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What is the physicality of a wound? What types of loss feel nearly impossible to come back from? What kind of life settles into our bones if we don’t take the time to grieve these losses? Can we dive into the wound, the loss: excavate and unearth it? We will focus on surviving and survivorhood; what it looks and feels like to live beyond traumatic experiences. The dominant narratives about the survivor body— oft pathologized as disembodied, disassociated and unwell— will be turned on their heads. We can never actually leave our bodies, as hard as we might try (and as wise as we are in our reasons for trying) and are therefore always already embodied. Too often survivors that are also writers are told to not dwell in the trauma, that writing from personal and traumatic experience isn’t “legitimate” writing. I don’t believe that to be true and am regularly heartened and inspired by the writing people do while diving into the wound(s).
In this 6 week workshop we will engage with work written by a wide range of writers, generate our own body of work through interrogating the roots of trauma and how it manifests in the body and explore body-based writing can help support us as we write into the wound. The trauma doesn't have to just live in our body; it can be moved from living within our skin and be rewritten onto paper (and computer screens).
"How people feel, what they feel, what breaks them, how trauma resonates through their lives . . . that’s a legitimate space in poetry." —Claudia Rankine
"Write backwards from the dissipated, exploded, violent body. Write the blows backwards until you make a real body. This movement of a body through space, how to reduce the pain of this body, the pain of a static, habitual, repeated movement-- impact-- is what I mean by healing. Not resolution, but a rewriting in neuromuscular terms of gesture." — Bhanu Kapil
“What’s fertile in a wound? Why dwell in one? Wounds promise authenticity and profundity, beauty and singularity, desirability. They summon sympathy. They bleed enough light to write by. They yield scars full of stories and slights that become rallying cries. They break upon the fuming fruits of damaged engines and dust these engines with color. And yet—eyond and beneath their fruits—hey still hurt. The boons of a wound never get rid of it; they just bloom from it.”— Leslie Jamison
Note: "Wound Dwelling" is language drawn from Leslie Jamison's work on wounds and pain.
Week by Week
Week 1 // The Survivor Body(ies)
Week 2 // The Survivor Body as a "Failed Body" and Using Failure to Create
Week 3 // Wound Dwelling as a Creative Practice an Embodied & Somatic Practice
Week 4 // Wound Dwelling as an Embodied & Somatic Practice
Week 5 // Wound Dwelling: The Body(ies) in Pleasure and Pain
Week 6 // Wound Dwelling: Moving Beyond Dominant Narratives
General outline for each week:
• Review guidelines for holding space for each other and writing into traumatic material in order to foster a safe(r) space
• 2-3 readings from other writers drawing from poetry, creative non-fiction, and a little trauma theory
• Questions to generate discussion
• Offerings of writing prompts, response, and discussion
Who Should Take This Class
This class is for anyone who is looking to mine the embodied knowing of traumatic experience — all bodies, genders, and identities. Whether someone is looking to delve more deeply into personal experience or needing to get through writer’s block that lives deep in the well of their body it will be helpful for people who are writing memoir, creative non-fiction, poetry, and fiction.
This is an online class. Each week, a new section of the course will open full of resources, reflections, exercises, discussion questions, and writing prompts. Students should expect to spend 2-3 hours per week perusing resources and readings, answering a discussion question, engaging in exercises, and responding to peers’ work.
Note from the teacher: Working with trauma is inherently risky and challenging writing often comes from places of harm. I want to offer a space that is safe but also know that I can’t guarantee (because of the vast scope of trauma) that we won’t be triggered at times. I’m very invested in creating a container for us to write in and I will offer guidelines for writing together that honor individual experience and affirm the difficult writing we will share with each other. I come to this work as a survivor of multiple forms of violence, as a writer and artist and I have a background as a community organizer and as an emergency room rape crisis counselor. I want to be in and create spaces that honor the myriad ways our survivorhood can look, spaces that honor all genders, identities and experiences and I want to be open to growing and shifting the spaces I create to meet the needs of the individual people I work
That said, it is important to note that I am not a licensed therapist so if you feel like you are at a particularly tender or charged moment in your healing process it might also be helpful to have a therapist or someone you trust to be on deck to offer further support. If you have specific concerns or accessibility needs, please contact the facilitator.