on the necessity of nakedness…

Note: Apparently, I used up all my June blogging-mind working on this little essay which aired June 17, 2012 on the radio show, Words on a Wire, as a poetic license segment.

Link to UTEP Radio: http://ktep.org/program_detail.sstg?id=235

Link to show which features poet Javier O Huerta: http://ktep.org/files/archive_2844.mp3

Link to access Words on a Wire archives: http://www.wordsonawireradioshow.blogspot.com/

…on the necessity of nakedness…

With one book out and three more working to find their way into the world, it came to me that I should articulate what my real desire as a writer is…the reason I keep writing in the face of rejection and delays…the reason why the seams between my life and my writing are sometimes invisible and sometimes ragged…

Not the project-related reasons that I detail for grant applications, not the marketable reasons I list for potential presses, not the personal reasons why I–a 37 year old, round, diabetic, college dropout, former migrant student, daughter of illiterate parents, childless, single, mostly lesbian, indigenous Mexican American woman of color– persist at writing…

Not the reasons why I had to write this poem or this story or that novel, what they were meant to explore or what they say about our personal and communal mythologies, our survival strategies, or our lost histories—but the real reason I write…

And while some writers came to write their lives, their family stories…and some came to write for the voiceless, and some came to tell truths, and some came to stretch their imaginations to the limits…

I came to the page to be naked…to strip away pretense and surfaces, to strip away prevarication and confusion… I want only what is real. I want the essence. I want to see into the heart of things…into the skin and muscle and marrow of things…

I want to write what frightens me, what endangers me, the words born of my entranas, the words born in the heat of my blood. I want to see how close I can stand to the precipice, how far I can peer down…I want to write myself stronger so that I can stand even closer and look down even further…I want to strip down to the level of soul and breath and then write from there…

All the writers I love, all the writers that have taught me how to be a writer did so in those moments, those pages where they were naked…Novelists like maria luisa bombal, juan rulfo, jeanette winterson, leslie marmon silko, marguerite duras, toni morrison, cormac mac carthy…

There’s an aliveness in nakedness—an energy that is light and heat and sound and impact—that reverberates—that pulses—that leaves both reader and writer trembling and roaring…This place of nakedness is where I feel the most alive, the most aware, the most charged with the potential of creation.

I’ve always loved these lines from John Donne:

Batter my heart, three-personed God; for youAs yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mendThat I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bendYour force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.

I want my heart battered by what I read. I want my heart battered by what I write. I want to be made anew. It may sound violent, but to be broken open is not necessarily all pain and loss. To be broken open can be another kind of freedom. And the most direct route to nakedness–Nakedness as catharsis. Nakedness as transformation. Nakedness as not necessarily the truth, but a truth.

And while most of what I’ve written and have yet to write will serve only to document all my failed attempts to get at the heart of things, one day I won’t fail… one day I’ll write something as naked and raw as the most soul-ripping of ranchera songs…like lucha villa singing, I’ll write ferocity and tenderness and blood and freedom and nakedness all at once….ajua!


4 thoughts on “on the necessity of nakedness…”

  1. ire’ne, timely i should read this now. i’ve been looking at my current manuscript, which is “found” poetry from the words pf many other pinays, and i realize now one of the things about this ms which has been eating at me is this — so much of what i “found” felt/feels so safe, insulated, guarded. like you, i need the soul searing, the breaking and burning, the raw, and that these can still be accomplished however “lovely” and poetic the tone and language. but i committed to making poetry with my fellow pinays’ narratives, so it’s been a challenge. thank you for this. i have a lot to think about.

    1. dear barbara:
      it helped me immensely to write this little piece…i think because so much of the time i feel very ‘outside’ of certain communities or very ‘different’ from other poets…more than i knew, i needed to define for myself what i was doing and what my real priority was…
      and while i love love love the work that is raw & searing –and while that is the only work that truly feeds me–feeds my soul and feeds my art–i know that very little of what i read is going to meet those needs for me…
      but what i write has to–WHAT I WRITE HAS TO…because otherwise i can’t justify the time/energy/vision spent writing nor can i justify the shape of my life…
      your work feeds me…and so i’m sad to hear you’re coming up against that conflict w/ your new mss…there must be some way–beyond the first vision of finding/recovering/re-value-ing the words of other pinays–that the work could be something that feeds you…maybe a counter-narrative? voices speaking to what is guarded/insulated and why?
      well, to be extremely truthful….i am sad– but i’m also excited because i know that whatever solution you arrive at is going to be amazing on the page…

      bestbestbest to you!

  2. thanks so much for your response, ire’ne! and thank you again for this wonderful post! so this is what i have so far:


    i’ve been thinking about the ways in which we must tend to ourselves when we do get to those dark and painful and rage-filled places, that recoiling/retreating from the ugly etc is not the way for me to go about it.

    thing is also, i am glad to still be struggling; i don’t know that i ever really want this to be easy….

    much love to you! bjr

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