Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Melissa Fadul

Melissa Fadul lives in New York with her wife, dog and two rabbits. She teaches English Literature and Advanced Placement Psychology.  She loves animals, poetry, and film and photography and baseball and screenwriting. Melissa is currently writing her second poetry manuscript and a screenplay.  Melissa hopes that someday she can work with her favorite actresses: Naomi Watts, Rachel Weisz, Cate Blanchett and Mariska Hargitay.

Is the Die Really Cast?

I was a sophomore and part of GLU (the gay and lesbian union as it was called then) getting my undergraduate degree in New York and two years younger than twenty-one-year-old Matthew Shepard, when barbed wire pierced his wrists as he was pinned to a fence on a chilly October evening. After his assailants, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson thumped his skull, dented it, they stole his shoes and wallet before running him over in a pick-up truck— leaving him for dead in Wyoming dark.

He was found by a young boy riding his bicycle the next morning, eighteen hours later. From a distance, he thought Matthew was a scarecrow. As the boy rode closer, he saw a man—a man whose face was marred and sopped in blood—except where tears skidded down his cheeks.

Twenty-one years later, I still repeat to myself, that could have been me. I could have been murdered for being a lesbian. In Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History, Cathy Caruth states, “Freud describes a pattern of suffering that is inexplicably persistent in the lives of certain individuals. Perplexed by the terrifyingly literal nightmares of battlefield survivors and the repetitive reenactments of people who have experienced painful events, Freud wonders at the peculiar and sometimes uncanny way in which catastrophic events seem to repeat themselves for those who have passed through them” (1).Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(23).png

Bearing this in mind, it’s high time that America give credence to the power of vulnerability. However, how and why should we do this when Webster, Random House and any other dictionary defines vulnerable as weakness? The only way to look and accept ourselves as civil beings is to admit without metaphor or interpretation what it means to be human—which means we must muster the courage to reconcile our exiled musings of private vulnerabilities. It means redefining the fast food, bizarre definition of the word, vulnerable.

Thus, my reason for contributing to Smitten. I’m not naïve enough to think that by writing this essay (which seems more like a manifesto) that most will be influenced to come-of-age and pass through some rite-of-passage. One must experience to comprehends the acute power kindness and empathy possess when one
is courageous enough to be vulnerable. Momentarily, there was a bit of ambivalence to submit to Smitten—a reluctance born of unfounded anxiety—coupled with my semi-introverted nature that drew up useless excuses: I’m too intense, no one will like these pieces, they’re too graphic, etc.

However, I remembered my purpose—my students who I write for—the ones who can’t speak for themselves because of their own political hinderances—youth who can’t conjure the duende within—nor know how to use the ordinary world as a catalyst and objective correlative that stands at a distance in order to bear witness.

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(24).pngI recalled my vulnerability-my greatest strength which includes the courage to believe that people do desire to listen to strangers’ stories—to really feel something especially when tragedy is on the frontlines of the tongue. This evergreen notion is a pattern I’ve noticed made most explicably apparent through the vehicle of trauma and disaster. According to Nicole Cooley, “to think about how disaster produces speech, writing, and testimony and disaster is reproduced through language. I’m not talking about disaster as metaphor in poetry but about a poetry that arises in direct response to a disaster, a poetry of disaster” Cooley, Nicole. “Poetry and Disaster” American Poet, Volume 39 Fall Nov. 2010, pp. 3-5.

My submission to Smitten has tried serve as witnesses for the LGBTQ community and its allies. These pieces are designed to be umbilicals which help guide those who need it through the uprising of Stonewall and the shooting in Orlando’s gay club, Pulse. There’s almost half a century of time between these two events with Matthew Shepard’s murder in between—not to mention countless other hate crimes that are recognized by law enforcement and the LGBTQ community.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(25).png

Ideally, in a utopia these tragedies should antagonize peace. They haven’t—nor will the next one. Nevertheless, the autonomy and my hope lie with the idea that it will create nonviolent conversation. My primary point was to create a Socratic discussion in which all voices are heard and inquiry based on all beliefs are supported.

According to her breakthrough non-fiction work, Catalysis, Dr. Alice Maher states, human understanding needs a language all its own, an Emotional Literacy that synthesizes insights from multiple disciplines. It must be codified and taught, using theory literature, thought experiments and daily exercises, until it exists on a par with other major subjects in a K-12- PHD curriculum. Emotional Literacy needs to be taught and practiced until our species becomes fluent, until the best are recognized and supported in their rise to leadership. (Maher 15).

One way to understand how Emotional Literacy works is by understanding how to ask someone a question even if one party is fuming because their subjective isn’t synonymous with the other party’s. It seems obvious—still I don’t know if as a species we know how to speak to one another in a way where there’s room for empathy, which always deems itself essential in order to reach the duende state of vulnerability.Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(26).png

For example, if a discussion between two people begins on a calm and a bit of trust is created between those two individuals, when one person feels like he, she or they can be vulnerable that step will be taken. However, if the other person’s approach and angle into the discussion is volatile and branded apathetic, the option of sympathy or empathy dissipates quickly. If that occurs, the true meaning of that dialogue could be lost—Thus, truth and vulnerability aren’t reached. Maher goes on to add, “be curious, invite the person to talk about his/her childhood and share your own similar-but-different experiences.

Remember that your beliefs come from a personal center too and are probably equally distorted as a result. Be curious about your own distortions and try not to be too triggered by theirs. In order to succeed with Maher’s recipe for serenity, we must be willing to view our own distortions—that means being vulnerable. Can you bear it?Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(27).png

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/

Poets of SMITTEN Speak: Carol Jewell

Carol H. Jewell is a musician, teacher, librarian, and poet living in Upstate New York with her wife, Becky, and their seven cats. She reads constantly, being insatiably curious.

How does poetry and identifying as lesbian/bi come together for you?

I think my age may have a part in this. I didn’t come out until I was 39, having had relationships with straight men before that, even marrying one of them and having a daughter with him. I just turned 60, and I am at a point in my life where I really don’t care that much about what people think of me or my work. People will think what they think, and it’s really none of my business. However, if they speak or write publically, in a negative way, about my sexuality or my writing, then we’re probably going to have a conversation. Whether it remains private or public depends on how negative their feelings are. After all, shouldn’t I share their shitty opinions with others?

Woman Motivational Quote Facebook Post(3).pngWhom are your favorite lesbian writers and why?

Well, you know, we can never be absolutely certain about “who” is “what.”  And people aren’t out in different areas of their lives. AND, a person can be “out” in many ways. I can share that I am a lesbian with a grown daughter who gifted me with a fabulous grandson. I can let you know that I have both visible and invisible disabilities. I can tell you how I vote. Things like that. So, I can tell you which lesbian writers I like, but not necessarily why. Also, the list can change on a daily basis. This list is not inclusive: Alice Walker, Wanda Sykes, Ellen DeGeneres, Alison Bechdel, Lillian Hellman, Mary Renault, Jeanette Winterson, Mary Oliver, Elizabeth Bishop, Frances Power Cobbe, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Melissa Etheridge, Louise Fitzhugh, Janis Ian, Cheryl Wheeler, Geri Jewell (no relation, that I know of), Rachael Z. Ikins, Judy Kamilhor, Nancy Klepsch, Shannon Shoemaker, Adrienne Rich, May Sarton, Marilyn Hacker, Emily Dickinson, Sean Heather McGraw, Allison Paster-Torres,  and Jessie Serfilippi.

Do you think there is enough representation of lesbian poetry and writing in general and if no, what do you think is the reason?

Should we, as lesbians who are also poets (and vice versa) be required to give that information to editors, say, somewhere in our cover letters? Is it necessary? I don’t think it’s necessarily necessary. If the work that I am submitting has any lesbian tropes, then it might behoove me to announce that.

How does being a poet inform your views on expressing emotions through writing?

If writing poetry does not reflect someone’s emotions, why bother?

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work along side other women who love women?

Well, first, I’m glad to have my work out there, so to speak. Having my work along side other women who love women allows me to get ideas from those women, and also network with them.

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

I didn’t set out to be a “voice,” but, as I work on at a University, I’ve found it helpful to be out to faculty, staff, and students.

Why is love a worthier subject than erotica to write on?

Because love is bigger than erotica. I used to say that gay or lesbian relationships are not about sex, but about love. Of course, sex—in whatever form that takes—can be a big part of relationships, but not THE most important part. Being a lesbian is more than whom I share my BED with…it’s whom I share my LIFE with. People who are disabled may not have sex the way another person does, but if what they do IS sex for them, that’s great! I just think that there are many layers to love, and not so many to sex. To me, love is more interesting.

Have you ever been SMITTEN and if so, do you feel it’s possible to summarize those feelings in poetry?

My wife and I have been a couple since 1999. Later, we had a commitment ceremony and then got married, after it became legal in New York. I was smitten with her from our first contact, and love her more every day. I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s true.

SMITTEN is coming out late October, 2019 via all good book stores. Published by Indie Blu(e) www.indieblu.net 

Please consider supporting this project of over 120+ talented poets and authors by purchasing a copy of SMITTEN for someone who appreciates beautiful poetry. https://www.facebook.com/SMITTENwomen/