“It will be different from all the traditions we’ve inherited.” That’s all author Lidia Yuknavitch would tell us about the topic of her upcoming Word Works but honestly, it’s enough. If you’ve read any of Yuknavitch’s work (novel The Small Backs of Children and memoir The Chronology of Water come most easily to mind), you know she’s a full-bodied writer. She plunges in the deep end, extends a hand, and asks you to take a dip.
She’ll do as much next month in her October 6 talk, where she’ll discuss “corporeal writing” — a term that, she assures us, isn’t as complicated as it may sound. “It just means ‘body writing,’” she says. “The body has a point of view.” Listen to those rhythms, use them in your art, and learn what else Yuknavitch wishes she would have known as a young author.
Q: How do you describe ‘corporeal writing’ to writers unfamiliar with the term?
A: Well, it’s actually quite simple at its heart. It just means ‘body writing.’ But not in descriptive or prescriptive ways. Instead, we refigure the body as a place where meaning is made. The body has a point of view and is an actual site where meaning is generated and negated. So we work to both understand that idea more deeply, and then develop writing practices that correspond to our actual bodies in the world.
Q: How has the Northwest influenced your work?
A: I think it is true that the Pacific Northwest is threaded through everything about my work. It hums through the language and imagery of my writing, but it also rings my bones like a tuning fork — my body has a mammalian dependency on the Northwest. When I travel and return to the trees and hillsides and rivers and mountains outside the plane window I get a rush of grateful. Every. Single. Time. And I’m a rain and gray and cold junkie. Seriously. Like close to cave dweller. I suspect there is something of a Northwest aesthetic and/or sensibility too — similar to a generalized “West Coast” eye and I, but also distinctively northern… the trees, the birds, the animals in the forests and mountains, the fish, and water running through everything all the way to ocean.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you wish you’d received as a new writer?
A: The road is long and you are going to need patience and stamina.
Q: What’s one thing no one ever asks you that you wish they would?
A: No one ever asks me why I think gender is a hoax. I wish they would so I could remind them how we are made of the entire universe, how we are not stuck inside the lexicon of male and female, but contain multitudes.