by Seema Reza
In her essay, “When We Dead Awaken” Adrienne Rich writes, “Our struggles can have meaning and our privileges–however precarious under patriarchy–can be justified only if they can help to change the lives of women whose gifts–and whose very being–continue to be thwarted by silence.”
I’ve been reading Rich’s collection of essays, “Arts of the Possible” for the past week. I believe it is important for me, as a TLA Facilitator, to not only read great writing but to read great writing about writing. Some of it can be pretty dense and exhausting, but understanding and weighing various theories about art making and the role of art in society is integral to continue to renew and deepen my passion for my work. It is how I keep alive the sense of purpose as I stand in room after room to encourage (sometimes unwilling) people to write, to give their experiences voice. Rich acknowledges the privilege of having her voice heard–one that we sometimes take for granted. Even if we work for it, hustle for it, sacrifice for the time to hone our craft–it is a privilege to sit with the page. We have access to literacy and language, a computer and the Internet so that we can put our words out there, submit them to journals, publish them on our blogs. As TLA facilitators, we try to pass this privilege on, because we know what being heard can do for an individual. We like to see people grow. But sometimes, even with the luck I’ve had in finding platforms for my words, I experience something that reminds me of the early thrill of voice–the terror and the courage and the validation, the deep exhale that leaves the body alongside a secret.
Yesterday a very personal essay of mine was published on Full Grown People. I was so honored to have it published, but terrified also, to be so vulnerable on the Internet (the WORLD WIDE web, if you will). But with privilege comes responsibility. The responsibility to go to the places that are scariest for us and confront them. Next week we’ll have a post about love and overcoming illness and hospitalization through story. Check back.
SEEMA REZA is a poet and essayist based outside of Washington, D.C., where she coordinates and facilitates a unique hospital arts program that encourages the use of the arts as a tool for narration, self-care, and socialization among a military population struggling with emotional and physical injuries. Her work has appeared The Beltway Quarterly, HerKind, Duende, Pithead Chapel, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. When the World Breaks Open, her first collection of essays, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. She is a TLA Network Council-Member-at-Large & Curator of the TLA Blog.