In The Field: Conversations With Our Contributors—Heather A. Warren
We selected a phrase from a line in your poem “What Wounds Become”, which acts in conversation with the poet torrin a. greathouse, as the subtitle of Volume 24 because it perfectly embodies thematic and imagistic elements in this issue from a multitude of contributors. What does the line “what becomes of a ghost still living” mean to you?
I think about the concept of Ghost as an occurrence of the past that I cannot see with my eyes. But it’s possible, I can feel a Ghost’s presence with my body. “a ghost still living” is something of the past that continues to be very real – and what can we do to move past what haunts us? This ghost is something still real to the body.
In my poem “What Wounds Become,” I also saw the ghost as a past identity – a gendered identity. I am trying to move past that to be who I am – yet that ghost still lives through the perception and actions of others.
I love the duality of meaning in “Clipped”, the second poem we published of yours in Volume 24. I noticed that the concepts of split binaries and performativity are often represented in your work, both here in Vol. 24 and in other publications. This makes me curious about how you see the world. Can you tell us how you approach thinking about or making sense of something that contains multitudes?
Alongside my artistic life, I have worked in mental health / social services for almost a decade. I want to do my best to be a pro-active learner and to meet people where they are at. I think what I have discovered so far in this particular type of work – is that maybe sometimes, I cannot make sense of something at all. But I do my best, to approach my thinking from different angles and lenses when there’s a complex subject.
How does the act of writing allow one to process, and perhaps, rehabilitate a wound? Writing on any subject of trauma can be another form of that trauma; do you have advice that you can share with other writers on writing about what wounds them?
For me, the act of creating is a therapeutic process. Sometimes I set out to write about a specific topic – and then suddenly, I am surprised to discover that I am re-writing a wound. When I re-write a personal trauma, I want to transform it, claim my own healing and this process is empowering for me. I really value art-making as a relational process – I never want to be isolated in my practice and I want to write or play music with the intention of building community as its end product. My experiences are in relation to others, my process is in relation to others, and the finished performance (even on the page) is in relation to others. Certain poets like torrin a. greathouse provide visibility that I never had in reading poetry – I am able to know that I am not alone and I hope others feel the same when they read my writing too.
There are some personal experiences I have had that I am not ready to write about – and may never write about. And that’s okay. I wonder sometimes if there’s a trend in the art/literary world that pressures – especially marginalized folx – to produce content relating to their trauma. My advice would be to approach trauma subjects in your craft with the intention of benefiting in a therapeutic way – and not succumbing to any pressures to create anything you don’t want to.
The past two years have brought about a lot of collective and individual upheaval. Has this impacted your creative process?
The past two years have been traumatic and harsh in its difficulty for so many people. I have felt very anxious and isolated and it’s been really tough to feel motivated to write or play music. But that’s okay! We are still living through a global pandemic and I hope that everyone can give themselves permission to do what they need to do. I really had to confront some personal realizations about equating self-worth with producing.
What projects are you working on right now?
My debut collection Binded is forthcoming with Boreal Books / Red Hen Press and I have been working on the copy-editing process! Because the past two years have been so tough for so many, I have been trying to have fun! I am working on a chapbook of really silly poems about my dogs. I am also playing around with beat-box poetry, making weird sounds into my microphone with intentions of a sound art poetry album. This is in collaboration with a friend and the working title is A Parrot With Teeth.
Heather A. Warren (they/them) is a poet and musician from Fairbanks, Alaska. Their writing and music is featured on the full-length album Mother Carries, by Harm. Warren is a 2019 Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award recipient, and their first poetry collection, Binded, is forthcoming from Boreal Books / Red Hen Press. Warren received their MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and they are currently finishing a master’s in social work with the University of New England online.