Posted By Sandra Alland

"It got to the point where it became logical: If a woman was fiercely intelligent, outspoken and passionate, I'd look towards her arms for the scars. They were almost always there."

- Sabrina Chapadjiev, editor of Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction (Seven Stories Press)

Wow. Live Through This is an intense and wonderful new collection of personal essays, graphic stories and photos by some of the most amazing women artists in the United States. About how they survive pain and trauma, and if self-destruction is tied to their creativity.

It's star-studded. Patricia Smith writes about her father's murder and its connection to her poetry, bell hooks writes about the effects of trauma, and photographer Nan Goldin contributes some stunning and disturbing self-portraits.On the slightly lighter side of things, Eileen Myles writes about the importance of flossing, and Diane DiMassa draws the birth of her career as creator of the comic heroine Hothead Paisan:Homocidal Lesbian Terrorist (her psychiatrist annoyed her into it).

Some of the slightly less-famous artists contribute the strongest pieces in the collection - visual artist Fly writes beautifully about art-journalling and manic-depression, and poet Daphne Gottlieb eloquently describes her fear that treating her debilitating depression and suicidal tendencies will also take away her creativity.

I was also especially taken with the pieces on cutting and self-harm. Kate Bornstein describes cutting and anorexia as survival mechanisms for a gender misfit in a gender-obsessed society, and Inga Muscio tells how she cut herself with broken bottles and burned herself for a year in order to grieve her brother's death. What I love about both these pieces is that the writers refuse to pathologize self-harm. They also remove it from its inferred ties to suicide, and place it more in the context of coping, of being in control of one's own pain, of choosing to live.

"Cutting, starving yourself, drugging, drinking...these are all rituals some of us develop in order to deal with pain.Each of these solutions to pain is in itself painful, so each solution/ritual contains a very personal lesson on how to handle the experience of pain. Pain itself is nothing scary. It's the surprise of pain -- the helplessness in the face of some pain -- that can debilitate people... Am I advocating self-inflicted pain? Yeah. Yeah I am.Yes it can get out of hand...but any ritual can get out of hand."

- Kate Bornstein

"I have read a lot about cutters -- psychological assessments and whatnot -- and none of it ever resonates with my experience. When my brother died I projectile-vomited screams, but it was not acceptable for me to do that every day for a couple years.There was no space to grieve, so I found a quiet way in a very personal space...I don't really like to write about this subject because I am supposed to have the moral responsibility to offer a cautionary tale, and I can't do that.The slash n burn time of my life served me well, though it was costly."

- Inga Muscio

In other news, Edinburgh arts afficionado Michelle Kasprzak has a pretty cool blog, the September 3rd one on prison (especially women in prison) is particularly interesting.

Off to live through another day.



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