Andi Talarico on transformation and Bluets
How have you used writing as a healing or trauma recovery tool? How does it give you autonomy and self-understanding?
I’ve used writing as a tool for healing long before I ever made a connection between those two ideas. I’ve kept some sort of diary pretty much since I learned how to write - I have a trunk filled with old composition books, journals, locked diaries, notes, sketches, etc. It’s a mess and I love it. The magic in writing, for me, is the very real transformation of abstract into concrete. Sometimes I simply can’t understand what I can’t see. I’ve learned over time that I can better handle issues, understand my thoughts, and grasp nuance when I can see them in front of me, as writing brings.
Do you integrate writing into your ritual/spiritual/magical life?
I consider reading and writing to be the most sacred acts I perform in my life, even more so than spell-work, which I dabble in for my spirituality. But books, articles, magazines, newspapers, I devour them. I read devotionally, with an open heart and mind ready to receive. Nothing has taught me greater empathy than imagining other people’s worlds and perspectives and I aim to read marginalized voices, in particular, for exactly that reason. Writing, too, has helped me find my voice and my identity, even in times when I didn’t want to confront those truths. That is sacred to me, those acts that get to the realest versions of ourselves. That’s where the good stuff is.
If we put three writers or books into a circle to summon you, who/what would they be?
I love this question! Probably Jeanette Winterson, Maggie Nelson, and John Irving.
Is there a single piece/book of writing that has helped to heal you? How has it helped?
I could write endlessly about books that have helped or changed me for the better, but I’ll refer to my summoning circle of writers and say that the much beloved Bluets by Maggie Nelson helped me in my transition to New York City. I moved here alone, as an adult in my 30s, with no friends living here, no real job prospects, no housing options, and I left behind a failed marriage, all of my friends and family, and almost all of my belongings. That is to say, I was alone in a way I never thought possible, even if that solitude was of my choosing. My first winter here was rough - I sublet and couchsurfed until I finally moved in with 3 other writers in an often-unheated, rundown apartment.
After all of that battle, I was exhausted, but I was also determined to find myself again, the person that existed outside of circumstance, outside of struggle and constant change. I was trying to make meaning of it, surely, to make sure that my drastic move was towards something and not just...away. I picked up Bluets from the bookstore where I was working at the time, after hearing great things about it, and I remember that it was the first sunny, just-warm-enough spring day, and I took my book to Prospect Park with me. I sat by the pond, under a blooming cherry blossom tree, and read most of the book in one sitting.
I think the prose is beautiful enough that I would have enjoyed it at any phase of my life, but at that particular moment, I was broken open, like a bursting fruit, by Nelson’s work. I remember the feeling of being fed by the sunlight as I read one of the most amazing texts that I ever encountered, how I felt myself turning toward the light like a plant, a living thing. And now I’ve made a tradition of going back to that bench every Spring to re-read Bluets, to commemorate how far I’ve come since then.
This may not be what you’re looking for, but during COVID-19, almost every independent bookstore in the US is closed for physical business and many, many great people are out of work. A lot of stores are surviving via online book sales. So for people who want to order books at this time, I would urge them not to use Amazon and instead try Bookshop, which is a conglomerate of indie sellers raising money for bookstores: https://bookshop.org/pages/about
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