Julene Tripp Weaver Jul 10, 2008 16:45:42 GMT 2
Post by moira on Jul 10, 2008 16:45:42 GMT 2
Writing from the Body
Julene Tripp Weaver
There is a continuum that lands itself in onto the page.
First, there must be a body.
Without our body there would be no art, no writing.
The body is born with automatic reflexes.
A child reaches for the mother, for the object.
First, the mouth sucking, the hand reaching.
The reflex, the gesture, communicates from the body a need or a want.
Attached to this is sound, the calling for what one wants, what one needs.
There is urge to create, to communicate, to express that starts through a gesture.
Gestures show that speech has an opening and something to open to. Speech is always a direction, a flight, a vector; it leans forward, pursues. Gestures are not simply accidental appendages to speech. Rather, speech needs gestures: to open up the stubborn resistance of the world that refuses to be spoken, to free blockages and find paths around those that can’t be freed—and finally when all else fails, to carry the excess tension, the stress of the body out into the air, like flying buttresses.1
Sound comes before language—tears, cries, screams, verbalizations when one does not get fed, when one is hungry, when one has a basic need—in a body one always has needs.
The verbal rendition of emotional material this demands a different transmutation. And so people must strain to force a strong feeling into the straight jacket of verbal expression. Often, as emotionality rises, so do sputtering, gesticulation, and mute frustration. Poetry, a bridge between the neo cortical and limbic brains, is simultaneously improbable and powerful. Frost wrote that a poem “begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a home sickness, a love sickness. It is a never a thought to begin with.”2
The Zuni Indians have certain words that must be accompanied by hand gestures in order to be comprehensible.3
Our nervous system develops.
We learn to write in school using instruments: pencils, crayons, and pens
They are an extension of our body.
We are told to write neat between small blue lines in a book.
We bring our lines to paper with our hand, with our gestures.
There is that first line on the page, the drawings of our childhood selves.
The body, the needs of the body, in gestures, in verbalizations,
We write out of a complex set of innate need to express through our gestures.the beginnings of articulation, before language.
Often these gestures are cut off in childhood, stymied, contained, stigmatized.
Early imprints shape our nervous system.
We incorporate these early imprints into our writing patterns.
The hand goes to the page and starts a line, ancient as art in caves.
Poetry, rather than being like typesetting, is a kind of reverse carving out, or a carving outward, in which the substance from which the poet carves is constantly being produced by the very gesture of carving. In this sense, poetry resembles dance more than any other art form. Just as the body in dance modulates space by carving itself outward, and thus gives space a center or focus, so speech in poetry sweeps from side to side in self-proliferating slices or layers which modulate silence, that particular silence called listening.4
In the movement work I do there is breath, sound, micromovements
and waves to slow the body down to its biorhythm.
Connective tissue functions at a rate of four hertz.
We live in an electronic age, computers, video games, our system adapts.
We speed up.
We use breath to slow down to a biorhythm, to access internal sensations
and to grow awareness of our inner landscape.Writing is about awareness.
We are in a fertile landscape, wary, longing, filled with the situations of consciousness (dreams, cant, obsessive scum of language, allusions, slips, memory, week-old dialogue, scraps of lust and used scraps of theory).5
We break repetitive patterns to find where our gestures want to continue to open
into unexplored territories.We begin to recognize internal states,
to move beyond what we are used to feeling and hearing.We use different breaths to create internal space,
to slow down, to grow awareness of our internal sensations.Then we go to the page using this perturbation the breath has caused
we go to the line with this new awareness we are growing.The tip of the pen is the end of our nervous system like a cane
is the end of the nervous system for a blind person.In this hand-to page-exploration there is no writer’s block.
There is breath, movement, and allowing the gesture to express.
The gesture, the line, is our nervous system expressed on the page.
If ‘stuck,’ as a hypothetical, you simply shift modalities—
go back to the breath,
or back to a sound,
or back into the movement,
or stay with the line in the current awareness.
Open anything anywhere. The Freudian secret H.D. knew too. Not to propose, but to have the work propose through her, her job being patience. Receptivity. Silence. Fearlessness. Permission. That is—her job is to claim a praxis. Not “writing” exactly, but transmissions, being a wire, being wired (we say) and making writing. Making marks to read. Hauled in, released, hauled in, released, when read, the release, a visceral pleasure, becomes extensive. Underground. Webbing. Veins. Caves with junctures joined. A beat, beat, beat like a heartbeat.6
We use big pages to expand our gestures.
This is an experiential process, an invitation to explore the world of the body.
How does your gesture reach the page? Or does it?
How does it move?
What markings, what layered meanings will you find there?
The crafting comes later.
This is the art of the line of your nervous system, the getting it out.
Premises of writing from the body:
• There is a continuum of gesture to speech outward to writing
• Communication is an innate urge of the body to express.
• Our body is the container our writing comes out of.
• Art & writing is a print out of our nervous system, how it inhabits self.
Poems expressing entire bodily gestures: awkward and adolescent, but with a brash expansiveness (Rimbald), graceful, thin, and lithe (William Carlos Williams), sensual and trumped up (Dylan Thomas), spare lean, and tight, as well as too elusive and solitary ever to completely disclose themselves (W.S. Merwin).
The style of a poet is nothing more than the personality expressed in his bodily gestures; since poems themselves are bodily, they will naturally express their own unique personalities, related to but distinct from the poets. It is true that the poet speaks the poem, but the poem also speaks itself, and that is because it is a body.7
• The mark/line on the page is of utmost importance.
• We are a permeable system penetrated by our surroundings and voices.
• We are beings with the ability to tap into the collective consciousness.
• “There is absolutely no such thing as writers block, there is only, got to get quieter, got to listen.” Rebecca Mark
• Writing as receptivity and listening versus projectile.
• Our organism is in perpetual creative flux, constant informing, over stabilization and patterning (a natural tendency) stops it.
A writer is not trying for a product, but accepting sequential signals and adjustments toward an always arriving present. William Stafford
Using audible breath, breath and movements to alter our inner world we bring hand-to-page to discover what our altered nervous system brings forth through the marks on the page. We have slowed down to allow the transmissions that seep through us. It is a process.
Presented for the Writers Craft Talk, October 11, 2007;
It’s About Time Reading Series
My paper, Writing from the Body, is an experiential style essay. The form I created was inspired by Rachel Blau Duplessis, in particular her two books of literary criticism: The Pink Guitar writing as feminist practice and Blue Studios poetry and its cultural work. The quotations I used to exemplify my points are indented and footnoted.
Julene Tripp Weaver has been using Continuum movement to evoke body-centered writing since 1996. She has trained with Emilie Conrad and author Rebecca Mark who together originated Poetry In Motion, which inspired Julene’s Muse To Write circles.
This paper is dedicated to Emilie Conrad, founder of Continuum Movement and author of Life on Land, and to Rebecca Mark, for their inspiration.
© 2007 Julene Tripp Weaver
1. Vernon, John, 1979, Poetry and the Body, University of Illinois Press, p. 20
2. Lewis, Thomas, Amini, Fari, Lannon, Richard, 2001, A General Theory of Love, New York, Vintage Press, p. 34
3. Vernon, J, p. 22
4. Vernon, J. p. 44
5. Duplessis, Rachel Blau, 2006, The Pink Guitar Writing as Feminist Practice, Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press, p. 114
6. Duplessis, R. p. 115
7. Vernon, J. p. 54