To me, art is that most profound form of expression because it integrates the body, experience, intellect, and the senses. —Melissa Febos
*I want to confess*
Four words, a short sentence, that signifies an admission of guilt or trespass. Confess a crime. Confess a sin. Some sort of mortal wound that only an act of God can reprieve. I want to confess, I’m in love with the act of confession. The bearing of my insides onto the page. My lived experience shooting out from my fingertips as signifiers appear on the screen guided by the flashing cursor. The genre of creative nonfiction is known for confession, but the more confessional an essay, the less it is valued. When a man confesses, like Fitzgerald in “The Crack Up,” other men, like Hemingway, call them a woman. Confession is feminine, and feminine is bad.
We, women, are trapped in a linguistic system. The words I type are from this phallocentric system. The system of signifiers and signified. Saussure’s tree and arbor. Iriguray claims that women are trapped in this system with no way of expressing themselves. “Woman has no signifier” she says. All the signifiers/signified come from men, as do the myths or symbols it produces. Iriguray says, “The sexes are now defined only as they are determined in and through language. Whose laws it must not be forgotten, have been prescribed by male subjects for centuries” (87) Anger is anger is anger is a red faced man with thick veins coming out of his neck. Or maybe, it’s hysteria, or it’s Eve eating the apple because she needed to know things beyond him, beyond what Adam had named. Like confession, the notions of this go back to Genesis with Adam cataloging the whole universe, and Eve having only desire.
2013, I am in the doctor’s office. I have recently finished a clinical trial for the Hepatitis C medicine that will come to be known as Harvoni. I had taken the Harvoni plus ribavirin for eight weeks. In that time, my legs were rendered useless except to bring me pain and sink me into the bed. Side effects like a prickling of fire ants on my scalp, a shattering of glass inside my hips, and the slipping of my mind into a grey fog that settled thickly all around me. Now, the medicine is over, and I cannot return to my former self, no matter how much I try. I have gained weight. My body looks different, the way it bulges, the way my face swells. I can’t run anymore. I try, but nausea hits and all my energy drains like I am falling into a coma.
I sit in this office under the fluorescent lights. I’m in a chair and not even on the table with the crinkling paper because the doctor isn’t going to do an exam. He is annoyed with me. I have trouble explaining my symptoms. I only know that I feel off. My body feels off. I am emotional. I am gaining weight. Exercise is impossible. He stands in front of the closed door. His fully covered belly pokes over his belt and out through his white coat. He holds a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other. He says I’m gaining weight because I’m not watching what I eat. When I cry and plead with him to listen to me, he writes me a prescription for anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds. I yell at him. I am thirty-seven years old and have never needed those type of drugs. I beg him to try harder. I know something is wrong. He tells me that the mind is powerful, and that if I continue to believe something is wrong, then it will be. I don’t have the right signifiers to tell him what is wrong with me. Or maybe I do have the signifiers, but he can’t understand the symbols.
After six months of refusing anti-depressants, he finally draws blood. My thyroid level is 12. It should be between .5 and 2.5. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include exercise intolerance, weight gain, and excessive emotions.
“There is no prediscursive reality. Every reality is based upon and designed by a discourse,” quotes Iriguray of Lacan (88). Every reality. As in a woman’s reality too. All designed by a discourse which was constructed by language which was constructed by men. Women were designed by men. Women are signified as “not-men.” A lack. Lack of penis. Lack of language. Lack of discourse. Lack of authority. So then, if women have no discourse, then are they prediscursive? And how does man explain woman? By sexualizing her of course. Lacan says we are talking about fucking, and that language agitates woman (88).
Irguray responds, “Female sexualization is thus the effect of a logical requirement, of the existence of language that is transcendent with respect of bodies, which would necessitate, in order—nevertheless—to become incarnate…taking women one by one” (89). Language sexualizes women. Meaning in order to acknowledge women, language sexualizes them by describing them based on the presence of male sexual organs or a lack thereof. Iriguray continues, “Take that to mean that woman does not exist, but that language exists. That woman does not exist owing to the fact that language—a language—rules as master, and that she threatens—as a sort of “prediscursive reality”?—to disrupt its order” (89). Woman, of course, exists. But this is restating woman as lack, as not. So language sexualizes a woman to try and explain her. However, language isn’t mastering her. It is trying to figure her out. She is outside of discourse and language, and therefore when she uses language, by her very being, she disrupts the system of language and all its discourses. So what then happens when she uses this language, which is all about her not-body, to write through her body and put her consciousness (internal life) and her experiential self on the page?
Helene Cixous exclaims:
She must write her self, because this is the invention of a new insurgent writing which, when the moment of her liberation has come, will allow her to carry out the indispensable ruptures and transformations in her history (943).
Personal writing/confessional writing for women is liberation. Cixous believes that a woman writing her history, the ruptures/pain, and the transformations/changes of her position will lead to liberation. Liberation from what?
By writing herself, woman will return to the body which has been more than confiscated from her, which has been turned into the uncanny stranger on display—the ailing or dead figure, which so often turns out to be the nasty companion, the cause and locations of inhibitions. Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time (943).
Liberation of the body. A return of the body out of captivity. But what held the body hostage? Is it Rubin’s notion of woman as gift and that within capitalism woman will never be free? Or is it Iriguray’s hysteria from being outside of language and Freud’s belief that a woman is all body and no mind? Where are our bodies and who has them?
Cixous continues, “Write yourself. Your body must be heard. Only then will the resources of the unconscious spring forth” (943). A woman claims sovereignty over her internal life and her body when she writes her story. Sovereignty. Absolute control. While we cannot get outside of the phallocentric language, it’s even in our minds, but, what happens when we put our mind and our experiences on the page? Our internal thoughts on the page reveal a female consciousness. Our experiences on the page are our bodies. All our senses are experienced through the body. Even the brain is a part of the body. Confessional writing by women reveals women through their own words. Yet, how many times have I heard, “This only looks inward. This needs to be more universal.” Or when I worked at a literary journal, “this is straight memoir.” The essay in question was a well written essay about a woman coming out to her parents as a lesbian, and their rejection of her, and how they “adopted” the pregnant and single waitress at their favorited restaurant to be their replacement daughter. Yet, it was too “memoir.” Too “personal.” The personal is feminine and feminine is “bad.” The essay was extraordinary and should have been published, but my “superiors” wouldn’t allow it. They said it was too inward, not universal, and all I could think was “not male.”
Felski states that autobiographical writing of women has been segmented and episodic, “focuses upon the domestic and personal life…fragmented, episodic…lacking the unifying structure imposed upon a life by a pursuit of a public career” (86). Essays in the genre of creative nonfiction are often fragmented or segmented or braided, and are often personal. The non-linear quality of women’s personal writing is due, according to Felski, to their lack of pursuit of a public career. Women’s lives are often disrupted (or ruptured, Cixous) by their domestic duties or men, and this causes their writing to be like episodes and not a long chronological tracing of their lives for some deeper meaner (87).
I agree that women’s personal writing is often segmented, and this continues through today. Maggie Nelson’s Bluets consists of numbered vignettes. Jill Talbot’s essay collection The Way We Weren’t is filled with fragmented or segmented essays. Ghostbread by Sonja Livingston is short episodes that only last a page or two. My own essays, including this one, are fragmented, or presented in segments. Even Joan Didion writes in episodes, take her essay, “The White Album.” However, I don’t believe it is because of a lack of a pursuit of a public career. Nelson, Talbot, and Livingston are successful writers. Nelson won an NEA grant, and a McArthur Genius Grant. Didion is prolific and needs no explanation, and the rest, including Nelson, are all tenured or tenured track professors at major universities. Women should not be defined by their lack, and neither should their writing.
So why then the segments? A man’s form is linear. It follows the rules of the system. A woman writes in a way true to herself. It isn’t that she is disrupted, it is that she disrupts. The use of segments and fragments subverts the linear system by forcing the reader or critic to learn a new way of reading and thinking. A woman’s writing narrates her internal life and her lived life. A lot of confessional writing is about ruptures. Even Fitzgerald wrote of his own alcoholism. Lacy M. Johnson wrote of her rape. Maggie Nelson wrote about a failed love affair, and the murder of her Aunt. Jill Talbot wrote of alcoholism, love lost, and single motherhood. Sonja Livingston wrote about growing up in poverty. I write about rape, prostitution, heroin addiction, illness, and loss. These disruptions occur, and going back to Cixous, we transcend them by writing them. But it isn’t just solipsistic writing or navel gazing. We are designing discourse, and contributing to a process that affects all within the network. We are using the language system to tell our stories which makes us more than lack, more than not man. These stories shape a discourse about women, controlled by women. We may still be confined to the signifiers/signified, but we control the symbols.
When Maggie Nelson, in Bluets, says “fucking may no way interfere with the actual use of language,” (8) it doesn’t conjure up Lacan discussing fucking and that language sexualizes woman. Instead, it conjures up the blue tarp outside the window on the roof next to the Chelsea Hotel. It shows that her fucking in no way alters language. It does not change the system, but it does change the symbol produced. Of course, she is writing her way through a break up, and is using the fucking as something that didn’t salvage her relationship. When she writes in the opening of The Argonauts of being fucked in the ass, it isn’t objectification, or wreckage, or a failure, it is love. She has moved out of disruption and into discourse. She is changing her own symbols where the same language she once used to show pain, now shows pleasure and love.
My bedroom, the summer of 2013. My body is disrupted. The hepatitis C medicine takes over my body, takes it away from me. My body had been taken before by addiction with its incessant longings for more, which led to the constant poking of flesh and scabs all over the arms, which led to the disease of Hepatitis C. But I also have sold my body for drugs, for crack, which seems so strange. As in, for crack, and not my primary drug of heroin. But heroin gave me a semblance of control, or rather an illusion, or better yet, a delusional belief of control. Crack took me over in a violent way and wouldn’t let me loose until I was depleted.
Back to the room. I am bedridden and alone. My legs are covered in welts like a belt has flogged me over and over, but there was no belt or beating. My hips are a tenuous ache. My scalp itches and burns. I call my mother crying, asking her to come and help me wash my hair, even though it is not dirty. My mind is inside a fog. My viral load had been 9 million. Two weeks in, it dropped to 200,000. Four weeks in, and the virus was gone, but I had to stay the course of treatment to lower the risk of recurrence. It is in this state that I realize that I have lost my body and the self. I become conscious of the disruption, of the captivity of my body to the medicine and its side effects.
My best friend brings me a copy of Bluets. I read it, only able to take in a percentage of it due to the impairment from the meds. Next I read Don’t Let Me Be Lonely by Claudia Rankine. After that is In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler about the women raped in the Congo, about her own body falling apart from chemo. At the end of August, I’m supposed to start an MFA program for fiction, but I have no desire to write fiction. I want to write the body. I need to write the body, my body. My unconscious knows that I am disrupted, and I need a way to transcend this rupture. Perhaps, this is when I experienced Iriguray’s hysteria, the way I felt disrupted, and chained. So I write my first essay, a collage about rape and prostitution during my addicted years. The next one I write is about the medical treatment. All this is true, except for this being my first experience with “hysteria.”
In The Limits of Critique, Rita Felski discusses the interrogative suspicion that is attached to critique. She states, “All too often, we see critics tying themselves into knots in order to prove that a text harbors signs of dissonance and dissent—as if there were no other ways to justifying its merits” (27). She claims that the practice of theory has become like a detective that must interrogate texts to see what it is that the text is concealing, and that what it is concealing is what gives it merit. She mentions the different approaches, such as Marx and Foucault’s picking apart of power structures but offers no solution. How if one uses this approach, then they are working to “demystify” or “defamiliarize” a false consciousness, and this means that texts hold a false consciousness that conceals its true nature and must be deconstructed. Felski argues that there needs to be another way to approach critique that isn’t suspicious or interrogating, but also isn’t surface or based purely on aesthetics.
Felski presents Actor Network Theory as a map for how to approach critique. She explains that texts are nonhuman actors and can only have meaning within relational interpretations. She continues that history is transtemporal and doesn’t exist in its own box, but still affects different time periods and the present. She states:
Let us concede, first of all, that a stress on the transtemporal movement of texts and their lively agency is not entirely alien to the history of interpretation. If actor-network theory is a philosophy of relation, so, in its more modest way, is hermeneutics, which casts texts and readers as cocreators of meaning. (173)
Texts and theories are dependent on their historical correlations, but also on the writers and readers of both. Felski calls readers and the texts cocreators. The reader’s interpretation of the text gives the text meaning, but yet, the text, by itself, also has meaning. She says this is vital to literary studies, and using the analogy of ANT, she claims it will “spawn new networks,” or in this case, discourses.
Earlier in the text, she mentions briefly that with the feminists’ critique of language, that theories were changed and new ones developed. She states that “Feminists were among the first critics to emphasize an affective dimension of interpretation, to talk about reading as embodied practice, to conceive of literature as a means of creative self-fashioning” (29). Feminists looked at language and how language affected women, who were both readers and writers. I want to push this further. This holds true for any of the identities that are labeled as not the default, and all the intersections of other not the default that exist within a person. To be clear, I am speaking of race, class, sex, gender, and even displaced or disenfranchised persons, and how these identities are also left out of the language system, and then described, often through subjugation and violence, by the white male language, and also when speaking and writing, they have to use this same phallocentric linguistic system. When people of these identities, with or without intersections with other identities, write their stories, it is disruptive (remember, disruption is good) as well, and creates discourse by controlling the narrative around these identities. However, I am primarily looking at women because I am a woman, and I do not think it is right of me to describe or prescribe the written stories of other identities. I do not mean to reduce a person down to an identity contingent on the previously mentioned categories, I instead mean that the system does this, and this system is disrupted when a person of color, or a person of non-binary sex, or non-binary gender, or gay, or an immigrant or refugee, speaks or writes their story. While I am focusing on women, and I am a white woman, I do believe that intersectional voices are extremely important and deserve more space than my own.
So what specifically do I mean by adding to a discourse? When a woman speaks or writes her story, she adds to the discourse on women, and does it in a non-Lacanian way. Meaning she isn’t being objectified by the signfiers/signified object she produces. She is defining her own subjectivity by writing her story. She is still using the same signifiers/signified, but the meaning produced is no longer dependent on a phallocentric perspective.
As mentioned, Talbot’s memoir The Way We Weren’t is a collection of personal essays that deal with the absence of her daughter’s father, the writer’s struggle with alcohol, and being a single mother. A quarter of the way through is the essay, “Running Away from Running Away,” which reveals the time that Talbot left academia, and left her daughter with family, and then moved to a small town in Montana. She plans on finding a job, and bringing her daughter with her eventually. She lives at the Traveler’s Inn, and drinks at the Iron Horse Pub. She has two months of this until she runs out of money. She writes, “I have come to this city to find an apartment and a job so Indie and I can move here. I cannot know this now, but years later, I’ll see this decision to leave academia as some attempt to replay those best days with Kenny when I did this very thing…” (60). This starts with a normal narration of events in the real time of Jill the character/narrator in this essay. She is looking for a job, and once she has it, she will move her daughter there with her. But Jill does not merely confess. Confession for this essay would be defined as “to tell personal and intimate details of one’s life” and not perform a religious admission of sin. Talbot actually examines and reflects on the intimate moments of her life. This is called meta-memoir. Talbot explains it as:
Simply put, meta-writing is writing that is self-conscious, self-reflective, and aware of itself as an artifice. The writer is aware she’s writing, and she’s aware there’s a reader, which goes all the way back to Montaigne’s often-used address “dear reader,” or his brief introduction to Essais: “To the Reader.” (Talbot, Guernica)
This technique puts the reflection of the writer on the page instead of the writer merely giving a play-by-play of what happened. The reader becomes aware of the writer on the page because the writer allows their presence to enter into the text. This also creates moments where the reader interacts with the text. Talbot’s presence as the writer manifests on the page when she writes that she didn’t know her reasons back then, when the actual event was happening, but she does know them as she is writing the event. She includes her reasons and makes the reader aware of Talbot as the writer, and not just a character. She disrupts the narrative to add insight so that the reader isn’t left with their own assumptions. She incorporates meta moves throughout the essay and through the entire collection.
Aside from the meta move, she allows us into the conscious mind of Jill the character, “With the hooded and shawled and shrouded around me, I know that I could go as far into disappearance as it will take me, as I am close to having nothing, and I, too, am without a home. Here I am not a mother, just a woman driving an Escape” (66). This is while Jill, the character, is sitting on a corner with transient people, drinking beer, and smoking a cigarette. She reveals that she is trying to disappear. While she is not in the same dire circumstances as the people sitting with her, as she can always go back to academia (and she does), she recognizes that they have disappeared. While they are literally wrapped up in sweaters and coats, she describes them as “shrouded” to show that they are not seen, they have also disappeared. She has a desire to be one of them, and in this moment, she is. In that moment, she isn’t a mother. She still has a daughter, but in that moment, her identity as a mother is “shrouded.” She is, like the make of the car she drives, attempting to escape from her identity.
Talbot has already added to Cixous’s l’ecriture feminine by not just writing her story, but also by putting her consciousness on the page. She has disrupted the text with her internal reflections. But she also is not just writing about being a woman, she is also a mother, and in academia, and a writer. She has many intersections and she is adding to the discourse of all these identities. She is definitely disrupting the sexist notions that certain psychoanalysts have about mothers. The whole collection reveals more about Talbot and her daughter, including a scene where Talbot choking from carbon dioxide poisoning drags her semiconscious daughter through the house, and out into the yard away from the walls that are holding in the carbon dioxide silently spewing from a furnace. A whole discourse on mothers could be born out of this collection. How mothers are humans, and have pain, and longing, but are also heroic. Talbot does not mention theory like Nelson does in The Argonauts, which challenges discourse on motherhood too, and also includes intersections of queerness and non-binary sexes. However, Talbot’s method is just as relevant, effective, and emotionally moving. What better way than to create discourse on certain identities than using the actual minds and thoughts and language of the people inhabiting those identities?
But I don’t wish to stop there. What about Felski and her ideas of ANT? I believe that deconstruction is great, but that it doesn’t end there. If I had only deconstructed Talbot’s essay, then I would have used existing discourse to reveal Lacanian ideas of the mother/child, or maybe even the Freudian cathecting mother/object to reveal that Talbot was Winnicott’s imperfect mother, or that her struggles reveal a Marxist classism and woman as object. But instead, I discussed how she adds to a discourse, how she, like the feminists mentioned by Felski, embodies a discourse and not something that needs to be psychoanalyzed and judged, and is not trying to conceal a false consciousness created by capitalism. While, that could be fun, what purpose would it serve? I am not saying that those types of approaches are not useful. Of course, they are. It is great to deconstruct systems and reveal injustices, and to reveal how the patriarchy has basically defined everything including the delineations of race, class, gender, and sex. So instead, I looked for what the text what telling me about these identities who are prediscursive (remember Lacan and Iriguray, from earlier). Talbot defined for herself what a mother is. What a woman is. What a writer is. As well as how it all intersects. She embodies all of this, and then presents it on the page. But so what? Now what? This isn’t where it ends.
This is where ANT comes in. Do you see the meta-moves I am making?
When I was sixteen, I was angry. I was sad. I was a bubbling froth of emotions that overflowed everywhere and left holes in my bedroom walls. My oldest brother had died two years earlier from AIDS. My father was drunk. Not like sometimes, but all the time. My mother worked two jobs to pay our bills. Enter Bikini Kill. Enter Riot Grrrl zines. I didn’t know anything about third wave feminism, but when Kathleen Hanna screamed “your world, not ours, your world, not mine,” I knew what she meant. When she shouted, “Revolution grrrl style now,” I clenched my fist. I could not articulate all of my emotions. I could not articulate the oppressive systems of Reagan and homophobia that helped put my brother in an early grave, or explain anything about capitalism, or the phallocentric sexist language system, but I was really pissed off. I was hurt. I was ruptured. I screamed along with Bikini Kill. I read riot grrrl zines. I did not feel alone. I was connected to something larger. I was no longer this one girl in pain. I was part of a network of other girls. This saved my teen life, saved me from completely falling in on myself.
Then that summer of sickness. After the addiction. After the recovery. After rape/trauma/prostitution. I was in bed in pain from pink and blue pills that would free my blood of disease, and my best friend handed me Bluets. From there, I paused on reading fiction, and consumed creative nonfiction. Memoirs and essay collections. From Sarah Manguso to Samantha Irby to Anais Nin to Claudia Rankine to Margo Jefferson to Jenny Boully to Eve Ensler to Chelsea Hodson. All women. I pretty much stopped reading anything by white men. I needed a break. I needed these discourses. I read Kiese Laymon. I read Ta’Nehisi Coates. I read Michelle Tea. I needed to read their identities and how they exist in the world. How they use language to disrupt the way the system has defined them, and even how added theory or speculation or line breaks blur the genre and disrupts the line between fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Creative nonfiction, and all of its confessions, saved my life, much like Bikini Kill and the riot grrrls. I was suddenly connected and in relationship with these writers and their stories. They added to my life, to my internal thoughts and feelings. Telling my stories helps me to transcend whatever it is that needs transcending, but connecting with these other stories, these lived stories, these texts that embodied women, men of color, and queerness transformed my life. When I met Maggie Nelson at AWP 2014 in Minneapolis, she asked, “How do I know you?” and I responded, “We’ve never met, but, yes, you know me,” even though it was I who had read her book.
Actor Network Theory is all about how we are all connected. Latour states of ANT, “It does not wish to add social networks to social theory, but to rebuild networks out of social theory” (1459). My need for connection, for relationships, was there before I ever stepped into a “network” of Riot Grrrls or women writers. Our subjectivity relies on the way we are all connected. The way we see ourselves positioned in society is arbitrary and based on societal constructs, much like how the signs in language work, and how our arbitrary positioning gives us meaning, or status, a signification. However, Latour is stating that these social positions are not the point, and does not drive ANT. Instead, from social theory we need to rebuild these networks. That rebuilding happens when we find that we are all part of the system, influenced by the system, and are interconnected within it. We are all subjects and our identities are interdependent upon each other. So why not focus on our connectedness, and build relationships. Latour states:
…semiotic actors turning them into new ontological hybrids, world making entities; by doing such a counter-copernican revolution it builds a completely empty frame for describing how any entity builds its world; finally, it retains from the descriptive project only very few terms—its infralanguage—which are just enough to sail in between frames of reference, and grants back to actors themselves the ability to build precise accounts of one another by the very way they behave; the goal of building an overarching explanation— that is for ANT, a centre of calculation that would hold or replace or punctuate all the others—is displaced by the search for explications, that is for the deployment of as many elements as possible accounted through as many metalanguages as possible. (1467)
Language creates stories that tell us about humans, and the way they exist in the world. But yet, we intersect into these different frameworks to see how other humans exist in the world. Crossing into different frameworks connects the frames, a process of connection, a movement inside a larger network and creates an infralanguage, meaning an ability to see within these frames and understand what is being built and how it all it connects. However, I do not wish to do away with all explanations, but like Felski said, not everything has to be an interrogation, and instead we look to understand each other’s metalanguage. This harkens back to meta-memoir and the way that these meta-moves allow us to breach the barrier between page and writer, and glimpse into how the writer is building their experience and revealing who they are, and how they exist, and think and feel in the world. This is what is important, breaching the barriers that societal systems have constructed for us, the false consciousnesses, the hierarchy of identities. Felski says this is how we could approach literary criticism. Look at what the text is revealing to us, and how it connects to us as humans, as intersubjects, and how we all exist in our own ways within the constructed system. She asks, “Why downplay the role of art works in ensuring their own survival? Why overlook the way sin which they weasel into our hearts and minds, their dexterity in generating attachments?” (163) Why do we devalue the way a text affects us, moves us, changes us, and connects us? We elevate fictions that reveal truths, so why not texts that embody a real person, and their own stories. We need to stop devaluing our experiences and relationships. After all, it is the system, its constructed positions, its oppression and language, its economy, that critics love to critique, that gave us this idea that autobiographical writing is feminine and that feminine is self-serving/nazel gazing/gratuitous/hysterical/bad. We need to see our connections and interdependence. And what better genre to do that than one that is autobiographical, and confessional, and meta? I am not trying to create a hierarchy of genres. Poetry and fiction are equally important. I am merely asserting that creative nonfiction is just as valid and important because of what it brings to discourse by revealing these personal frameworks, as well as the way the genre has connected people through the lived experience and internal lives captured on the page. It is its own infralanguage.
I have used the personal to reveal these connections, but perhaps my experience isn’t enough, yet, according to ANT, it should be. I am revealing my framework, my subjectivity using texts, theory, and meta-moves which goes beyond me disrupting the writer/text barrier, because I am also attempting to embody a text by using language, confession, literary criticism, and theory. However, the human race has a long history of the transformations of lives and the building of relationships through stories. My need for connection, led me to Maggie Nelson, which led me to Jill Talbot, which lead me to others, which lead me to writing, which lead to publication, and to others reading my writing. In an interview I did with Profane Journal, I told the editor Jacob Little about Bluets changing my life, and my course in life. And he, a man, responded, “Me too. I had a similar experience” (Little). Because of a text, we became aware of our shared experience which transcended the constructed social structures. After a reading, in which I read about being thirteen and lost, and in love with Sylvia Plath, and in the guidance counselor’s office trying to conceal all my pain, and the fact that I had been changing the grades on my report card, a young black girl, around fourteen, approached me with tears in her eyes. She said that I had told her story. We connected, a white woman and a young black girl. When I was in rehab, a black man was my counselor, and we told each other our stories, and we connected. We had lived through the same addiction. I am not a Pollyanna. I am not asserting that we should all just tell our stories and that racism and all the social constructs of capitalism will fall away. We absolutely need to critique these systems and bring about change. But we do need to change the way we define ourselves as subjects, and how we allow our positioning within these systems to define us. When we hear each other’s stories, see our faces in the other, we connect. Telling our true stories, our ruptures, the way we exist in the world, especially if we are voices that have been deemed outside of language, and identified by our lack, our not white cis-maleness, it is transformative, and creates a network which ripples with transformation.
Before I ever read Talbot, or met Talbot, I had written:
I want to let go and leave it all behind and sleep on the grass with a forty and not have to worry where my next fix is from. Not have to worry about withdrawals or cars in impound lots and mothers who will get cars out of impounds lots, mothers whose hearts get broken every day, mothers who kick you out at times and you worry where you’ll sleep and if it’ll be safe. I once heard a man say that the first time he slept in an abandoned building that he was scared but then eventually he got used to it, he adapted. I want to be there. All the way there where I don’t have to worry anymore about being me because by that point surely the me I am now will be gone. (Moore)
I too had wanted to disappear. I too wanted to not be who I was. I thought it would lead to freedom. I couldn’t obliterate the system or my position in it, so I thought an obliteration of self would lead me outside of what I was trying to escape, which was myself. Years later, when I read Talbot’s essay about wanting to disappear, I felt like she understood me. She and I had this connection. Creative Nonfiction connects readers and writers more obviously than other genres just by its very act of meta-confession. May we stay hysterical. May we keep disrupting. May we find each other in ourselves.
*Kat Moore was the winner of Profane's 2016 Nonfiction Prize. Another essay was a finalist in the Best of Net 2017. She has essays in Hippocampus, Blunderbuss, Whiskey Island, Yemassee, Salt Hill, New South, Pithead Chapel, and forthcoming in Split Lip, The Rumpus, and the anthology Bodies of Truth: Personal Narratives on Illness, Disability, and Medicine. Her poems can be found in Permafrost, Maudlin House, Souvenir, decomP, and forthcoming in the Infinite Eros: Deleuze, Guattari and Feminist Couplings.
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Moore, Kat. “Where Do You Go From Alston Street?” Hippocampus Magazine, April, 2016. https://www.hippocampusmagazine.com/2016/04/where-do-you-go-from-alston-street-by-kat-moore/
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 From the album Yeah, Yeah, Yeah on the Kill Rockstars Label, 1992
 From their demo album, 1992
The quote attributed to Lidia Y at the top is actually Lydia Y quoting Melissa Febos. https://lithub.com/lidia-yuknavitch-the-time-i-snuck-into-ken-keseys-fiction-class/ReplyDelete