep human communication: story. And there are so many ways to tell the same experience — every time, the story will be a little different — we’ll remember some detail or forget another, we’ll add a twist, we’ll include something we weren’t ready to say the first time. Every rendering has a different flavor. And why do we do this? To make sense of our lives. To feel witnessed. To be part of the tribe. To set some order to the overwhelm, to have some sense of control over the experience: this is my material, and I’ll do what I want with it, thank you very much.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the life-and-death squirrel-dog drama, the house finches are quietly chewing seeds off of the hawthorn tree, tenaciously avoiding the thorns while they breakfast. I’m noticing my allegiance with them these days — is there really any reason to be running around crazy, barking at everything that feels like a threat? Don’t we have some songs to sing? There’s a juvenile finch in with the adults, just learning to fly, and though she’s joined the grown folks for the meal, she still needs help serving herself, and flaps her wings at one of the adults, chirping, until they feed her. Meanwhile, Sophie stands vigilant, just in case the intruder should return. There have been years I lived the way she is standing right now: muscles tense, every nerve at attention, unable to focus for long on anything but the chance that someone or something might cross the boundary into her space and already ready to fight it off. The thing about Sophie is that she’s able to walk away after a little while. She discharges her tension (shaking her body and stretching long and hard), ridding her muscles of the adrenaline and anxiety — then she moves on to the next thing. It’s usually not so easy for people — we hold tension and hyperalertness in our bodies long, long after the trauma is past.

One of the ways I discharge the old trauma, rendering it into something of use, is through writing. What about you? What happens when you story your knowings, your experiences? What happens when you don’t?

letting life in around the words

~Bishal Karna
About life

I started writing a book.

Writing the book

Became my life.
About writing a book
I started writing a book.
Writing about writing the book
Became my life.
The mango plants in my garden
Bear delicious fruits.

~~ ~~ ~~

This poem fits today: I’ve spent so many years tangling with how to write the story of my life that I can get pulled right out of actually living it. This morning I spent a little time in my garden, after four or five days being away from it. I was frustrated with myself because I hadn’t gotten out of bed early to do my morning pages.

I was awake at five, but my body was achy, I’d only gotten about five hours of sleep, blah blah blah: all the usual excuses rose up in me when I thought about swinging my legs over the side of the bed and slipping out from under the covers — only this morning, I listened to them. I let them win. I fluffed my pillow, curled into a new and more comfortable position, and went back to sleep. When my alarm went off at 5:30, I proceeded to play the snooze game for another half an hour, until my sweetheart came in to (sweetly) inquire as to whether I ever planned to join the day.

Meanwhile, in my only-sort-of-sleeping-inbetween-the-snooze-going-off-every-nine-minutes state of mind, I was deep into the self-recrimination: you say you want to write but you don’t even have the discipline to get yourself out of bed.

Do you ever get tired of writing (about) your excuses?

Today, the page didn’t feel like a friend. I imagined pulling myself from under the covers, thumping down the stairs to the kitchen, lighting the candle and opening the notebook, only to be confronted with the leer of all those empty, blue lines: now do you have something worthwhile to say? Just for today, I couldn’t bear it. Please, don’t give me more room for rumination that I’m supposed to pretend is art. Please, don’t force me to be of use this early in the day.

So much inner critic, which gets louder and louder the more often I hit snooze. Then I fell back asleep and dreamt about my stepfather, who’s been visiting me in my dreams lately. He doesn’t say much — he’s a presence and an energy, something that lives in me now as one of the layers of my psychic majesty. Today he wanted some protocol followed that I didn’t want to participate in but finally capitulated to. I called him sir, in the dream (which never was the case in real life), when I gave in to his instruction. A half-swallowed sir, something he didn’t require but that I’d added reflexively. Some layers here.

Then I woke up again and it was seven and I’d missed all the good of the day because the sun was already up. You ruined another one, Jen, said the inner critic. (So easy to do so much wrong and be asleep for most of it!) There was much commotion in the house, readying for school and work, so there was no way I could focus now on my morning pages. I just had to forget about writing and hope that maybe tomorrow I do it better. This is the morning bargain with the inner critic, who would like me to either have conditions be perfect (which they never are) or forgo writing altogether: tomorrow I’ll be perfect, I promise.

And then I thought this line: sometimes the page doesn’t feel friendly — and something fluttered like a feeling through my body: maybe I’ll go ahead and write anyway.

And then I got out of the damn bed and passed through the morning’s fray directly into the garden, which was in dire need of watering (and weeding, maybe: I can’t decide whether to treat the purple oxalis like a pest or like lush ground cover — or steam it up for lunch). Once I picked up the hose and started talking to the mints and the johnny-jump-ups, something shifted in me. I was in another element, another part of my life: I was letting life be life. Some days don’t have to be perfect. Some days can start off on the wrong foot (or no feet and difficult dreams) and shift easily back into alignment if I listen to my instincts and simply try and take the next right step.

I watered and looked over the damage Sophie had wrought during a weekend mostly unsupervised — some carrot sprouts dug up, one salvia plant in need of serious splinting. While I was engaged in this effort, the closed and self-shamed bits in me began to open up, peek out from behind their hiding places, pointing out other spots that needed water, sections of the garden that need fertilizing, one of the newly-planted rosemary bushes that had just begun to put out tiny blue flowers. There was a shifting in me. The day wasn’t ruined. Just breathe. Everything’s ok. The critic wasn’t as audible anymore.

Now I’m out in the sun, typing up this damn post, and grateful. After I’m done, I’ll go into the garden and do a bit more pruning. The tomatoes have finally given up the ghost — it’s time to pull up the plants and hang them upside down til all the last green tomatoes ripen.

What if you trust your process this morning? What words would come if you imagined writing anyway, for just fifteen minutes, even though everything’s wrong? And then — what if nothing is wrong?

Thanks for your spaciousness today, for your listening heart and wise, writing hands. Thank you for your words.

let it dangle

sticker of flowers on a concrete beamJust write today. It doesn’t matter what. Just write.

The candle rests on top of the closed notebook and the morning pages go in here. This morning I am rushed and a bit shot through with panic; the dreams all lifted me into worry. What kind of sleeping is that?

What are last night’s dreams offering you this morning?

Today I will meet and talk and work mostly away from the computer. In the evening I will be with my cousin, and I will remember what blood is for. This morning I feel both tangled and loosed, like a collection of live wires all knotted up. This is what transition feels like, right? These are growing pains — this is me digging into my own potbound rootball, tearing up what hasn’t had air or food or enough room to grow. Today I feel like everything–all my ambition and desire — is hanging out, too visible, too naked. Continue reading

unpetalling — and erotic writing workshops coming up

graffiti of a rose, with a heart at the center, black paint on concretegood morning good morning. I haven’t offered a tea report for awhile here — this morning’s tea is wulong with mint and nettle, and some crushed anise and cardamon seed. Thanks to my sister and her sweetheart for the wulong — I’ve been doing a bit more caffeine lately, drinking more black and a lot more green tea. This morning my heart is pounding, but I don’t think that’s the aftermath of alchemical buzz. It’s something different.

What do you do on the mornings you can’t remember your dreams, but you know you had them? Meditation would be ideal, I think, wouldn’t it?

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

A quick reminder about what’s coming up (apparently it’s all erotic all the time around here, at least according to this update):

Tonight! 1/25 — the Erotic Reading Circle! Join Carol Queen and me for the first Reading Circle of 2012. Bring stories/writing to share, or just be a part of the circle of listeners. 7:30pm, Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission St, San Francisco. $5 (suggested donation, no one turned away)

Saturday, 1/28 — Perverts Put Out! I get to perform along with a whole list of amazingness: Sherilyn Connelly, Daphne Gottleib, Philip Huang, Juba Kalamka, Kirk Read, Thomas Roche, and horehound stillpoint. Jan 28, 7:30 pm, Center for Sex and Culture, $10-15. Come on out and warm up your January.

Saturday, 2/4 — Declaring Our Erotic! Join us for the first meeting of our new monthly writing retreats. Each month, come together with a fun, powerful, and supportive group of writers to dive into some sexy and surprising new writing! We will work with a theme every month (February’s is New Beginnings), and you will be invited to write into the ideas that theme inspires in you, or you are welcome to use the workshop retreat time to do whatever writing is most pressing for you. Connect with fierce writing community and offer yourself into your own erotic voice. Spaces are still open!

1/30-2/29 — I’m also leading an online erotic writing intensive with the Transformative Language Arts Network, Claiming Our Erotic Story. Discover the liberatory uses of erotic writing as you try your hand at some explicit erotic writing, and, in so doing, get more comfortable exploring and talking about sexual desires, explore the varied and complex aspects of sexuality and desire, and celebrate the fullness of our erotic expression! Register with the TLAN — I’m looking forward to writing with you!

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~
That’s right, now I remember: I dreamed I was with a group of writers (maybe for a workshop) at a bookstore, and I pulled a book off the shelf and said, oh, look, they have my book! It was a book about writing, with exercises, etc. And then I looked again at the cover and it wasn’t mine. In fact, I didn’t have a book. This was someone else’s book that I often mistook for one I had written, or felt that I could/should have written.

Some needling for me in that remembering — yowza.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

A poem prompt today. (Thanks to my friend E., who introduced me to the book of poems called Risk Everything, where this was inside). Let yourself read the poem a time or two, and notice what lines call to your writing self, what associations or images arise in you as you read. Give yourself 10 minutes, and just write.

I Unpetalled You
Juan Ramon Jimenez,
translated Stephen Mitchell

I unpetalled you, like a rose,
to see your soul,
and I didn’t see it.
But everything around
— horizons of land and of seas –,
everything, out to the infinite,
was filled with a fragrance,
enormous and alive.

Thank you for all the ways you unpetal, the ways you risk, the ways you offer your brilliance and fragrance to the world. Thank you for your words.

(nablopomo #27) poem for a Sunday: Equinox

several images of geese, graffitiThis is what I can tell you — it’s been a difficult weekend, full of quiet, a thick kind of quiet. The kind of quiet that shows up around that which has been unspeakable. I don’t, still, know how to get into the words for the story underneath. I don’t even know how to put into words the execution and nuances of the quiet.

I got a massage on Saturday, and I think I’m still moving into and through what she moved around. I’m filled, still, with gratitude for and towards anyone who chooses to do that sort of body work — what a generosity you offer with your hands.

There’ve been good conversations, too, time with friends, good&ridiculous movies, and a little bit of writing time. I’m finding my way back into my notebooks. This is what the process looks like.

I will say I’ve started the xmas cookie list for this year, and that brings some joy.

This is a poem for today, for this time, for this weekend. Find lines in there to act as prompts, as you are so called:


Joy Harjo

I must keep from breaking into the story by force

for if I do I will find myself with a war club in my hand

and the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,

your nation dead beside you.

I keep walking away though it has been an eternity

and from each drop of blood

springs up sons and daughters, trees,

a mountain of sorrows, of songs.

I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north

not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.

Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have

broken through the frozen earth.

Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand

before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the clatter

of the new world, I have broken my addiction to war

and desire. Yes, I will reply, I have buried the dead

and made songs of the blood, the marrow.


Joy Harjo

I must keep from breaking into the story by force

for if I do I will find myself with a war club in my hand

and the smoke of grief staggering toward the sun,

your nation dead beside you.

I keep walking away though it has been an eternity

and from each drop of blood

springs up sons and daughters, trees,

a mountain of sorrows, of songs.

I tell you this from the dusk of a small city in the north

not far from the birthplace of cars and industry.

Geese are returning to mate and crocuses have

broken through the frozen earth.

Soon they will come for me and I will make my stand

before the jury of destiny. Yes, I will answer in the clatter

of the new world, I have broken my addiction to war

and desire. Yes, I will reply, I have buried the dead

and made songs of the blood, the marrow.

all there is

graffiti from Haight Street -- big-smiling sun!Good morning. Right?

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

At least, when waking up in a panic at 4am, there are foghorns to keep us company. That’s a blessing.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

This morning, Sophie and I are doing some training. She’s learned (because she’s smart) that usually when she gets fed in her crate, it means that she’s going to get left there for awhile. Now she doesn’t want to eat in her crate, because she doesn’t want to get left. This means that she won’t go in even when I’m going to be sticking around (because how does she know the difference?). So we’re practicing — I put the food in the crate and leave the grate open, then leave the room. She’s not yet convinced.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Last night I got to be with several of my teachers — Renee Garcia, Pat Schneider, Peggy Simmons, Joan Marie Wood, and Mary Tuchscherer. We watched Pat’s film about her workshops with women in Chicopee, MA — Tell me something I can’t forget — and then talked about the Amherst Writers and Artists method, and different ways in which writing can be used as a life-changing, liberatory, transformative practice for folks (for communities!) whose voices, whose stories, have been silenced. Again, I got to be at a seminary and talk about the power of erotic writing. What a gift, the whole night.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

Off to shower. Taking the pup to the dentist (what?) then heading to the day job.

Thinking about a prompt for today. What about the title of that film: Tell me something I can’t forget. Pat says it’s a line from a Tess Gallagher poem. Either just begin with that line, or go read the poem, and write as you’re inspired by those lines. Give yourself 10 minutes, 15. Tell me something I can’t forget.

I’m grateful for you today, for your practice, your patience, your words and your ears.

poem for the day: again a solstice

alice in wonderland with a can of spray paint, over text good morning!

I’m at the cafe, working, studying —

Puppy’s got a touch of the sick,  just a cough —

Apparently, the bordatella vaccination doesn’t necessarily prevent your pup from getting kennel cough. Hm.

It’s enough of a cough that the vet doesn’t want her to be at doggie day care for a bit. Wish us luck, me and the pup — we are in love and also trying not to get on each other’s nerves.

~~ ~~ ~~ ~~ ~~

this poem came through on the poets.org poem-a-day email, and offered me a big yes, and so I want to share it with you all, too.

Again a Solstice
by Jennifer Chang

It is not good to think
of everything as a mistake. I asked
for bacon in my sandwich, and then

I asked for more. Mistake.
I told you the truth about my scar:

I did not use a knife. I lied
about what he did to my faith
in loneliness. Both mistakes.

That there is always a you. Mistake.
Faith in loneliness, my mother proclaimed,

is faith in self. My instinct, a poor polaris.
Not a mistake is the blue boredom
of a summer lake. O mud, sun, and algae!

We swim in glittering murk.
I tread, you tread. There are children

testing the deep end, shriek and stroke,
the lifeguard perilously close to diving.
I tried diving once. I dove like a brick.

It was a mistake to ask the $30 prophet
for a $20 prophecy. A mistake to believe.

I was young and broke. I swam
in a stolen reservoir then, not even a lake.
Her prophesy: from my vagrant exertion

I’ll die at 42. Our dog totters across the lake,
kicks the ripple. I tread, you tread.

What does it even mean to write a poem?
It means today
I’m correcting my mistakes.

It means I don’t want to be lonely.

Any of these lines jump out at you as writing sparks or prompts? For me, it’s What does it even mean to write a poem? Give yourself 10 minutes, take a line, dive into your writing…

Thanks for the light you’ll bring into someone’s unwelcome darkness today, and for the shade you’ll offer someone too much in the light. Thanks, always, for your words.

what’s coming up — and no regrets

It’s a quiet quiet morning here at this new place — the seabreeze has calmed, quieted, and even the trees are still.


Here’s what’s coming up!

Tomorrow, March 10, I’m going to be facilitating a sexy-letter-writing mini workshop at Femina Potens during their Strap Ons and Smut event. Just $15, and you get to write and then learn some strap-on skills with kinky educator & bondage rigger Rain DeGrey! Get your tickets now!

Then, Writing the Flood is on March 19 — if you’ve got some words that have been pushing at you, if you can feel them rumbling around inside your hands, behind your fingers, then it might be time! Come join us and let your writing flow.

And next month: The Body Heat: Queer Femme Porn Tour hits the road again! This time we’re going to be blazing through the Southeast: Atlanta, Nashville, Birmingham — I can’t wait to meet you. Please help us get our kitty going (which gets us to you and makes sure we’re fed)!


Today I’ve got candles on either side of my computer, I’ve got tea that calms and wakes, I’ve got an hour before I have to be at my bus stop.

I am thinking about self-forgiveness, how it’s an ongoing process, how, in fact, maybe it’s an everyday thing, maybe it’s a practice.

What if you forgave yourself everything? Or even one small part? What would your hands feel like after? Your shoulders? Your knees?

Relatedly: I read this poem yesterday: Antilamentation, by Dorianne Laux — Write first, if you’d like, about the above questions. And then let this be your next prompt:


by Dorianne Laux

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punch line, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the living room couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it. Let’s stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

Thank you thank you thank you.

using doorways

woman in doorway, hair wrapped, holding bread in her hand, maybe chewingGood morning! Short short post today (since yesterday’s was so long!)– just a prompt and a question:


Question: Where is the femme Stone Butch Blues?


Prompt: Spend a moment or so with the image to the right — notice what questions, what voices, what sounds start to arise as you study this picture. What’s just happened here? What’s about to happen? Do you think there’s a question she’s thinking about? Do you think there’s a question she’s not asking? Take 10 or 15 minutes, and let yourself  begin writing with whatever comes up for you in response to the photo. Follow your writing wherever it seems to want you to go! Share any pieces here that you wish, in the comments…


This is the prayer I have for today: thank you, thank you, thank you.

voice is a practice

graffiti on the side of a house -- speak the truth, even if your voice shakes

This is the morning.  Today is Thursday, and that means MedEd Writers at UCSF, and it also means a VozSutra post.

(Tea update: the tea this morning’s spiced, again, and today with a little sugar and a little milk — we got milk last night for yogurt, which I made with a little bit of vanilla bean again, to give it some flavor, and which is still setting up.)

Ok: what is VozSutra? (I mean, besides my Twitter-self and the title of our eventual online lit-zine?) For me, it’s (about) the practice of voice. A sūtra is a teaching (from a word meaning thread), an instruction for practice. Voz is the Spanish word for voice or opinion. (And, as an aside, also the Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian word for train!)

I wanted, a year or so ago, to find some language that began to thread together the various workshops I was doing — sexuality writing workshops, writing with survivors of sexual violence, of extreme and ritual abuse, workshops with adults living with cancer and other life altering illnesses. How do these groups connect?

Actually, initially, I wanted to find language to make sense of an organization (writing ourselves whole) that offered sexuality writing workshops and sexual trauma workshops. I think when folks came to visit my website, they could, somewhere inside, understand or maybe grok how these two went together: yes, it makes sense that folks who’ve experienced sexual violence might want to engage with their sexuality through this form of practice, this writing process — and, too, it makes sense that someone might offer both these kinds of workshops.  I worried, though, too, that folks would come to the website to look at information about the sexuality workshops or the survivors workshops and be put off that I offered the other one as well — and yes, in the thickness I worry that someone thinks I’m conflating sexuality and sexual violence. And that’s not what I/we do.

So what I wanted was language that brought together what happens in these varying workshops, and what arose for me after some discussion and play was this combination of ideas, this janky, makeshift concatenation of ideas: vozsutra — voice practice, voice lessons: refinding and holding on to the thread of our own voices.

(I’ll admit here that I have an affinity for Katasutra, the mascot of boingboing once upon a time and a secret agent of the NeoWobblies, and so the phrasing, I’m sure, comes from there, as does the bringing together of culturally disparate yet potentially related ideas into one word or phrase.)

graffiti -- using a bullhorn to shout and holding up love/heart in the other handWhat I’ve found is a desire to bring difficult stories to voice, to practice finding and claiming our (writing) voice, our true and complicated voices, over and over again.

This is the thread: voice is a practice. Over and over, we have to step up into telling our own truth, in poetry, in fiction, in memoir, in slams, in conversation, in action.  Over and over: each time, each day, it’s new again, this capacity we have to be true to ourselves and our desires, our histories and our presences.

I believe in the power of finding voice for difficult stories, the stories that others don’t want us to tell, the stories we most don’t want to tell because they are too painful, shameful, scary, gross, messy, real. Difficult stories are often, in my experience, also gorgeous stories — they are rich with detail and honesty, they are riveted with attention and energy. Dorothy Allison, and others as well, describe the importance of going after the fear in your writing: that’s where the energy is. When I talk about societally-difficult stories, I mean stories we’re afraid to tell because one or more of our communities don’t want to hear them, because they’re stories that complicate what we (can) mean, to ourselves, to our families, to our friends, to our organizing groups, our affinity groups, our identity groups —

VozSutra is returning to that practice of our own voice: telling our own truths, over and over, complicating ourselves anyway in the service of finding our own deep truth, and making that complicated, complexly-human space available, through our modeling, to others as well.

And the thread? What’s that poem that I first heard from John Fox?

The Way It Is
William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change.  But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

What are the threads for you today?  What are the apparently-disparate pieces that make up your whole?  What pieces are you not letting go of?

Thank you for being there, for reading and for writing —