Interview With Daphne Gottlieb

I think later on, stories are sort of pushed aside, but in early childhood, stories are our way of understanding things. It sort of never stopped for me. Also, whatever we're told we're good at, we do more of, assuming we like praise. If it was my drawings, I might have a house full of watercolors right now. We do what we love doing, but we do it more when other people love it, too. Especially the people who (are supposed to) feed us.

What advice do you wish you had gotten as a teen?

       That there would be a time when being an outsider would be exactly what nurtured and fostered me. That the way people treated me was about them, not me. That I was intact. That there was community and love coming, and the word "queer" that didn't exist in that way yet, and to follow punk rock, activism and poetry there.

Tell us about a time when you were brave, or bravery was required of you, or you saw someone else being brave.


       I have kind of a "thing" about the word "brave" -- "brave" is what people call you when you do what you have to because you don't have any other options. Surviving a rape. Surviving abuse. Surviving disease or loss. Talking about it. Writing about it.

The bravest thing I do is getting up and out of bed each morning. It almost always gets easier from there.

How do you start a poem? Give us a window into your process.

       I get this feeling in my body when something happens that I don't understand. It sits in my body like a strong feeling, because that's what it is, but it also feels like a rock, or a ball of string, or an itch, or a volcano. The only way to get it out of there is to find the words it wants and let it follow them out. So my writing usually starts with figuring out what the feeling wants to say -- sometimes the phrase comes with it, or sometimes it follows me around for days. The stronger the feeling is, the more urgently it wants to get out.

What is your motto for getting through the tough times?


       Just for now. I didn't understand or believe this until recently, that things change and sometimes change very quickly, and sometimes it's the feelings that change and that's enough. Just because things aren't the way I want them doesn't mean they won't ever be. It's about holding on, and trying to make the changes I can to make the world that I want.