Friday, January 22, 2016

Wild Women and their Wild Words

Last weekend, I got the chance to be in the presence of two women wordsmiths that I greatly admire.

On Friday, I went to see Ani DiFranco play a show in Orlando. I’ve seen her perform before, a few years ago, but I’ll jump at the chance to see her play any day of the year. She’s got a stage presence that’s electric, and everything about her shouts “POWER!

Midway through the show, she says, “You didn’t know you walked into a radical feminist poetry night, did ya?” And then she gave one of her great laughs. But it took her saying it to make me realize that this is poetry, and she is one of our generation’s greatest troubadours.

On Saturday, I spent the afternoon in a yoga studio with Jen Pastiloff and 40 other women. Wielding journals and yoga mats, we took off on a three-hour journey, stopping in the middle of a plank to pick up our pen and write furiously for a few minutes. And then it was back to sun salutations.

Photo Credit
Ani DiFranco has been making and sharing her music since the 90’s. She started her own record label, Righteous Babe, at the age of 18, she’s put out over 20 albums and she’s not stopping any time soon.

Jen Pastiloff is the creator of an online magazine, TheManifest-Station, and she’s amassed a cult following on social media. She’s published many pieces of honest writing all over the web, and she’s in the process of writing a book for teenage girls.

I recently read this interview with Isabelle Allende, a writer that I admire very much. In it, she says, “There is no message. I think that fiction should not be trying to give messages. Just tell a story. Some people connect with a story and may find between the lines something that might be useful to him or her, but that's not the intention of the author, I think. At least not mine.”

Ani and Jen definitely have a message and they use their writing to share it. Ani speaks the truth about fossil fuels, racial politics, gun violence, climate change, violence against women, homophobia, poverty, reproductive rights, among other social issues. She uses her songs to encourage people to vote and think deeply about the democrazy we are a part of.

Jen and I after her workshop
Jen uses her writing, her workshops, and her magazine to give women back their voice. She insists that no topic is taboo; keeping secrets is the seed of dysfunction, and telling your truth is the way to freedom. 
Maybe that’s the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Both have messages to share with their readers, but nonfiction is more transparent about it.

Either way, I am grateful for the  work that these women use the written word to undo patriarchy and restore balance—emotional, social, ecological, spiritual—on this crazy beautiful planet we all share.