Monday, September 1, 2008

Notes on Writing “Stuck Inside”

Dear Readers,

We are beginning a series here at our Crab Creek Review blog that will feature some of the poets we have published in previous issues talking about their work, the writing life, and other creative and literary topics.

I'm pleased to announce our first poet-blogger in this series will be Julene Tripp Weaver whose poem "Stuck Inside" was featured in our current issue.

Below you will find her poem and her thoughts about writing and how her poem came to be.

We hope you enjoy this new series!

Kelli Russell Agodon


Stuck Inside

A little man bucking and barking fights with a ceiling built over his head but, one inch shorter than he is. His neck bent he paces complaining of the short wall and the people who built it.
He doesn’t have enough money to redo the wall. It should have been built right to start with.
He sits and can only think of his too low ceiling.
He goes outside and stretches, but outside he is not inside and it is cold, so he goes back into
his house where he feels trapped.
He cries, empties his pockets, takes off his shoes, crawls on his knees but nothing will help, nothing.
His girlfriend really doesn’t understand, she’s fine in his space, but she’s five inches shorter than him.
She says, “Oh Honey, lets lie down in bed and stretch out, I’ll bring you some relaxing tea.”
He continues to fume about the wall height.
They hardly have fun any longer because he is preoccupied with the ceiling.
“Perhaps you could move,” she says. She’s said it before.
“I can’t move, I can’t afford to move,” he says, his gritted teeth in his tilted head look like fangs of a wolf.
She shivers and says, “We could go to my place,” wondering if he’d be happier living with her at her apartment. But inside she doesn’t want him there. He’s grumpy and she wonders what he would find to rail against.
“Your place? Fine, if I want to roast my body like a cashew over a fire,” he says, his voice a growl.
“Honey, I think I’ll go now, I need to stop by my mother’s with some cabbage,” she says gathering her coat.
He hardly notices when she leaves.

by Julene Tripp Weaver
from Crab Creek Review, Spring/Summer 2008

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Notes on Writing “Stuck Inside”

When the editors at Crab Creek Review asked me how I came to write “Stuck Inside” I answered, “Sometimes the little people sit in my head and tell me stories—this is one of them.” This poem captures a mindset of someone unable to see outside their own story. In my work with people living with AIDS I watch people spin the same stories repeatedly; I am continually confronted with the confirmation of how tightly each of us are wrapped in our own belief systems. Our thinking moves in set groves to what we tell ourselves, and the more we repeat it without change, or at a faster speed the more set it becomes. AIDS now has a new story, yet many are unable to change their story of what AIDS means.

One way of changing a story is by slowing it down, interrupting the pattern by changing it ever so slightly. Gertrude Stein was a master at this repetition that is always changing. In her view each repetition has a different insistence with subtle changes, like a birdcall.

I’ve been obsessed. As an adolescent one of the books that changed my life was Jane Roberts’ The Nature of Personal Reality. It opened my mind to the understanding that our lives are what we make them by what we believe is possible. There is a mirror-like paradox in how we see ourselves when we are locked inside a reality we do not know can change. The quandary of self-perpetuating beliefs, how we only see what we can see, has hounded me for decades as I’ve lived my life experimenting with how I make change.

Since reading this channeled book, I’ve explored many realities and played with edges—intentionally wondering how deeply I could tip the balance of one worldview into the next. I’ve wondered about getting stuck in the mundane, and the repetitive mass of cultural norms. I slip in and out of the roles of observer, listener, describer, in my work, my writing, and my life. I love William Stafford’s writings on writing—his idea of picking a strand, a thought wave, or a sensory impulse in the moment, and letting it lead.

Emilie Conrad[1] is one of my personal icons. In the many intensive workshops I’ve taken with her since 1988, she has been a guide in my quest to identity and how we create change; an example is her process of founding Continuum Movement. Emilie and Rebecca Mark[2] create a container and lead an experiential process for hand-to-page exploration at yearly workshops combining Continuum Movement and language. This involves a slowed down process using sound, movement, and pauses to create interruption and perturbation of the senses. These intensives have helped me come to a place in my writing where I write fluidly. Rebecca has taught me there is no such thing as writers block, and there is no separation between movement and writing. Now when a voice, or a sensation, rings through me I write easily. This poem came in the particular voice of a young woman with a boyfriend who felt trapped. He is like so many obsessed in whatever life trauma they are living out.

In The Triggering Town Richard Hugo says, “Never want to say anything so strongly that you give up the option of finding something better. If you have to say it you will.” My poem “Stuck Inside” found me after many attempts to write about people stuck in their own stories. I was in a conversation with a friend about a topic we’d discussed many times, and the voice started; my friend suddenly was a man in a house too small. I grabbed my pen and started writing. Like William Stafford, one line led to the next as I attended to the story this new voice gave to me. All my earlier failed poems around this topic are now superseded.

Julene Tripp Weaver


[1] Emily Conrad is author of Life on Land, in which she talks about founding Continuum.[1] Rebecca Mark is a tenured professor at Tulane University and author of The Dragon’s Blood: Feminist Intertextuality in Eudora Welty’s Fiction.

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Read more work from Julene and learn about her projects at her website:

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