Guest Blog Post, Ashley Roach: The Privilege and Anxiety of Catharsis

Note: Since time of writing, Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed as a Justice of the Supreme Court

This month we endured the grueling twin testimonies of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh and are facing a very likely confirmation of (another) proven liar to the Supreme Court. It’s been rough. It seems impossible to think about anything else, or to experience anything other than continuous retraumatization. I’ve been working on a book of poems dealing with my own embodied trauma rising from the steam of a decade of forgetting and then remembering, then remembering, then remembering. And asking myself over and over – who is culpable, who invited what, what was forgotten in the darkness, in the not-negotiating? Interrogating the lines, yes, the blurred lines. I have written a book, considered every angle, plumbed my most vulnerable memories. I thought I was strong, self-congratulatory even. I remember telling a friend: I was raped, but I don’t let it determine my life.

These two weeks, I have triggered my own trauma over and over again, looking at the New York Times first thing every morning, checking Twitter every few minutes, calling and writing senators, building and bleeding rage. I’m so angry all the time. I can’t sleep. I lie awake and try to breathe. I go the gym to try to out-aggro myself. I need to feel strong but I’m exhausted. I’m so goddamn mad.

I’m supposed to be planning poetry readings this Fall to sell a few copies of my chapbook, to feel and act like a poet, but it feels so distant. The first reading is in mid-October, on my wedding anniversary. I had completely forgotten about the anniversary and now it seems almost beside the point. I have no interest in conversations with men, even my husband. I want to explode in elemental heat and gravity and destroy this corrupt world. The privilege of all of this (gym, marriage, news subscription, white woman rage) is astounding. I want to crawl into a hole and die. I steam like a volcano. I see a poll that shows a majority of white women believe Brett Kavanaugh over Dr. Ford. I don’t sleep. My mother tells me that she doesn’t think that men should be judged by what they did in high school. I argue with her, then leave. Senator Susan Collins argues the importance of the #MeToo movement then votes for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. My throat is always closed. I can’t stop talking about the injustice of this nomination. I try to tell myself to be prepared for the obvious outcome. Thirty years ago, Anita Hill came forward against Judge Clarence Thomas and was dragged. Need I say it? Donald Trump is president. Here we are today. I steam.

I am also worried that if I read any of the poems I’ve been writing that I will cry, that I will make someone else cry, or worse, I will show that I was wrong, not wronged. All these years later, I still have the internalized misogyny of a lifetime of being told that I put myself in a place where I was vulnerable, and I invited what happened. My mom asked me why I didn’t report it. I don’t know where to begin. It took a decade for me to realize that it happened. I don’t want to share the details, so I leave. I am a coward in my own life. Am I a coward in my own life? A poet recently tweeted that she would not be reading poems of sexual trauma at an upcoming reading because everyone deserves a break. I wonder if I should do the same. But if I don’t read the poems I’ve been writing, why am I reading? If I read them and people are upset, or I am upset, or create a sense of catharsis, am I being performative and insensitive? If I center myself, in my privilege and whiteness, am I perpetuating injustice? I feel sick. I steam.

When I started writing this, I determined that I would write a helpful post about battling imposter syndrome, overcoming doubts of self-worth, and getting over self-promotion anxiety. Work with your friends! Reach out to trusted members of your community! You are worthy! I deleted all of it. It felt so hollow. On Twitter, women post #WhyIDidntReport. I feel like shit every day. My mom wants to talk to me. If I don’t read these poems, how will I reckon with any of this? Is this ultimately the most selfish act – wanting reckoning, wanting catharsis, wanting wanting? My friend and poet Emma Bolden tweeted a gif of a wolf growling, baring her canines. The growl is practically audible. Caption: “YUPPPPPP actual image of me rn.”

Me too. Me too. Me too.

#ArtLitPhx: UA Prose Series: James Allen Hall

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Date: November 8, 2018

Time: 7:00pm

Location: University of Arizona: Poetry Center,

1508 E Helen St, Tucson, AZ 85719

Event Description:

The UA Prose Series, curated by faculty of the Creative Writing Program at the UA, presents prose writers of distinction.

The UA Poetry Center is proud to present James Allen Hall.

James Allen Hall’s first book of poems, Now You’re the Enemy, published as a winner in the 2008 University of Arkansas Poetry Series, won awards from the Lambda Literary Foundation, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers.  His collection of personal lyric essays, I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well, was published in 2017 by Cleveland State University Poetry Center Press after winning their Essay Collection Award, selected by Chris Krauss.

James Hall is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation of the Arts, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the University of Arizona Poetry Center.  Recent poems have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies such as Best American Poetry 2012, Iowa Review, New England Review, A Public Space, Poem-A-Day, and elsewhere.  Recent lyric essays have appeared in Bennington Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Cutbank, and Copper Nickel, as well as the anthology The Poem’s Country(Pleiades Press).  He currently serves as editor in chief for Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal at Washington College, which has received two Best American Poetry selections.  He teaches creative writing and literature at Washington College on Maryland’s Eastern shore.

Editorial Preferences in Poetry: Alyssa Lindsey

One of my first professors of poetry was Dr. Henry Quintero. While his lectures were full of intensity and a passion for what he did, it was how he ended his classes that taught me the most. While his students packed up their backpacks and filed out the door, Dr. Q would stand up and in that wonderful, warm, booming voice of his he would tell us to take care of ourselves because you are the most important piece of poetry you will write.

Dr. Quintero taught me that poetry is less of an art form, strict and unforgiving then it is an action. The actions we go through each day and the experiences that we share with other people in our lives. When reading poetry, I am looking for action and reaction. For a truly strong voice to jump out through the pages, making it impossible not to give that voice the space and attention it craves. Consider the work of Lorna Dee Cervantes, a proud Chicana whose works include “Emplumada” and “Sueño”. Cervantes knows how to use her actions to get the reader to pay attention, implementing line break and rhythm like just another tool in her toolbox. She writes about immigration and Chicano heritage but refuses to let her words stand alone. Her poetry is presented with action, purposeful line breaks and meaningful rhythmic and repeating phrases. These are some things that I read for in a poem for publication, mechanisms that work to expand the main idea and a speaker who is not afraid to use them. This is the poetry that brought me to creative writing; poems that speak through their actions and the people who read them.

Alyssa Lindsey is the poetry editor for issue 22. She is a Junior at Arizona State University. She is majoring in both creative writing and global health with a pre-health emphasis. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school and go on to work in pediatrics.

Authors Talk: Deborah Bogen

Today we are pleased to feature author Deborah Bogen as our Authors Talk series contributor. The topic of Deborah’s podcast, as she says, is “prose poems: the how and why of writing them.”

She confesses that after writing three books of “mostly lineated poems,” she took a break from poetry, or as she emphasizes “poetry took a break from me.” She describes her struggle to write a poem, saying that she “tried, but could not do it.” After a time spent writing novels, she states that “a strange thing happened: I was filled, and I do mean filled, with the urge to make new poems.” Due to her time writing in a novelistic style, she declares that she “quite naturally… fell into the world of prose poems.” She had previously enjoyed the style, but now, “the joy…was that I had a form, a box into which I could place… what I was noticing in what we call the world.” She closes by urging fellow poets to “have some fun [with prose poems],” and to “write a bunch.”

You can read Deborah’s poem, “This Poem May Be Read In Any Order,” in Issue 21 of Superstition Review.

Contributor Update, Jessica Mehta: Poem in The Bookends Review

Jessica MehtaToday we are excited to share news of past contributor Jessica Mehta. Jessica’s poem, “Summer in Lorraine,” has been recently featured in The Bookends Review. Click here to read the poem. Congratulations, Jessica!

Jessica’s poem, “Bars and Planets,” can be read in Issue 21 of Superstition Review here.

Authors Talk: Ephraim Scott Sommers

Today we are pleased to feature poet Ephraim Scott Sommers as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this brief interview, Ephraim discusses his life as a poet and as a singer/songwriter, and how each endeavor creatively informs the other.

While Ephraim grew up in a musical household, he said that he “didn’t really think about being in a band until I turned 18,” when he formed the group known as Siko with other musically inclined friends. He admits that he originally “was way far behind in his musicianship”, but that through years of dedication and hard work, he was able to “create something…from nothing” and craft many memorable experiences.

Speaking on the interrelationship of poetry and music, Ephraim states that “he came to lyricism and to poetry writing through music.” He elaborates that “what really drew me to poetry at first was the sound of words,” and that this inspired him to “try to tell stories in a musical way” through his pieces. In light of this, he expresses his interest in the lyric tradition of people like Dante and Virgil, who are “singing you a story” through their poetic work.

You can read another interview with Ephraim, “The Funeral Pyre of Poetry,” in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.

Contributor Update, Sarah Carey: Poem in SWWIM

Sarah CareyToday we are happy to share news of past contributor Sarah Carey. Sarah’s poem, “Before Landfall,” has been featured in SWWIM (Supporting Women Writers in Miami), and centers around hurricane Irma and the loss that followed.

Sarah’s poem, “Exotic Taste,” can be read in Issue 18 of Superstition Review.