On a number of occasions, Ann has been interviewed by fellow poets, magazines and publishers, and her books and chapbooks have been reviewed. Take a look inside and see what makes Ann who she is and learn more about where her writing comes from.
This week, Ann Tweedy interviews G.L. Morrison about her book, Chiaroscuro Kisses and Morrison interviews Tweedy about her book, The Body’s Alphabet. Their conversation took place on the phone.
Morrison: How did you come up with your title, The Body’s Alphabet?
Tweedy: I’m interested in the supposed dichotomy between the mind and the body, which seems false to me. And yet, even though it seems false, that notion is really ingrained and it’s hard to root it out from my thinking. I was thinking about the body’s relationship to the world and I thought about trying to have physicality in each of the sections of the book. So the family section is the body’s relationship to the family, and then the romantic relationships, and the parenting relationships, and the body’s relationship to nature. And then there’s a section about larger stories that aren’t just focused on me. But I was thinkingabout physicality in those, too.
Untitled Country Review
Untitled Country Review is pleased to present our featured poet for Winter 2011, Ann Tweedy. Lena Drake’s review of Tweedy’s debut book Beleaguered Oases, a poem from the book, and an interview with Tweedy conducted by Untitled Country editor Scot Siegel follow.Untitled Country Review editor Scot Siegel (“SS”) conducted the following interview with author Ann Tweedy (“AT”) during February of 2011.
SS: We have something in common in that we are both poets whose primary vocation is not writing or the teaching of writing. Please tell our readers a little about yourself and how, in your busy life as a professor of law, you find time to write poetry.
AT: Well, when I was practicing law (which I did until 2008), I had somewhat of an easier time finding time to write. I read Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook many years ago, and that really motivated me to structure my writing time. I used to manage to write most evenings after dinner and then one afternoon on weekends. Some people have complained that Handbook has a condescending or forceful tone, but I found it very helpful for my own personal journey.
I have been having a bit of a harder time since I started teaching. For one thing, teaching law, especially at the beginning, takes an incredible amount of preparation. I think another aspect of it is that, being new to academia, there’s a constant drive to produce a lot of academic writing in order to establish oneself. Also, since becoming a parent about a year and a half ago, things have been much more challenging. I’m still working out how to find time to write, especially time when I’m not completely exhausted. I think the key is to maintain dedication and to keep working on developing a workable writing schedule.
SS: I understand that you used to divide your time between San Diego and Seattle, but you recently moved with your family to Michigan. How has living in different regions influenced your writing?
The Body’s Alphabet
By Siham Karami (from Glass Poetry)
In her first full-length collection, The Body’s Alphabet (Headmistress Press, 2016), Ann Tweedy comes at us full-force with her own truth, both personal — the suffering of being raised by a mother afflicted with insanity, and the difficulties of being openly bisexual, where she “could choose but won’t” — and universal, a word I don’t use lightly, where she sees in the natural world, to which she is intimately attuned, the same struggles to find home, a place of meaning and validation in the larger sense. Her insights’ striking breadth will bring the reader back to this book again and again, as she questions the lines we draw in issues of sexuality, human relationships, and our relationship with the natural world.
Finding and defining home is a need as urgent as survival and as basic, a fact underscored by the recent mass exodus of refugees from war-torn and oppressive societies in Africa and the Middle East. In more personal wars, certain social groups afraid of/hating others, as we have seen with the election of Donald Trump, can bring the same xenophobia-based difficulties to finding home in one’s own country. “Social norms” create spaces, both physical and psychological, in which individuals do not exactly fit. In the case of LGBTQ individuals, creating a home for oneself is an imperative with particular poignancy.
Queen Mob’s Tea House
Mary: How would you describe your poetry? (Please feel free to be as playful or serious in your description as you want.)
Ann: I always find this to be a terribly hard question. I generally write narrative poetry that explores parts of my life. Sometimes I write about others’ stories as well—for example news stories or things that have happened to friends or relatives. Some of my poetry makes arguments or uses philosophical questions in the context of stories—perhaps that’s where my law—and philosophy–backgrounds enter my poetry.
Mary: What motivated you to begin writing poetry? What or who has influenced your poetry?
Moe Green Poetry Hour
Listen to the interview by poets Rafael Alvarado and Hannah Wehr from October 2008.
The Body’s Alphabet
By Trish Hopkinson (from Literary Mama)
The poetry of presents the complexity of relationships between mothers and their children from multiple perspectives—from the viewpoint of a child tormented by her hoarding mother, to a mother’s experiences with birth, breastfeeding, marriage, and sexual orientation. The poems appear to be chronological, introducing the poems’ speaker with memories of her childhood then gradually moving into phases of her adulthood, each conflict nesting within the next to build a personal history.
This collection is the first full-length book of poems by Ann Tweedy, an active poet and essayist, as well as a law professor and practicing attorney. In addition, she has two published chapbooks and her poetry has appeared in many literary magazines and journals, including Literary Mama, Clackamas Literary Review, Rattle, damselfly press, Lavender Review, and Harrington Lesbian Literary Quarterly.
The Body’s Alphabet
By Rebecca Valley (from Drizzle Review)
Ann Tweedy’s collection The Body’s Alphabet is a book of in-betweens – in-between homes, in-between loves, in-between sexualities. It is a book about motherhood and memory, and the space we keep for our childhood long after we have grown up around it. Though Tweedy begins The Body’s Alphabet with the lines “I tread through / the world mindful that upsets / follow unguarded movement” (1), over the course of the collection she finds strength in those quiet and delicate moments, and in doing so steps out from her own carefully crafted betweenness to affirm her presence in the work.
Even Tweedy’s headings live in a world in-between. Each section is prefaced by names like “thresholds,” “between planets,” and “dirt-blurred,” so that by the time I dove into these poems I could already feel the narrator standing in the doorway between two rooms, watching quietly while the world unfolded around her. You feel her as a spectator in the poem “Small Town Vignettes” where she writes about her mother getting arrested on the steps of her church, and then later reflects on “the insinuating dss woman” who says:
never answered the door but we could hear
footsteps inside and I wondered how
that was a crime but in her language –
in front of a judge –
it meant hiding something hiding something (19)
By Lena Judith Drake (from Bi Women’s Quarterly)
When I received my review copy of Ann Tweedy’s Beleaguered Oases, I sincerely hoped that I would enjoy the poetry, because did not want to write a scathing critique. I was not disappointed. In fact, I devoured these beleaguered poems while furiously taking notes about my future review on the back of the oversized index card sent with the copy of the book.
These are good poems. Very, very good poems. Divided into three sections, “The Body,” “Many Oases,” and “Immersed,” these poems describe bodies and landscapes in complex relationships through honest details. Yes, some of these are nature poems, but not maudlin depictions of grassy knolls and birds twittering. This is nature—more like human nature, which just might be animal nature. This is clear in the depictions of small moments in sexuality, like in “Newts” and “Licking the Glue.”
by Mary Kasimor (from The Altered Scale Blog, October 24, 2014)
As a writer and thinker of Western ideas, I am aware of how we use and express our ideas through our language, and words are important. Language is slippery, our identities are suspect, and the ways that we try to prove an idea can be skewed and inaccurate, even though they may seem true and/or right. Authenticity in expressing what we think and feel is always under scrutiny, especially in the constantly wired world of instant news and ideas. When we venture into ideas in which we are already suspect, our authenticity also becomes more suspect. If you (the writer) are trying to write from your heart, how can you persuade your readers that what you are saying is deeply felt and not simply what you (the writer) think that the reader wants to hear? This is the premise of Ann Tweedy’s chapbook, White Out, or this is what I believe that she is expressing in her collection of poems. Her writing style is straightforward and expresses what she feels with authenticity, which is why the poems in this chapbook are powerful. I believe the last three lines in the poem, ‘Study,” express the authenticity of how and why she wrote these poems:
In my white skin, I cringe , but go on , questioning myself,
honoring uncertainty, day by day
accepting the challenge to prove myself worthy.
Tweedy is a white woman who is writing about the racism and bigotry that she has seen through her experiences as an attorney working for the Indian tribes—and as an observant person living in the United States. She also continually questions herself in the poems—her position as privileged. Because of where she is positioned in society, it is important to know who her audiences are in these poems. Are the poems written for a reader who is ‘privileged” and white, are they written for the people who have had to live and deal with racial prejudice, or are they written for anyone who has thought about the way racism has affected those who do not have that ‘white privilege”?