Monday, October 8, 2018

Awakenings: Songs of Survival, Chicago

Good morning beautiful sisters and brothers…many of us are at odds watching the fight played out across our Tv screens, over the radio, over tweets and soundbites, regarding whether or not to believe Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against a Supreme Court nominee our senators just voted through this weekend.

Turning to the face the heat of the sun, regardless of outcomes, I’m celebrating the way women are coming forward to voice their stories emboldened by Dr. Ford so that all of us, men and women alike, can heal. This summer when I applied to be part of an event in Chicago, Songs of Survival, I had no way of knowing we would be embroiled so heavily in the present conversation. Along with other performers (dance, music, poetry) I’ll be reading, “Peer Counselor,” a poem that is really my thank you letter to my peer counselor in college for the way she helped me see my story in a kinder light (kinder towards myself); isn’t that one of the core challenges? Self-love?

I hope this week finds you taking some tiny action towards loving yourself from journaling to reaching out to a friend or a counselor, registering to vote, deciding to run for office, or sending one of your helpers a thank you letter, poem, or drawing. How we need one another to grow and get back to joy; how we blossom regardless of what befalls us like moonflowers under nightfall.
If you are in Chicago, come out to celebrate the anniversary of the MeToo movement with us at Awakenings Gallery. Songs of Survival is a performance event, the fourth of its kind at Awakenings, featuring originally composed or re-envisioned music, poetry, and dance that is for, by, and about survivors of sexual violence. Join us on Thursday, October 18th for an evening of performance. Doors open at 6:30 and the show will begin at 7:00. More information here for Songs of Survival.

Tarot for Joy

Want to connect more deeply to joy? Work your way through the Tarot deck one card per week? We meet over video call and write to connect our experiences of lived joy to each card. We start tomorrow, October 9, with the Ace of Cups in celebration of the many forms of love, especially self-love. This is a lovely drop-in online group that meets every  Tuesday at 11 am PST.  You can visit my Wheel of Archetypal Selves Facebook page and IM me there for more details or contact me through my main website; here’s the full course description, Tarot Tuesday Returns with Tarot for Joy.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Unmasked Kicks Off a Beautiful Conversation

Kathleen, Renata, Lisa, Barbara, Tania, and Marcia at SOMOS
…between men and women regarding sex and intimacy. I am newly returned this weekend from New Mexico where we were blessed to read in Taos (at SOMOS) and Santa Fe (at Op.cit), six of us, in celebration of the anthology, Unmasked: Women Write about Sex and Intimacy After 50 (Weeping Willow Books). Given the polarized climate we find ourselves in at present (with Ford/Kavanaugh hearing leading to an FBI investigation this week) and my own stress-level triggered by the ongoing public conversation around sexual assault (see last week’s post if you wish), I was grateful to let down and laugh with my fellow readers and audience members as we shared poetry and prose about the range of ways we express ourselves when it comes to sex.

Tania at Op.cit Santa Fe
I also loved questions we fielded from men and women in the audience about how we can foster avenues for intimacy and ways we can view our ability to love one another through previously unimagined lenses. What portals have we never sought out before that might lead us to greater bliss? What unmapped and undiscovered ways of connecting might we explore at the edges of the familiar, known ways of relating? May the conversation blossom in person and in future books.

Pictured above are contributing author and co-editor Kathleen A. Barry, PhD, contributing authors Renata Golden, Lisa Rizzo, Barbara Rockman, yours truly, and co-editor Marcia Meier. We were blessed with some coverage by the Taos newspaper in the article Nothing to Hide that gives you a window into the process behind the anthology’s creation. You can order a copy of Unmasked at  Weeping Willow Books. And if so inclined, we'd love it if you leave us a review on Amazon or Goodreads. 

Poetry News

The Write Like You're Alive 2018 anthology, from Zoetic Press, is available for download for free here: WLYA 2018.

I love Zoetic Press for many reasons, but especially for their 30-day challenges. I create new work and meet new authors, as I did this past August when I had the chance to read at Bookshow in LA with Adrian Ernesto Cepeda, Laura Reece Hogan, Wendy Zimmer, Kevin Ridgeway, Joe Iraggi, Mathieu Cailler and Ashley Perez.

This year’s 30 day-challenge became a way for me to write poems for my mother (we lost her in January of 2018). You can find one of those poems for her here in the WLYA anthology; “Duck” appears on page 61. Gratitude goes to Lise Quintana and Kolleen Carney! 

And here’s your word cloud preview at a glance of the work included in the anthology:

Belle Plaine     heroin     fox     gossip     gunshot     puppetry     staples     dragon fruit         weddings     fever     spelling bee     lemonade     magnets     arcade     psychic     transgression     renovation     matriarchy     office     Oklahoma     rainbow     wheelchair     lavender     icepick     Apollo     baseball bat     shrine     power     homestead     talons     guitar     bees     Dan     workshop     insect     toes     bus     Miffy     teeth     subway     witchery     discontent     reefs     nuns     envy     torpedoes     Persephone  

Poetry and Tarot Writing Classes

There's still time to sign up for Poetry Basics (we start tomorrow, Wednesday, October 3) or to join Tarot for Joy (we start next Tuesday, October 9 at 11 am). My online classes promise a deep dive in community with joy, compassion, love, laughter, and the serious work of writing and coming to know oneself in good company.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Why I Didn't Report, or Hey that was wrong, how can I be part of healing this?

Stencil: Ananda Beattie
Photo: Robyn Beattie
*If you too, are feeling inundated and triggered by the current news cycle focusing on Christine Blasey Ford’s brave decision to challenge the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, feel free to skip the rest of my blogpost. I wrote it to stand in alignment with her and so many other women coming forward at this time. Here’s a great article from Lifehacker, How to Cope With the Current News Cycle as a Sexual Abuse Survivor by Deb Schwartz (thank you Michelle Wing). I'd love it if you would take a moment to add links in the comments to any other articles or resources you’ve found to be healing during this stressful time.

When I was in seventh grade, during a recess time game of chase, I found myself under a pile of boys, some in seventh, some in eighth grade. They ripped the shirt I was wearing in half to expose my breasts. While some thirty-plus years later, I can haul up the face and name of the eighth grader who said, “If you tell on us, I’ll kill you,” and the seventh grader who said, “Congratulations, you have the nicest tits in the seventh grade,” I wouldn’t be able to give you the name of every single boy on top of me that day, nor the name of the kindergartener who saw it all and fled to tell the principal.

Photo by Robyn Beattie
I could tell you the color of my shirt (blue) and what kind it was (satin tube top) and that it had rows of elastic that left marks across my back and top of my chest and across my stomach above my belly button and that I had scratch marks on top of the elastic marks after the boys left, laughing.

I can also tell you I was laughing and having fun while we were playing chase, until cornered in the gym, until my head hit the concrete in the gym below the cafeteria door.

I can tell you I sat across from the principal as he motioned to my ripped shirt which was sitting on top of his desk, and that when he asked me, “Can you tell me what happened here?” I replied, “It was an accident. I think someone’s fingernail caught my shirt.”

He asked me if I was hurt. “No,” I said, and left his office, full of shame and adrenaline.

Photo by Robyn Beattie
I count myself as fortunate that I had a beautiful, caring female teacher who pulled me aside and spoke lovingly to me about what happened, told me it was wrong. I remember that she also pulled the boys aside separately and spoke to them. And then we got on the bus and went home and the sun went down and the sun came up and we got on the bus and went to school the next day as if nothing happened.

I share this story because I know so many of us are reverberating suddenly to the gong of the personal past, struck by the MeToo movement and most recently, the "Why I Didn’t Report" hashtag trending on social media inspired by the bravery of Christine Blasey Ford bringing forward her memories of what allegedly occurred with Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. I would wager we all are going through a massive accountability scan, male and female alike, even if we’ve made peace with past wounds or, on the perpetrator side, vowed to change behavior. 

Stencils: Ananda Beattie
Photo: Robyn Beattie
And for every one of us with a story like Christine Blasey Ford’s, it is excruciating to witness the painfully immature and damaging process of the response to unchecked years of abusive patterns of behavior that have dominated our culture. And it is especially disorienting to watch it played out day after day across media outlets as our trusted public servants prepare to decide if the accused, Kavanaugh, should be voted in to a position for which, for life, he will have incredible power to dictate consequences for future survivors and future perpetrators.

Photo by Robyn Beattie
How can we begin to heal, any of us, if we can’t even validate the women and their accounts? Bringing the behavior to light is the first brave step, and I am grateful to every woman telling her story today and every man telling his. If nothing else, on couches in private homes across the United States, in therapy offices, out on running trails—wherever—I hope friends and couples are sharing their honest memories of what went down in their childhoods with a willingess to say, Hey, that was wrong. How can I be part of healing this? Our children’s future depends on it.

And of course, as a writer, I'd be remiss not to suggest that at the very least, if conversing is too much, one can try to take up the pen and journal through it (with the support of other survivors, trusted friends, partners, or therapists). And as the article I linked to above suggests, remember to take a break from it all. Go on a news diet. Take time in nature to restore, walk by the beach, touch the trees. Call that friend, the one you can count on to make you laugh. Make sure you eat. And breathe. 

A Note on Process:

Photo by Robyn Beattie
I initially hesitated about sharing this post, but then my poetry movie collaborator Robyn Beattie's beautiful images came over the email transom. She had no idea what I was working on; she just sent me these photos of beautiful stencils made by her late sister, Ananda Beattie. The leaping figure for me captures the way I’ve often felt seeing life through survivor lens: I want to leap forward but part of me holds back, stained by fear of trespass. As I heal, I move forward anyway in the company of loving and trusted friends and family. My prayer for us all is that we stop and really look at what's going on here with love, compassion, empathy, and courage. We can heal these outdated ways of relating to one another, I believe we can. Let’s work together.

Photo by Robyn Beattie
Related Event: Songs of Survival, Chicago

I’m honored to take part in Awakenings Gallery’s Songs of Survival, a concert series featuring originally composed or re-envisioned music and poetry and dance by, for, and about survivors on October 18, 2018 from 6:30-9 p.m. in celebration of the one year anniversary of the MeToo movement. I’ll be reading “Peer Counselor” (published originally by Chaparral and included in my first poetry collection, November Butterfly (Saddle Road Press, 2014) and a new poem, “Opossum,” set to music by my father, Stephen Pryputniewicz.

Here’s the link to the website for Awakenings Art for more information and to sign up to attend the event.

Photo by Robyn Beattie
Related posts:

Words as Spiral Path: Owning Your Story at Women of Wonder, my survivor story told through poems and explication with a few ideas for healing writing exercises (with gratitude to Ginny Lee Taylor for encouraging me to share both of these blogposts).

Revising Guinevere, Ten Writers Transforming Rape, or When Trees Mattered More Than Boys, about the process of writing the poems in November Butterfly and links to a terrific line up of writers.

Come Write:

We start Poetry Basics online Wednesday October 3. I'd love to have you; we write and play, meeting weekly over video call to share our work. All level of writer welcome.

Tarot for Joy is back--if there's enough interest, I'll be starting a Tuesday video call group where we work our way through the Tarot deck journaling to one card a week. We will focus on our experiences of joy in relation to that particular card. Let me know if you are interested! I'll put up a post about it shortly.