Full program video: Caren Beilin and Amy Berkowitz: October 17, 2019
Video highlight clips: "Poetry failed me because it's not written plainly....." Amy Berkowitz reads from Tender Points | "The moon is hollow...." Caren Beilin reads from Blackfishing the IUD | "...We should have like millions of dollars...." Amy Berkowitz and Caren Beilin each respond to a question regarding anger and writing that addresses pain and trauma
Join us for a special program in The Poetry Center's In Common Writers Series, as we host novelist and memoirist Caren Beilin, visiting from Western Massachusetts, and San Francisco poet Amy Berkowitz. Beilin's new book is a nonfiction memoir focused on women's health, chronic illness, and medical gaslighting. Blackfishing the IUD is new from Oakland small press Wolfman Books, also producing a "several-part podcast...to more broadly explore and shine a light on women’s experiences around reproductive healthcare and the medical industry." Berkowitz is the author of Tender Points, her acclaimed book named for the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia: "the book-length lyric essay explores sexual violence, gendered illness, chronic pain, and patriarchy through the lenses of lived experience and pop culture."
This evening at The Poetry Center is co-sponsored with Women and Gender Studies, at SF State. The following night, Friday October 18—the official book-launch for Blackfishing the IUD—both writers will read from their own work and engage in conversation at Wolfman Books in downtown Oakland. Supported by the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, both events are free and open to the public.
Caren Beilin is the author of a novel, The University of Pennsylvania (Noemi Press, 2014), a memoir, SPAIN (Rescue Press, 2018), and a nonfiction book (and podcast), Blackfishing the IUD (Wolfman Books, 2019). She has published her writing in places such as The Offing, Territory, Fence, New Life Quarterly, Dreginald, and Full Stop Magazine. She lives in North Adams, Massachusetts, where she teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"How will this do? I want to blackfish the IUD (the copper intra-uterine device, used for birth control), that gave me this disease. I want everyone to see something. The documentary Blackfish, made in 2013, made it impossible for SeaWorld to exist, because you couldn’t see it right anymore. Instead you saw its whale, Tinnicum, with his truly sad bent fin. Who had been in captivity for too long. The documentary trafficked in haecceity (Latin, for thisness), and once you know what a whale is, when you hear them calling out, you cannot go back to your enclosure. A documentary like that cuts a taut, stressed chord in the eyeball. Once it’s snapped, you see the whales and what they are. Whales want seas, and what is copper? Should it be inserted inside of a woman? It obviously caused my disease, and I’m going to tell you how."
—Caren Beilin, from Blackfishing the IUD, excerpted at Los Angeles Review of Books
Amy Berkowitz is the author of Tender Points (Timeless, Infinite Light, 2015; now available from Nightboat Books). Other writing has appeared in publications including Bitch, McSweeney's, and Wolfman New Life Quarterly. She's the host of the Amy's Kitchen Organics reading series, the coordinator of the Alley Cat Books writing residency, and the founder of Mondo Bummer, an experimental small press. She lives in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco, where she's working on her second book. More at amyberko.com.
I don’t particularly like riddles. But then again, neither did travelers passing through Thebes. They didn’t try to solve the Sphinx’s riddle because they craved the intellectual challenge. They tried to solve it because the Sphinx killed anyone who didn’t.
I don’t like riddles. And yet here I am, obsessed with solving a riddle of my own, the riddle of my body: Why, exactly, am I constantly in pain?
Like the Sphinx’s riddle, mine is not a brainteaser. It’s not Sudoku. It’s not something you do on the bus to make the ride feel shorter. Like her riddle, mine has a greater urgency.
—Amy Berkowitz, from Tender Points