I have recently had the pleasure of working with Underneath This, an excellent site that features artist interviews, reviews, and other writings related to the arts, feminism, and activism. I am honored to share my most recent essay, “Writing Towards the Center,” on their website. Below is an excerpt; for the full piece, please visit visit them over here.
Writing Towards the Center
At a job interview at a university, three men sitting across from me at a table. On my CV it says that I am currently working on a book about the color blue. I have been saying this for years without writing a word. It is, perhaps, my way of making my life feel “in progress” rather than a sleeve of ash falling off a lit cigarette. One of the men asks, Why blue? People ask me this question often. I never know how to respond. We don’t get to choose what or whom we love, I want to say. We just don’t get to choose.
–Maggie Nelson, Bluets
I’m re-reading Maggie Nelson because I have started and stopped this essay three times, and I keep resisting the very thing I have been trying to write about. I keep drifting away like a college kid seduced by Buzzfeed the night before turning in a big paper. The page is blank, and I am elsewhere. But Bluets feels like a good place to start; it is familiar, comfortable, a book I have read many times. Like Nelson, I have also been working on a book of poems for a couple of years, invoking its name when people ask, but most of the work of creating it has not involved writing at all. My blue, and the center of my book, is my body, and my body is the very thing I will do almost anything to ignore.
A few years ago I was diagnosed with a genetic connective tissue condition. All of the physical quirks I had become used to—hypermobile joints, easy bruising, chronic joint pain, constant exhaustion, a heart murmur—suddenly had a name, and things I thought were normal about my embodied experience took on new meaning.
Collagen, the organic glue that holds our muscles, tendons, bones, and cartilage together, is not always made perfectly. The word defective gets tossed around in this diagnosis, but I’d rather say that there’s just not enough collagen to go around. Connective tissue cushions parts of the body that would otherwise rub together, and it is the rubbing together of these unprotected parts that causes me pain. Just as we don’t get to choose what or whom we love, we don’t get to choose our bodies. But I am trying—I am learning—well, I want to learn—to claim mine. And writing is part of that.