Get Your Creative Juices Flowing
A sumptuous, sensuous writing guide from the author of the award-winning The Book of Dead Birds
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About the Author
Gayle Brandeis is the author of The Book of Dead Birds, the winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize, an award in support of a literature of social change. Reviewers have highly praised this, her first novel, and Toni Morrison said: "It has an edgy beauty that enhances perfectly the seriousness of its contents." She is also the author. Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write.
Read an Excerpt
Renascent itch that says I am alive.
Rachel Hadas, from “Pomegranate Variations”
Our bodies are fruit. Our bodies are luscious, ripe, full of slick seeds.
Our bodies are fruitful. We can bring forth life from our deepest center. We can spray elaborate fountains of milk. We can give birth to stories and poems and paintings and bread and bowls and whole new worlds of ideas. Our ovaries are twin passion fruits nestled inside our bellies, packed with luminous seeds of possibility. We are all brimming with creative juice.
The word fruit comes from the Latin fructus, which means “that which is used or enjoyed.” Our bodies are ours to use and enjoy fully, down to the last sticky drop. I wrote Fruitflesh to help us as women and as writers learn to enjoy our bodies and gain access to our own organic creative power. Our whole history is written in our flesh. Every pleasure, every pain we've experienced is encoded in our cells. As writers, we have a limitless store of material swirling underneath our own skin. When we bring awareness to our bodies, we bring new life, our own life, into our writing. As we open our senses, our capacity for connection with the world outside and within us increases tremendously, and we open the way for some amazing writing to pour forth.
Unfortunately, in our media-saturated culture, we are taught to live our bodies from the outside. We are taught to be concerned only about how we look, about what numbers blink when we step on the scale, aboutwhat size skirt we can zip ourselves into. We diet, we starve, we binge, we purge, we smoosh ourselves into girdles and push-up bras, all because of some Madison Avenue- and Hollywood-created image that tells us how we “should” look. As women, we are not taught, at least not by the popular media, to respect the deep wisdom and pleasures of our bodies no matter what age or shape or ethnicity we may be. As a result, we are often cut off from our bodies' authentic joys and stories, the creativity that pulses so powerfully within us. I want this book to help us break through the tough, artificial, culturally imposed rind and release the sweet, juicy, creative flesh that is our birthright.
I am deeply saddened by the fact that throughout history, women who have written of themselves as fruitflesh have been punished for it. Ho Xuan Huang, an eighteenth-century Vietnamese poet, was often arrested for writing poems such as this about her own creative body:
I am like a jackfruit on the tree.
To taste you must plug me quick, while fresh,
The skin rough, the pulp thick, yes,
But oh, I warn you against touching
The rich juice will gush and stain your hands.
In the twentieth century, Portuguese poet Maria Teresa Horta was imprisoned for her sexually frank poetry. One of her poems ends with these lines:
I am lost to time
I am lost to time
enclosed in my
with breath inside
Fruit with breath inside. That seems like such a perfect description of a woman's body to me juicy, sweet, breathing flesh.
According to Barbara Walker in The Woman's Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, a popular symbol for Truth and Sincerity in old Europe was a peach with one leaf attached to the stem. This symbol represented the union of heart (the fruit) and tongue (the leaf).
This is what we should strive for when we write a union of heart and tongue (and hand and belly and throat and all the rest of our body). When we write from our fruitflesh, our words will be imbued instantly with truth and sincerity. Fruitflesh is not simple flesh it is intelligent flesh, spirited flesh. It is the soma, the place where body and mind and spirit have no division. Our bodies are the repository for all our experiences, all our emotions, all our truest stories. We can capture our own wholeness, our own integrity on the page, when we allow our fruitflesh to speak.
Turn your attention inside your skin for a moment. Are you sitting? Lying down? Where are your hands? How does your scalp feel right now? Your belly? How is your body responding to my words'do you feel any hesitation bunched in your shoulders, maybe some anticipation sizzling in your chest? Do you want to sigh?
I hold my pen, scratch it against the page. You hold this page before you. Our hands, our eyes, connect, be it indirectly. Writing is a physical act. Our fingertips are highly sensitive. We write to touch.
I hope this book will allow you, as a woman and a writer, to begin to acknowledge and gain access to your body's own fruitful, creative power. As we come to honor the deep wisdom of our bodies, we also come to honor one another our connectedness as women, as well as the wonder of our diversity, our individual creative talents. We are a vast orchard of succulent fruits. We come in all colors and sizes and stages of ripeness. Our flavors may be different, but they are all equally delicious.
The exercises and meditations in this book are designed to wake up both your body and your writing. You can think of them as juicings, as they serve to tap into and release the language that flows inside your own fruitflesh. The book follows the growing season each section marks a new stage in the evolution of a fruit tree, from seed to root to full ripeness and back to seed again but you don't need to follow the page order to ensure your own growth. Let your instinct be your guide; you can easily pluck a leaf before you plumb your roots or after you explore the buds ready to blossom inside...Fruitflesh. Copyright © by Gayle Brandeis. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
What People are Saying About This
"Gayle Brandeis shows us how to write sense-soaked prose and poetry that celebrates the embodiment of the life!
“Anyone immersing herself in Fruitflesh is sure to find her writing liberated, and enriched by the many stimulating exercises.”
“THE BOOK OF DEAD BIRDS is a story of healinga skillful, textured weaving of dark and light.”