I’ve read quite a few books that discuss or explore sexual assault, trauma, domestic violence, wartime sexual crimes, and other similar topics (most notably, Sierra Demulder’s masterful We Slept Here); Landscape with Sex and Violence meanders through oft-unspoken-of facets of sexual trauma, including the tenderness that abusers can win survivors back over with.
I read this book at a very important time in my life, only a month before I was coerced by a woman I’d been dating; this book became a refuge, a friend who I didn’t need to explain anything to. Melnick’s poems understand the multifacetedness of emotional trauma that experiences like mine result in. These poems take every side, from the moments of self-blame and downward spiraling to moments of clarity and strength.
I interviewed Lynn earlier this year about the poems and content in this collection.
When was the seed for this collection planted?
This is the book I’ve always wanted to write but just wasn’t ready to write yet, for a lot of reasons, until I finished my first collection. I’ve always wanted to tell my story which, I think, is also a larger story about rape culture and sexual violence and patriarchy and America. Now that I’ve finished writing this book, I’m finding my new poems (what will hopefully be a third book) push even further, so maybe that’s just how it goes.
What reactions are you hoping to inspire in readers? What response does our society need to have to the issue of sex and violence?
I’m hoping to build awareness in some readers and to make other readers feel less alone. I’d love to offer solace and education, depending. I also hope I’ve written something that stands as poetry, as a hopefully beautiful and interesting work of art. As far as what response society as a whole needs to the issues of sex and violence, well that’s a very long list of things, but I’ll say society needs to believe women about both. We need to believe women that have been abused and we need to believe women who state their needs. Women should get to have enjoyable sex lives without stigma or danger. And boys and men need to be better educated about both!
“Turn on the television and all you hear / is the new way of speaking…” holds a personal meaning for me, implying that the way politicians “answer” a question without saying anything of real substance is the new norm. Could you talk about your political views and / or your hopes for women’s rights to become more central and important in our administration’s goals?
To be honest, I have no hope that women’s rights will become more central to our administration’s goals. I think our best hope is that they are distracted by other things and don’t set things further back for us. I mean, our president is an admitted – and proud! – sexual predator.
Until we have more women not only in politics, but across the board in positions of power, little will change. I wish I knew how to make this a reality except to support women running for office with my dollars when I have them.
I also think that it’s important to talk to girls about what the world is actually like, rather than just hyping them on “girl power” in a world that is so dominated by patriarchy. They’re gonna know pretty quick that that’s bullshit, so why not teach them from the beginning that, although the deck is seriously stacked against them, there are ways to fight, and running for office is one of those ways. That’s what I’m trying to do with my two daughters, anyway.
Reading “She’s Going to do Something Amazing” left me feeling so many things. How can survivors become empowered? How can survivors heal?
Oh gosh, I wish I knew the answer to these questions. If you find out, please tell me! I do think knowing you’re not alone, that the violence experienced wasn’t you’re fault, and that you’re believed helps. Believe women!! Also, as far as healing goes, please seek therapy. Mental health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health. There are many therapies and treatments that can help with PTSD and other trauma-related issues. From what I can tell, finding empowerment and healing is a lifelong process.
For sure. I know I’ve found cognitive behavioral therapy personally helpful. I retrained my negative self-talk and anxious habits thanks to two amazing therapists.
How does poetry offer therapy? How does poetry educate?
Well, I don’t want to say poetry offers therapy, because I really think therapy should be where people seek therapy. But poetry definitely offers comfort and understanding, and poetry definitely teaches us more about ourselves and others. Something about the music and syntax and form of poetry really expands our hearts and minds, I think, and helps us see things in a new and more intimate way. Every day, I’m grateful for poetry.
Landscape with Sex and Violence ($18, on sale right now for $16.20) is available from YesYes Books or your local bookstore!