I recently read a headline that said our planet is spinning at record speed. Faster now than in the past 50 years. I would have paused to read the entire article, but feared I'd never catch up again. I'm already lagging so far behind.
I began conceiving of a workshop on writing sex in the fall of 2016. At the time, I may not have been entirely aware of the source of my sense of urgency, and its connection to world events, but as the months went by, this became more clear and I found myself swallowing down -- or maybe: stomping out-- any misgivings. Two friends, great writers, met with me at a café in Jerusalem and agreed to submit to my writing experiments. Since then, many more writers have accepted my invitation to put aside preconceptions, and open their creative processes to new possibilities of what a sex scene might look like.
Here are some questions we've spent time with during our workshops:
How do sex scenes set in liminal spaces play with boundaries of sacred/profane, danger/allure? What does it mean to risk abjection in writing? Where do desire, disgust and creation intersect? Can depictions of pleasure be redeemed? Can sex scenes be both projections of our fantasies and gritty portrayals of reality at the same time? Can radical awkwardness be poetic? How do we mine mishaps, silences, imperfections, and failures to allow for moments of vulnerability and self-revelation to slip through? What do sexual desire and poetic representation have in common? How do we perform acts of possession in our writing in order to experiment with new possibilities? How can detail, disorientation, and displacement help make our writing, and our fantasies, uniquely our own?
We've radically read the bible, deconstructed scenes from television, film, and literature, breathed with poems from all over the world.
I'm trying to imagine how this workshop might manifest online. We will begin with a short meeting, a quickie, if you will, an hour and a half in which we will watch and discuss a scene together, then write our own scenes with the help of an experimental prompt. Can anything really happen in such a short slice of time? I'm not a big believer in epiphanies; perhaps that's why I'm not a poet. But sometimes it's about prying a space open, a gap to pause inside of while the world spins around us.
Maybe this workshop is a poem.
I found this text in my email drafts, written back when I was first imagining the workshop in the fall of 2016. It was five in the morning. My phone had died as I was waiting for a connection at JFK, and I remember crouching against a wall while it charged, punching these words in with one hand while balancing a cup of crappy- airport-coffee-slash-elixir, with the other:
Writing about sex is writing about immigration. I mean writing about losing your religion. About being poor. About depression. And the energy it sucks out of you. Writing about writing. About love. About notlove. About friendship. Writing about your house and the way it's falling apart and how you never really liked it but now that they want to sell it you don't want to let it go. Because you don't really have a home. Writing about sex is writing about not having a home. Or a homeland. And about grasping onto other things that often fall short. Writing about parents and the hundreds of goodbye scenes you've enacted over the years. Writing about snow. About not knowing how to talk to your mother. About not knowing if you'll ever be a mother. About not having a mother tongue. Writing about dirt. About dirt on your tongue. Dirt mixed with snow. About booze, about blood. And death. And death of illusions and mismatched expectations. And actual death, the ignominious attempt to breathe in this world, and not always alone, coming to an end and the fear of that, and the mourning. And the morning.
I would write that text differently today, I think. They say the world has changed since then. It is spinning faster. So are we.
** for information on future workshops, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org