I went to a Corporeal Writing Workshop! The focus of the weekend workshop was exhausting metaphor. Lidia asked us what are our core metaphors, the ones that come up over and over again in our writing and conversation, what are the few lenses that we see life through? Are you always talking about digging deeper, going with the flow? Are you a politician who can’t stop declaring an intent to ram something through? ARE ALL OF YOUR POEMS ABOUT BIRDS?
Lidia Yuknavitch is one of those perfect heroes that maybe everyone hasn’t heard of but who I always forget everyone else doesn’t fawn over too, because they should. Like the time that I was at the Inbound Conference in Boston and had waited in line for three hours to get a good seat to see Michelle Obama, only to have her appearance, surprise, be an interview with ROXANE GAY! And that moment when you are shrieking louder than everyone around you. Let’s just say, if you are not a fan, you should be.
We wrote to exhaust our metaphors. To wade in them, listen to them. What are they trying to say? What are the sensations, stories, traumas associated with them? What is your first memory with the metaphor?
List ten, write three. Pick one on the list and think of all the ways you could write about it. Juniper: the high desert tree, my daughter, the choosing of a name, the symbol of her name. Write about 3 of them for 200 words, twice, she said, exhausting the metaphor but not each section, because “we’re wordy motherfuckers.”
She talks about writing the different aspects of a metaphor as a process of braided writing, and I see myself standing in front of community college comp students explaining why Woven is so moving. I realize this is how she wrote that piece, in a vague sense, that sort of continually dull realization that the writers you reach towards, the writers that split you open, are writers in process and with process and it all starts to feel clear for a moment.
She calls a piece that you feel is something a ditty, a little ditty. She said you don’t have to be writing little ditties. That this wasn’t a workshop about crafting and polishing, but a generative workshop designed to break something inside of you so that the writing spills out. That it would keep spilling out if we kept returning to that swollen heart feeling.
There were guided writing prompts and somatic experiences [include names and links]. We watched the leaves fall and seasons turn inside our bodies and felt them collect at our feet. Luckily, I am always so confident in my body’s wisdom that I don’t write down experiential prompts afterwards, so I can return to the way my bones stretched apart and the colors (oh, y’all, the room has light/color magic), but I can’t really give too much away.
We each read once, on the final day, and introduction/creative/process/feelings throughout, to share ourselves as writers and our experience in the workshop. Both Friday and Saturday night we had writing assignments, and there were long spurts of writing in the workshop space. I liked this balance of generative but not focused on production.
The writers who were there were the loveliest: and myself, feeling other with that enigmatic and questionable privilege of an M.F.A. And Lidia with her Ph.D., looking at me laughing about it. Their fucking schools, their fucking rules.