Interview with Poet & Writer Tiffany Trivett

tiffany trivett

1. So, I found you by way of poems you were publishing on instagram many moons ago among a group of poets typing up their work on typewriters and publishing them to the network. I found that really fascinating because sometimes I get anxious about posting my work online, because then it wouldn’t qualify for publication in a journal, which is something I used to be really concerned about. However, recently I’ve been taken with the self-publishing route and it’s been something I’ve considered more and more over the last few months. What made you decide to start publishing your work online and has that influenced your desired method of publication for the future?

It’s about two things: timing and packaging. Every artist knows the feeling of, “This must come out of me. I must express/create,” but timing matters. There are books alive within me that likely won’t come into fruition until I’m well beyond young adulthood and if I don’t give them time to develop, they’ll be shit, more or less. On the other hand, some things are better packaged casually and instantly in little social media blurbs. Daily things inspire me often, like the way the leaves shake in the wind. Those things don’t need a full-length novel, or even a blog. They are just tiny miracles that need to be documented and released into the world. I use Instagram for that. So, I don’t publish everything online. There are thousands of pages I keep to myself. Some I’ll use in future projects, and some will probably never see the light of day. But I do believe that both social media and blogging can be excellent tools for a writer. Jeff Goins runs a writers blog full of ideas on this subject, which I’ve found extremely helpful. I’ve learned that maintaining an online presence builds a following. So when I decide to publish, I have an audience who already loves my work; people who are already looking forward to owning something of mine in print.

2. On your website, you talk about having a collection of poems on the topic of womanhood you would like to publish soon. It’s interesting how, over time, we look back and see that there’s been one topic in particular that has affected us so much. Mine tends to be the influences of our childhood on our adult selves, but the experience of womanhood has taken hold in my writing the older I’ve gotten. What specifically attracts you to exploring this experience in your writing?

Well, I’m a woman. So naturally the topic of womanhood is interesting to me. To be honest, I don’t know why I write about it so much. Probably because it’s the season of life I’m in. I find myself in this strange place between childhood and adulthood often. I am very interested in the evolution from girlhood to womanhood because I experience it as a sacred and humorous, lonely and communal journey all at once. It’s uncomfortable to suddenly find yourself in a curvier body. It’s curious. It’s jarring to unveil past trauma, and to watch the way it plays out in ten thousand places in your adult life. I think I see womanhood as a vessel. One which captures the light of my past and projects both shadows and rainbows onto every aspect of my present life. It’s a lens through which I understand the world. When I write, I’m aware of myself in two ways: one, I am aware of my humanity and two: I’m aware of my womanhood. To separate my art from this consciousness would be impossible, I think.

3. You also say on your website that you are working on a project recording stories of the elderly. This interested me because I am often taken with the imaginings of what my grandparents lives were like when they were younger. I hear bits and pieces of stories from when my parents were growing up, and I mentally file them away in case they should work to the advantage of a story later on, but it is also just fascinating to learn what their experiences were like in a time very different, but also much the same as what we experience today. Who exactly in the aging community do you want to focus on for this project and how do you plan to thread their stories together?

I spend a lot of time writing in cemeteries. They’re the most curious places to me. I cross my legs and sit on the earth, wondering about secret affairs and unrealized dreams. I imagine all of the things taken to the grave and I especially imagine all of the unwritten books. This, and the death of my grandfather, is what sparked an interest in me to meet with people of advanced age. I’m currently in the process of navigating my idea to tell their stories. I have a few thoughts on where this can go, but the thing that matters most is the building of authentic and compassionate relationships. I want to value people, not the use of their stories. My plan is to make some friends and listen to all of the beautiful things they have to say about their long life on earth. If a story or two surfaces, and if they want them to be told, I will gladly be the mouthpiece. I believe that there is a rich and miraculous group of people living among us, and that they largely go unnoticed and are often forsaken. I want to immerse myself in their worlds a little bit and learn from them. I don’t pretend to have anything to offer, and I don’t have any interest in exploiting their experiences for the sake of selling books. I am only interested in listening, connecting, and being a voice for those who may feel they do not have one.

4. There is an incredibly interesting blog post you wrote not that long ago about the self, which I inwardly raved over after I read. The idea of knowing yourself versus getting over yourself has sat with me for a long time. You see people on social media promoting the self and self-care left and right, and I’ve always been torn between the notion of this movement and also feeling like it will lead me to be too absorbed in my own problems. And it’s because I’ve been so self-aware my whole life that I know how it gets when you can’t let things go. It’s agonizing. Plus, I’ve had the tendency to get so caught up in myself that I forget there are other people living and breathing outside the walls of my body, which is why I don’t generally take part in the self-care promotions online. I’m afraid of getting too self-involved. I agree with it to an extent, but I also like your idea: “Know thyself and get over thyself.” How do you feel this revelation has changed the way you behave, with yourself and with others?

This topic is important to me because I think we live in a time of great polarization. You have articles bashing millennials for being so self-absorbed (because truthfully, many of them are), and on the other side, you have herds of people floating around this planet like robots or zombies just going through the motions because they have no clue about what’s really going on in their psyches. I spent three years in thirty countries volunteering for various non-profit organizations. I worked with women who had been sex-trafficked in Thailand, and fed and taught orphans in the bush of Swaziland. I encountered just about every major modern-day injustice. After an experience like that, there was no way for me to go back to a self-absorbed life. I was forever changed. I understood my privilege, and I saw the suffering which most people endure. This awareness makes me humble, it gives me valuable perspective, and it keeps my head afloat when I start to feel overwhelmed with my own problems. It’s a reality check. However, it’s detrimental to myself and everyone around me if I go on with my life only ever consumed with the world around me; without ever looking inward. That kind of journey can be just as rich and fruitful as one around the world. It offers insight, healing, and room for grace, because familiarity with your self and your shadow self is a humbling venture. It opens your heart to the difficulty that every human faces. I think you have to see your underworld and your topside world as interconnected. They both matter. A healthy relationship with both is vital for thriving.

5. Lastly, I’m curious about your process. How do you usually generate ideas and what takes place from that initial spark?

I’m not sure how an idea generates (scientifically speaking). I just know I have a lot of them, every day. They come to me no matter where I am or what I am doing, and I try my best to capture as many as I can. Elizabeth Gilbert does a brilliant TED Talk on this called “Your Elusive Creative Genius”, and I’ve listened to it well over thirty times. Essentially, she believes our ‘genius’ lives not within us, but as an elusive ghost-like being who comes and goes as (s)he pleases. I like this idea. It takes the pressure off. I’m not responsible to “generate” ideas. My responsibility is twofold: One, I must nourish my creative life. If I do not read good literature, absorb myself in beautiful, provoking images, or listen to compelling lectures, the work I produce will show it. It’s amateur. Food for the creative spirit is essential, and it should be quality. No fast-food. The second responsibility I have is to “show up to the page” like my friend and fellow artist Betsy Garmon says. It’s to write. I get emails and messages all the time from people asking me what they should do to be a writer, and they all get the same disappointing response from me: “WRITE! Every day. Read and write.” It’s not easy, but it’s simple, and you’d be surprised at how many ‘writers’ don’t read or write. So, my process is: Sit down every single day and write.

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