December 14, 2014



What is your favorite way to “work” your body?

I am not really much of an "exerciser," per se, at least in the conventional sense of the word. I didn't grow up with exercise as a normal part of my family environment, so doing it doesn't really come naturally to me. I have to force myself—and I admit I don't force myself as much as I should. That's why I prefer forms of exercise that don't really feel like exercise to me. I don't go to the gym or anything like that, although I have at other times in my life (with varying degrees of success). Walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, or hiking are probably my faves. I've tried to be a runner and I just can't get into it—like the entire time I'm like "ok, when will this be over, I don't feel any endorphins." In fact I have a poem that opens with incredulity towards people who run marathons. If I know anything about myself, I know that I am 99.9% likely to never, ever, run a marathon. I am always done for new stuff, though. There is an aerial gym where I live and I think I am going to try a circus class in the new year. I mean, why not?

On sites like Blisstree, and past personal blogs, you have written extensively about food,  health, and fitness. When did you first become interested in health and wellness?

I think some part of me has always been interested in health and "wellness." Even as a kid I was sort of interested in "alternative" stuff, like herbal medicine.  My interest in wellness, I would say, is primarily concentrated around women's health and reproductive issues, as well as nutrition. I guess I'm also interested in holistic practices in general, because I very much believe that our minds and bodies are connected and should be treated, as much as possible, as one. You know, I make herbal tinctures and I have an acupressure mat and I go to a chiropractor, although I'm still fairly skeptical of a lot of alternative practices. It's an on-going interest that's always growing and changing (along with the research, right?) 

You currently work as a doula. Friends of mine who are doulas often comment upon the physical strength needed for the job. How do you physically and mentally prepare yourself for your work?

I don't know that there is much you can to prepare yourself physically for an individual birth, since they are all so different from one another. One laboring person might need a lot of physical support (walking, counter pressure, massage, etc) and one might not, one labor might be 36+ hours and another might only last a few hours. When I am on call for my clients, I make it a point to get enough sleep, stay hydrated and eat good, filling meals. When I get the call that my client is in labor (which is often in the middle of the night) I eat a small meal with lots of protein, like scrambled eggs, and drink at least a 16 oz water bottle before I go to join them. When I am at my client's chosen place of birth, I eat energy bars, almonds, and other snacks that have a lot of protein and try to drink water, too, although sometimes I will have some candy or tea to perk me up. And if the pregnant person is sleeping, then I am sleeping, as well!

Mentally, I just try to go in with an open heart and mind, being cognizant of the hopes, fears, wishes and preferences that I've discussed with my client before the birth. Anything can happen in childbirth and I see it as my role to remain a calm, soothing, compassionate and nonjudgmental presence no matter what. 

Your first full length book of poetry, PRETTY TILT, chronicles the messy and fucked up world of girlhood through a heady mix of sex, feminism, and pop culture. What struck me most about the collection, however, was the way in which the poems seemed to use the body itself as a kind of lens, a way of remembering. As if the most precious moments from those years—the ones that really mattered—were those in which the body was a privileged participant. The girls in PRETTY TILT are never fully satisfied with being the object of desire; rather, they actively lust and pine, yearn to feel “the buckle of spine” at the base of a boy’s neck, a hand up their skirt. Why did you feel it was important to include such raw and tender moments of sexuality?  How do you see desire operating in the text?

So much of adolescence, at least for me, was bodied. You have this body that has always been is your own but is also somehow new and foreign—it looks different, people look at it and react to it differently, it does things that you can't control and it makes you want things. It's seriously trippy, puberty but also sexual awakening, reckoning with becoming a sexual being in the world. I remember so clearly how insanely heady and thrilling it was to like, have my leg touch a boy's leg at the movie theatre, how just plain weird it was to have someone else's tongue touching my teeth, all of that. I think there's a tendency in our culture to downplay the very real experience of sexuality of young girls while also hypersexualizing them through the male gaze—their agency is taken away as sexual beings in and of their own right. So, it was important to me to show the girls in PRETTY TILT as agents of their own sexuality. Not all of the sexual experiences are pleasurable, or what we would call "good," but I do hope there is a sense that the sex and the sexual experiences in the book are being freely entered into. That's not to say that some aspect of teenage sexuality isn't coerced. I mean kind of socially coerced, influence by rape culture rather than the actual act of rape. There is so much pressure to enter into this world of sex, whether you are ready for it or not, whether you really want it or not. So I hope the desire I wrote about in the book shows both aspects—but it was my intention to show mostly girls wanting sex and liking sex and speaking openly about sex.

For me, so much of adolescence—my middle class American adolescence—was about lusting and pining—not only in a romantic way, for the person you loved who didn't love you back, the awkward eye contact made in the hallway outside the nurse's office before third period, the boy in the poster on your wall (in my case, Prince William)--but also for an adult life, which is totally in your view, but just out of your grasp. You want to do and be all the things you want to do and be, but you also don't totally know what those things are. You want to be free and sexy and in charge, but it's also overwhelming and really scary. I hope the book speaks to that aspect, as well—the liminality of being so close but so far away, "not a girl, not yet a woman" (in the immortal words of Britney).

Your second collection of poetry, Fat Daisies, will be released in 2015 by Big Lucks Books. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process for the book?

I am still working on the book—it's close to done, but not entirely. I started writing the poems that would end up in this book in 2012 during NaPoWriMo (where you write a poem every day for the month of April). The first ones I wrote were pretty bitter, but in a humorous way...I was living in northern Virginia, which I hated, and I didn't really have a job, and I basically was just a hermit who just stayed home all day looking at Twitter and reading internet think pieces about bullshit. It was not a good time in my life. So after that, I started writing poems about materialism and internet culture (Pinterest, other social media) and eventually some poems examining privilege and womanhood, among other things. It's a lot funnier—I hope!!—as a whole than any of my other work, and pretty direct and conversational in terms of language and tone.

I've gotten a lot of input from other poets and writers I trust, like Mark Cugini (my amazing friend who is publishing the book through Big Lucks Books), Gina Abelkop, Kristen Stone and Melanie Sweeney Bowen. PRETTY TILT was written when I was in my MFA program, so this is the first long work I've written without having any regular workshop of the poems. I felt like I left my MFA program at New Mexico State with a good sense of myself as a poet, so that's helpful, but I won't lie: writing this book has been scary as hell.

Carrie Murphy is the author of the poetry collection PRETTY TILT (Keyhole Press, 2012) and the chapbook, MEET THE LAVENDERS (Birds of Lace, 2011). Her second full-length book, FAT DAISIES, is forthcoming in 2014 from Big Lucks Books. She received an MFA from New Mexico State University. Originally from Baltimore, MD, Carrie works as a teacher, freelance writer, and birth doula in Albuquerque, NM. 

Elizabeth Hall's introduction to the FEMINISM AND FITNESS feature can be read here

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