A Workshop I’m Leading and Two Reviews of “Words For What Those Men Have Done”

I’d like to share two things from my writing life that I am excited and happy about.

Writing About What You Are Afraid To Write About @ The Ollom Arts Festival

  • When: November 14th, from 6-8 PM
  • Where: One Art Space, 23 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007
  • How Much: $20 (buy tickets here)
  • More Info: info@ollomart.com

From November 10th through November 15th, Ollom Art will be holding its 2018 Festival, the theme of which is “The Hole Project: Mining Portals of Vulnerability.” This year’s festival explores the real and “metaphoric holes in our…bodies and our psychic selves through installations, artistic creations, workshops and panel discussions.” The festival opens with a gala fundraiser on November 10th from 6 to 8 PM, which you can learn more about and for which you can buy tickets here. The money we raise will help to fund Ollom Art’s “Art Heals” workshops. These workshops will be held “across the country [with the goal of reaching] out to communities…and collaborat[ing] with local artists to help demonstrate…how art can open channels” to healing from trauma.

I became involved with the Festival because, as a survivor of childhood sexual violence, I have experienced firsthand how making art can contribute to healing. My workshop, which is called Writing About What You Are Afraid To Write About and is for writers of all kinds and at all levels of experience, will explore strategies you can use to put the thing or things that scare you into words—even when you don’t want to say exactly what it is—and to see that kind of verbalization as an act of hope. I hope you will consider attending, or that you will pass this information on to someone you think would benefit from this kind of workshop. Here’s the full description:

Why write about something you fear? To name it and, in naming it, to gain control over it. To learn how not to be afraid. Or, perhaps, to learn how to live with fear. Why try to make poetry from your fear, to make it beautiful with words? Not the straightforward loveliness of surfaces, but the beauty that puts us in touch with the full depth of what it means to be human, that does not force us to choose between it and ugliness, but rather allows us to experience both beauty and ugliness as they always already exist within us, and in the world around us. Why? Because while a poem may pronounce judgment on what we fear, it does not judge us for fearing it. Poetry is not politics, and it is not therapy, but finding the words that will make your fear beautiful is an act of hope and, therefore, of a kind of healing. In this workshop, we will explore strategies for bringing that hope and that healing into our lives and our work, whether as poets and writers, or as people who simply want to find ways of saying what they haven’t, till now, been able to say.

If this interests you and you’re in the New York City area, I hope you’ll consider coming. If you’re not interested or able to attend, but you know people who might be, I hope you’ll consider passing this information along.

Two Reviews of Words For What Those Men Have Done Have Been Published

Two reviews of Words For What Those Men Have Done have been published since the spring of this year. The first, “Those Words, Those Men,” by Sarah White, was published in American Book Review. The second, by Pramila Venkateswaran, was published on The Enchanting Verses. Aside from the fact that both writers had nice things to say about my poems, what makes these reviews stand out for me is that they are the first ones, of either of my books, to speak plainly, more or less explicitly, and really thoughtfully about how I deal with the theme of sexual violence that runs through my work.

This makes me happy not just because I believe my work deserves that kind of attention, but also, and more importantly, because I hope it represents a small contribution to developing a full-throated critical vocabulary (because we certainly don’t have one now) with which to talk about literary depictions of sexual violence against men and about how the repercussions and consequences of that kind of violation in men’s lives are represented and understood within our culture.

I always appreciate when people respond to my work by thanking me for my vulnerability, or praising my courage, and I especially value those times when fellow survivors, both men and women, have come up to me after a reading and thanked me for giving voice to something they have not yet found their own words for; but I am also aware that those responses, sincere and valuable as they are, make me and not what I’ve written the focus of attention, and that this focus makes it easier not to deal with the issues that I think my work explores surrounding sexual violence against men and what I sometimes call male survivorship—issues with which our culture is still only in the very early stages of grappling.

The women who wrote these two reviews like my work. Even if you don’t, I hope you will consider reading what they wrote, because the conversation their reviews could help to start is an important one for all of us to have.

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