163: Book Magic with poet and educator, Zoe Tuck

Mara Thomas got to know poet and educator Zoe Tuck through the School of the Alternative in Black Mountain, North Carolina where Zoe taught a class called “Book Magic.” 

“Book Magic” started from the premise that there is a grain of truth to the magic we remember from children’s books and other fantastical literature. And if those books contained a grain of truth, how might participants nurture that grain and write their own magical systems into being?

Enjoy this conversation about the mystical and intuitive parts of the creative process, ranging from friendship to trance poetics and patterned breath to the potency of shared creative spaces.

Check out the show notes below for links to many of the books, writers, and resources referenced in this episode.

BIO:

Zoe Tuck (she/her) was born in Texas, became a person in California, and now lives in Massachusetts. She is the author of Terror Matrix (Timeless, Infinite Light) and the chapbooks “Vape Cloud of Unknowing” (Belladonna*) and “The Book of Bella” (DoubleCross Press), the latter of which is bound in a dos-a-dos edition with Emily Hunerwadel’s “Peach Woman.” In addition to teaching creative writing and literature classes, Zoe is the co-host of The But Also reading series with Britt Billmeyer-Finn and the co-editor of Hot Pink Magazine with Emily Brown.

SOCIAL MEDIA:

IG: @zoe.tuck 

Website: zoetuck.com

MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE:

School of the Alternative

Eliza Swann – Golden Dome, Alchemical Imagination

Julia Cameron – The Artist’s Way

Automatic Writing

Jack Spicer – San Francisco Renaissance Poet

Svetlana Boym – Scenography of Friendship

Renee Gladman – Adjacent Alterities 

Troubling the Line – first ever collection of poetry by trans & genderqueer poets

Cento Poetry Practice

KPrevalletTrance Poetics, Ecosomatic Poetics

James Nestor – Breath

LISTEN TO ASBX AUDIO DRAMAS:

Master Builder

The New Colossus

Declaration of Love audio anthology

ASBX Shorts

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Transcript
Tamara Kissane:

This is artist soapbox.

Tamara Kissane:

Through interviews and original scripted audio fiction.

Tamara Kissane:

We deliver stories that speak to your hearts and your minds.

Mara Thomas:

Hello, soap boxers.

Mara Thomas:

Today, it's my pleasure to share with you my recent conversation

Mara Thomas:

with poet and educator, Zoe Tuck.

Mara Thomas:

I got to know Zoe through the School of the Alternative in Black

Mara Thomas:

Mountain, North Carolina, where she taught a class called Book Magic.

Mara Thomas:

Book Magic started from the premise that there is a grain of truth to the magic

Mara Thomas:

we remember from children's books and other fantastical literature.

Mara Thomas:

And if those books contained a grain of truth, how might participants nurture

Mara Thomas:

that grain and write their own magical systems into being as someone who

Mara Thomas:

loves to indulge in the mystical and intuitive parts of the creative process?

Mara Thomas:

I loved going on this journey with Zoe, our conversation ranges

Mara Thomas:

from friendship to trans poetics

Mara Thomas:

and patterned breath to the potency of shared creative spaces.

Mara Thomas:

Zoe shares so many fascinating ideas and resources.

Mara Thomas:

For anyone who loves traveling into research rabbit holes like I do check

Mara Thomas:

out the show notes for links to many of the books, writers and resources

Mara Thomas:

referenced in this episode, Zoe Tuck was born in Texas, became a person in

Mara Thomas:

California and now lives in Massachusetts.

Mara Thomas:

She is the author of Terror Matrix and the chapbooks Vape Cloud of

Mara Thomas:

Unknowing and The Book of Bella.

Mara Thomas:

In addition to teaching creative writing and literature classes, Zoe is the

Mara Thomas:

co-host of The But Also reading series and the co-editor of Hot Pink magazine.

Mara Thomas:

Without further ado onto the episode.

Mara Thomas:

Hello, Zoe tuck.

Mara Thomas:

Welcome to artist soapbox.

Zoe Tuck:

Hi, thank you.

Mara Thomas:

It's so wonderful to have you.

Mara Thomas:

I'm just thrilled that we get to have this time to talk with one another today.

Mara Thomas:

Me too.

Mara Thomas:

I'd really love to just jump right in.

Mara Thomas:

To a little bit of how we met, which was through the school of the

Mara Thomas:aculty this summer, summer of:Mara Thomas:

teaching a class called book magic.

Mara Thomas:

Could you please share with our listeners a little bit about book magic?

Zoe Tuck:

Absolutely.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

It was based on a sort of fantastical premise, which is that, which I don't know

Zoe Tuck:

if I fully believe, and yet I also believe it at the same time, if that makes any

Zoe Tuck:

sense, sort of that all of the magical systems that are in children's books,

Zoe Tuck:

fairy tales, you know, sort of YA fantasy

Zoe Tuck:

have some grain of truth to them.

Zoe Tuck:

And that was the seed of the class.

Zoe Tuck:

And then at the same time, I had heard from a friend about

Zoe Tuck:

school of the alternative.

Zoe Tuck:

And I thought that that might be a good home for something a little, a little woo.

Zoe Tuck:

A little strange, a little

Mara Thomas:

woo.

Mara Thomas:

A little strange.

Mara Thomas:

You're just speaking my language.

Mara Thomas:

So please please continue.

Mara Thomas:

And just maybe talk a little bit about what went into.

Mara Thomas:

The development of it.

Mara Thomas:

So after you had this grain of an idea around, all right, these children's books,

Mara Thomas:

what if there's a little bit of truth there, and then as you sort of pulled

Mara Thomas:

that thread, what did you start to find?

Zoe Tuck:

I always researched sometimes I over research, so I started to reread

Zoe Tuck:

some of my favorite children's books.

Zoe Tuck:

and see, see what it felt like in there.

Zoe Tuck:

And also see if I could try to translate what it was they were doing into

Zoe Tuck:

something that would be intelligible and maybe even useful for other people,

Zoe Tuck:

the sort of like possibilities for transformation that they were modeling.

Zoe Tuck:

And then I also tried to do some research on, you know, I was

Zoe Tuck:

like, okay, I know what a book is.

Zoe Tuck:

I think even if it's this sort of fantastical hyper object that has

Zoe Tuck:

many facets, but what's magic.

Zoe Tuck:

. And so I was trying to do some research there as well as just bringing in my sort

Zoe Tuck:

of own personal spiritual experience.

Zoe Tuck:

And I actually did a trial run lecture for a few friends called

Zoe Tuck:

preface to book magic, just as a way of sort of talking out my thought

Zoe Tuck:

process so far, which was very sweet.

Zoe Tuck:

I pitched it as a lecture, but among the people who came, it ended up being a

Zoe Tuck:

sort of impromptu workshop for the idea.

Zoe Tuck:

And then in terms of the coming to the structure, there is a witchy

Zoe Tuck:

school that I like called golden dome.

Zoe Tuck:

And one of the people in it is artist witch, Eliza Swan.

Zoe Tuck:

Uh, and I had recently taken a class of hers called the alchemical imagination.

Zoe Tuck:

And I really liked her structure because she used a bit of lecturing and then these

Zoe Tuck:

guided meditations and sometimes some writing exercises or things like that.

Zoe Tuck:

And there'd be some sharing at the end.

Zoe Tuck:

I loved the idea of the guided meditation.

Zoe Tuck:

So this was actually my first opportunity to try that in a teaching setting.

Mara Thomas:

Well, and I know that several people who participated in

Mara Thomas:

your book magic class this summer responded to that meditation.

Mara Thomas:

They said it was really one of their favorite elements of the class.

Mara Thomas:

So I'm curious how, you know, what went into adding that meditation

Mara Thomas:

in and how do you think it served the overall magic element?

Zoe Tuck:

Okay.

Zoe Tuck:

That's yes, that's a really good question.

Zoe Tuck:

Well, I think that, you know, one of the tropes of magic or

Zoe Tuck:

one of the methodologies of magic is to cast the spell to affect

Zoe Tuck:

some sort of change in the world.

Zoe Tuck:

And fortunately for me being a poet, You often use words to cast the spell.

Zoe Tuck:

And I think the guided meditation part also came out of an increasing

Zoe Tuck:

consideration, or I, I feel like I've been on a journey to try to figure out

Zoe Tuck:

how to get out of my head and a purely like intellectual cerebral place into

Zoe Tuck:

a more embodied place, both in the process of my own writing, but then

Zoe Tuck:

also in the destination of my writing.

Zoe Tuck:

So how can I.

Zoe Tuck:

Using breath, rhythm.

Zoe Tuck:

You know, certain like storytelling techniques, help people to get into

Zoe Tuck:

sort of, I mean, I don't even know.

Zoe Tuck:

I could say these words, but I don't, I don't fully know what they mean.

Zoe Tuck:

Like some sort of trance state or hypnagogic state, because I feel like

Zoe Tuck:

that is a place where, uh, you can get in and, and do that sort of personal

Zoe Tuck:

magic, internal magic, I guess.

Zoe Tuck:

Does that make any sense?

Mara Thomas:

Absolutely makes complete sense.

Mara Thomas:

And in fact, you know, one of the methodologies that I've been training

Mara Thomas:

in, in my mental health training is one that the, the goal of the exercise is

Mara Thomas:

to get people out of their prefrontal brain and sub subcortical, because

Mara Thomas:

we, we spend way too much time in our thinking brain and trying to,

Mara Thomas:

we can't think through our trauma.

Mara Thomas:

We know, we, we can intellectualize it for sure, but other, you know,

Mara Thomas:

this particular practice that I'm training in is about accessing places

Mara Thomas:

where memory lives in the brain.

Mara Thomas:

Yeah.

Mara Thomas:

And felt sense.

Mara Thomas:

So.

Mara Thomas:

I'm right there with you.

Mara Thomas:

Anything that can help us get, you know, just get into a different head space.

Mara Thomas:

And I feel like that's also part of the juice of creativity, you know, I'm just

Mara Thomas:

thinking about my own process and I, I kind of have to put some music on and

Mara Thomas:

get myself in a space before I sit down and, you know, attempt to open a conduit.

Mara Thomas:

Right.

Mara Thomas:

So I'm just curious, like what that process looks like for you.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah, absolutely.

Zoe Tuck:

Well sort of wanna jump back to something earlier.

Zoe Tuck:

You said the word memory.

Zoe Tuck:

Mm.

Zoe Tuck:

And I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that as part

Zoe Tuck:

of the impulse of the class.

Zoe Tuck:

You know, for me, the stuff that I read as a kid is such like, I feel it so

Zoe Tuck:

deeply and I sort of carry it with me.

Zoe Tuck:

So that was also part of my motivation for centering book magic on general

Zoe Tuck:

children's magical lid, because I feel like if that's true for me, it

Zoe Tuck:

must be true for other people that this could be a potential portal.

Zoe Tuck:

Not only back to something that might have been an early, like pleasurable

Zoe Tuck:

encounter with literature, but also something personally meaningful from,

Zoe Tuck:

from a, an earlier time in people's lives and a way a way to get there.

Zoe Tuck:

So , that was, I was sidestepping your question, but I can, I can

Zoe Tuck:

go back to the actual question.

Mara Thomas:

Well, thank you for that aside because

Mara Thomas:

that's yeah, just so helpful.

Mara Thomas:

You know, so many of these developmental things that we come back to time

Mara Thomas:

and time again in our lives.

Mara Thomas:

That's when they're set, they're set in childhood and consciously or

Mara Thomas:

unconsciously, we play them out with the people in our lives, through our process.

Mara Thomas:

And so maybe that's a good segue back into just talking a little bit

Mara Thomas:

about your personal creative process.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

What is my personal creative process?

Zoe Tuck:

That's a good question.

Zoe Tuck:

I, for a while I had a very robust notebook habit.

Zoe Tuck:

I'm looking across the room at a cabinet full of Moleskins , which

Zoe Tuck:

I have a dream of scanning someday.

Zoe Tuck:

You know, that's sort of inspired by the Julia Cameron artist way daily

Zoe Tuck:

writing practice, which has some similarities to automatic writing,

Zoe Tuck:

like the surrealist technique of just not, not lifting your hand, letting

Zoe Tuck:

whatever comes through, come through.

Zoe Tuck:

And then as, as you do that, I think, again, this is a mental process

Zoe Tuck:

where the part of your brain that is trying to steer things realizes

Zoe Tuck:

that you're not going to let it.

Zoe Tuck:

And so it backs off a little bit and then other things start to come through.

Zoe Tuck:

But on the witchy side, I I'm a fan of people like the San Francisco Renaissance

Zoe Tuck:

poet, Jack Spicer, who famously said that he got his inspiration and his poems from

Zoe Tuck:

a Martian radio that he was tuning into mm-hmm so I think there is something.

Zoe Tuck:

I mean, I don't know if I literally believe

Zoe Tuck:

that there's something out there that I'm pulling from, or that's sending

Zoe Tuck:

messages to me, or if it's something more like the unconscious that's like

Zoe Tuck:

inside, but not immediately accessible.

Zoe Tuck:

And so it feels foreign or other.

Zoe Tuck:

And I, I kind of don't care I like, I like the feeling of otherness.

Zoe Tuck:

I like the feeling of pulling it from an unknown place.

Zoe Tuck:

So that's, that's part of my process.

Mara Thomas:

I love that so much.

Mara Thomas:

And I'm really glad that you mentioned the artist's way, because that was also

Mara Thomas:

the book that turned me into a journaler.

Mara Thomas:

You know, every morning writing at least a page, you know,

Mara Thomas:

they say three in the book.

Mara Thomas:

I write one, but you know, it's better than nothing because for me, part of

Mara Thomas:

it is just engaging with the process.

Mara Thomas:

Even if it's just kind of regurgitating, like, and then I did this and then I

Mara Thomas:

did that, like going through my day,

Mara Thomas:

it still is the process of writing.

Mara Thomas:

In a way kind of clears the decks and allows for that opening for those

Mara Thomas:

messages that, you know, maybe they do come from that Martian radio satellite.

Mara Thomas:

Maybe they come from internal sources or just like you.

Mara Thomas:

I don't really care either.

Mara Thomas:

I just know that the more that I am actively just doing the process, the less,

Mara Thomas:

it really matters if that makes any sense.

Mara Thomas:

And because I also believe that teaching is a creative process.

Mara Thomas:

You know, we've talked a little bit just personally, about the

Mara Thomas:

ulterior motives, perhaps you may have while you're teaching.

Mara Thomas:

And I'm wondering if you could share a little bit about that with our listeners?

Zoe Tuck:

Well, my main motive I, you know, is I love to facilitate spaces.

Zoe Tuck:

I host a reading series with my partner.

Zoe Tuck:

I've hosted other reading series.

Zoe Tuck:

I like the thing that happens in a room where it's centered around someone's work.

Zoe Tuck:

and we all click into the same rhythm.

Zoe Tuck:

I think something really beautiful happens in those moments.

Zoe Tuck:

Something about presence, but teaching is this way too.

Zoe Tuck:

And I think part of why teaching at soda felt so meaningful is that it was

Zoe Tuck:

my first in person teaching experience.

Zoe Tuck:

So it's the beginning of the pandemic mm-hmm and I don't know

Zoe Tuck:

whether it went well for reasons related to the class or whether.

Zoe Tuck:

It went well and by went well, I mean, felt good to me.

Zoe Tuck:

And I, I seemed to get positive feedback because it felt so good

Zoe Tuck:

to be there in an embodied way, in the same room as other people.

Zoe Tuck:

And that mysterious physical thing that happens happens.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

That's a, that's a motive.

Zoe Tuck:

and I mean, I think what are, what are other ulterior motive?

Zoe Tuck:

I always like to try to make a gentle space and a porous space and for people

Zoe Tuck:

to feel invited in, in a low stakes way to play and imagine together,

Zoe Tuck:

because I feel like I have benefited from that just as a pleasant thing to

Zoe Tuck:

do, but also as a potential site for transformation, which is often a thing

Zoe Tuck:

that we need in life or a thing that comes for us, whether we need it or.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah, I guess one of the motives is just the desire to share that as a resource

Zoe Tuck:

and facilitate that process for people.

Mara Thomas:

Well, and I think just like what you said often what's up for

Mara Thomas:

one person is up for multiple people in the group and there's sort of this

Mara Thomas:

trope or, you know, Old saying in the theater community, like whatever

Mara Thomas:

play you're working on right then is like a metaphor for your life.

Mara Thomas:

Mm.

Mara Thomas:

And, you know, so thinking about these group dynamics and

Mara Thomas:

facilitating these spaces for people to sort of tap into one another's

Mara Thomas:

frequencies and the potential for.

Mara Thomas:

Whether that's metabolizing something together or transforming transmuting

Mara Thomas:

something, you know, it's almost like the person who's leading it is

Mara Thomas:

offering, Hey, here's this topic,

Mara Thomas:

and then we all sort of collectively add an ingredient to the mix.

Mara Thomas:

That's that ultimately to me can feel very healing.

Zoe Tuck:

Absolutely.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

I felt so inspired.

Zoe Tuck:

By Luan's class also, which I, I only got to go to one session of,

Zoe Tuck:

but about fertile, fertile fear and just the very simple, but profound

Zoe Tuck:

notion that if there's something that one person needs, you assemble

Zoe Tuck:

a group and someone there will have.

Zoe Tuck:

Some kind of relevant support to offer, I think, yeah, that's, that's a different

Zoe Tuck:

kind of, that's like community magic.

Mara Thomas:

Mm, yeah.

Mara Thomas:

Community magic.

Mara Thomas:

And I'm wondering if you could share a little bit about your experience teaching.

Mara Thomas:

I think you were teaching a class about friendship or friendship in literature

Mara Thomas:

and it was also something that was really personal for you at the time.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

Well, you used the word metabolize, which is a word that I love.

Zoe Tuck:

. Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

I'm often using my, either my own creative work or teaching as a, as a way

Zoe Tuck:

to understand what's happening with me.

Zoe Tuck:

On a personal visceral level on an emotional level.

Zoe Tuck:

And then to kind of externalize it and get some, a bit of a remove

Zoe Tuck:

to be able to safely engage with something that otherwise feels a

Zoe Tuck:

little like too hot or too painful.

Zoe Tuck:

But yeah, I did a series, so I've been teaching private workshops since I got

Zoe Tuck:

out of grad school, I decided I didn't, wasn't really suitedto the academic

Zoe Tuck:

track, but I I've always enjoyed a sort of small informal class environment

Zoe Tuck:

and I also like following my whimsy.

Zoe Tuck:

I had experienced friendship, a friendship breakup.

Zoe Tuck:

Well, the breakup never really happened, but it was a defacto friendship

Zoe Tuck:

breakup in the sense that I, there was someone I felt very close to

Zoe Tuck:

and then we weren't talking anymore.

Zoe Tuck:

And it was a friendship that I had felt that was very generative to me.

Zoe Tuck:

It was the site of like a lot.

Zoe Tuck:

The inspiration of a lot of poems in the site of a lot of shared thought.

Zoe Tuck:

And so I decided I would, you know, friendship is such an interesting topic

Zoe Tuck:

and it's very, I, I mean, part of why it's interesting is that it's so ambiguous.

Zoe Tuck:

I feel like friendship encompasses everything from like a nodding

Zoe Tuck:

acquaintance to something deeply like intimate, almost romantic.

Zoe Tuck:

And, you know, again, like literature is something that is so suited

Zoe Tuck:

to thinking through feelings, thinking through interiority.

Zoe Tuck:

So that was the, that was the inspiration for that.

Zoe Tuck:

And I think also literally the inspiration was an essay by

Zoe Tuck:

the critics, Svetlana Boim.

Zoe Tuck:

Called, I believe it was called like the sonography of friendship.

Zoe Tuck:

And it was written about Hannah Arent and Mary McCarthy's letters.

Zoe Tuck:

I really liked how Boim analyzed their friendship.

Zoe Tuck:

She talked about it as being a sort of.

Zoe Tuck:

Well, now I'm using someone else's word.

Zoe Tuck:

This is Renee Gladman's term, but like adjacent alterities, they had

Zoe Tuck:

mutually intelligible otherness.

Zoe Tuck:

And I feel like, you know, their, their differences in background, you know,

Zoe Tuck:

McCarthy was American, Arent was German Jew who had had to immigrate to the us.

Zoe Tuck:

You know, this is mid 20th century, but there was something about, there was a

Zoe Tuck:

productive edge to their differences.

Zoe Tuck:

If that makes any sense, which was something that I had, I had fought with

Zoe Tuck:

the friendship that I was lamenting.

Zoe Tuck:

So we started there, we read the letters and then we moved on to other.

Zoe Tuck:

I mean, the class could easily have been like 10 years long because I, I there's.

Zoe Tuck:

So once you start digging for friendship, if friendship is your

Zoe Tuck:

limiting term, you, you have a glut.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

yes.

Mara Thomas:

As you talk about creativity and interiority, I believe that I've

Mara Thomas:

also come to know myself through my creativity and as a creative person.

Mara Thomas:

It's just been this like lifelong dance, a little bit of trying things on and,

Mara Thomas:

and learning about myself and, and creativity, giving me the ability to try

Mara Thomas:

different things and see how it feels.

Mara Thomas:

Try it on for size.

Mara Thomas:

You know, and you've talked with me about your own personal transformation

Mara Thomas:

and how writing played a part in that.

Mara Thomas:

And I'm just would love it if you could share some of that with us today.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah, absolutely.

Zoe Tuck:

I mean the most, the most direct thing that I'm thinking of is, you

Zoe Tuck:

know, being, being a trans woman, I started writing poetry in my teens

Zoe Tuck:

and nobody's good when they start writing poetry uh,

Mara Thomas:

or anything or anything it's okay to, to make bad art really is.

Mara Thomas:

Okay.

Mara Thomas:

I wanna normalize bad art

Zoe Tuck:

oh my gosh.

Zoe Tuck:

And I still make so much of . So a part of my poetry then was just,

Zoe Tuck:

I was figuring out how to write.

Zoe Tuck:

And trying to close that chasm between my taste and my abilities,

Zoe Tuck:

but I, I really believe that in my, in my first few years of writing,

Zoe Tuck:

I was also encrypting something.

Zoe Tuck:

I had something big to talk about.

Zoe Tuck:

I mean, I had multiple big things to talk about, but it just, in terms of, of

Zoe Tuck:

transition stuff, I had this big thing that I wanted to share or process or.

Zoe Tuck:

Leave some breadcrumbs around.

Zoe Tuck:

So I ended up producing these strange poems that nobody really got because

Zoe Tuck:

they were just encrypted enough to.

Zoe Tuck:

Make me feel protected and safe.

Zoe Tuck:

And then, you know, I sort of hovered on the edge of, you know, just thinking,

Zoe Tuck:

thinking about, you know, knowing I was trans for about a decade, but really

Zoe Tuck:

only dipping a toe into the waters.

Zoe Tuck:

And then finally it was writing that catalyzed my actual coming out.

Zoe Tuck:

I saw that there was a call.

Zoe Tuck:

I was, I was starting to feel a little bit braver.

Zoe Tuck:

I, you know, I had moved to the bay area like you do when you're a yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

When you're little baby queer and trans person from Texas.

Zoe Tuck:

Well, that's not totally true.

Zoe Tuck:

Some people stay, some people go to New York, some people, you know,

Zoe Tuck:

do anything, but for me, I was being obsessed with literature.

Zoe Tuck:

There was also that cannon of writers there.

Zoe Tuck:

So I was very drawn to that place.

Zoe Tuck:

So I was there, I had a supportive partner and I was like, okay, okay.

Zoe Tuck:

It's time.

Zoe Tuck:

And then I saw a call for an anthology for at the time.

Zoe Tuck:

This dates me also.

Zoe Tuck:

It was for trans and gender queer writers.

Zoe Tuck:

And I feel like poor gender queer as a term has been left by the

Zoe Tuck:

wayside as people have embraced non-binary, which is fine, but I have

Zoe Tuck:

a soft spot for gender queer, same.

Zoe Tuck:

Um, but I, I sense some work in and was accepted and it was a really big

Zoe Tuck:

moment for me because it was my not only was it my first big acceptance,

Zoe Tuck:

my first big publication as a writer.

Zoe Tuck:

My first big publication as a writer was staking a claim with this name that

Zoe Tuck:

I hadn't used publicly and a gender that I hadn't really used publicly.

Zoe Tuck:

So I felt like I was sort of announcing myself as like, here I am.

Zoe Tuck:

My name is Zoe.

Zoe Tuck:

I'm a woman.

Zoe Tuck:

I'm a poet.

Zoe Tuck:

I'm a trans woman who's a poet.

Zoe Tuck:

And the anthology is really it's called, uh, Troubling the Line it was

Zoe Tuck:

co-edited by Trace Peterson and TC Tulbert and I love the way they did it

Zoe Tuck:

because they, you included a picture,

Zoe Tuck:

some poems and then a poetic statement.

Zoe Tuck:

So, you know, one of, I mean, one of the dangers, if you're sort of

Zoe Tuck:

any kind of, you know, scare quotes, minoritarian writer, is that other

Zoe Tuck:

people will represent you and they'll represent you according to your own.

Zoe Tuck:

Interests and agenda.

Zoe Tuck:

And so I thought it was a very generous thing for an anthology edited by two trans

Zoe Tuck:

people to say, here, you have this whole section in which to make your own context.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

And then I guess interior to, to that work, I had this whole, I don't know

Zoe Tuck:

if I still believe it, but I guess the theory in my head was sort of, I.

Zoe Tuck:

Sort of like, I couldn't, I wasn't sure how to claim my voice as

Zoe Tuck:

a, as a trans woman at the time.

Zoe Tuck:

I was like, I knew one.

Zoe Tuck:

I mean, I, okay.

Zoe Tuck:

I knew two trans women writers.

Zoe Tuck:

One of them was dead . Mm.

Zoe Tuck:

and so there weren't abundant models.

Zoe Tuck:

So part of what I did was engage in this cento practice, which I don't really

Zoe Tuck:

know how to pronounce it's either Sento or Chatto or Kento, but what it is is

Zoe Tuck:

a form in which you borrow language from a multitude of other sources.

Zoe Tuck:

I was doing that very purposefully.

Zoe Tuck:

I was like, okay.

Zoe Tuck:

I don't feel like I can speak as myself yet, but I feel like

Zoe Tuck:

I can speak in borrowed voices.

Zoe Tuck:

So I had this practice where I assigned different tarot cards to

Zoe Tuck:

different books, according to what I felt like they represented, you know,

Zoe Tuck:

their, their energetic qualities.

Zoe Tuck:

I would ask a question, do a reading and then produce a poem

Zoe Tuck:

using, you know, language from all of the books that came up.

Zoe Tuck:

So, you know, and this, this process both in and of itself and the process

Zoe Tuck:

of publication in this anthology really began the next part of my life.

Zoe Tuck:

So literally, yeah, when I say whenever I tell people, I feel like I wrote myself

Zoe Tuck:

into being I'm like, no, literally.

Zoe Tuck:

Right.

Zoe Tuck:

Uh, I, yeah, it, it wrapped a lot of things up for me.

Zoe Tuck:

I was like using my spirituality, my poetry, uh, to take myself over

Zoe Tuck:

this threshold that I was so scared.

Mara Thomas:

That just gives me goosebumps, Zoe, you know, to hear about

Mara Thomas:

your practice, the I'm just still kind of hung up on this, like centro, tarot,

Mara Thomas:

almost your trans training wheels in some ways to like, all right, how can I

Mara Thomas:

familiarize myself with the work of these other important people to help me find my

Mara Thomas:

own words around my own experience, but knowing that I'm also in this collective

Mara Thomas:

experience as well, and using that kind of divination element, I just think is so

Mara Thomas:

inspired and very you, if I must say so

Zoe Tuck:

thank you.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

I mean, I love, I love tarot in part because it's, it's people refer to it

Zoe Tuck:

as an unbound book and mm-hmm you can endlessly recombine and recontextualize.

Zoe Tuck:

Which to me carries that implicit message of change is possible.

Mara Thomas:

Yes.

Mara Thomas:

And, you know, as we kind of come around to wrapping up here in a little

Mara Thomas:

bit earlier, you mentioned the phrase patterned breath, and I would love

Mara Thomas:

to dig into that just a little bit.

Mara Thomas:

If you could tell me a little bit more about what that means to you,

Mara Thomas:

how you use that practice or exercise.

Zoe Tuck:

Totally.

Zoe Tuck:

I mean, with, with the caveat that I still feel like a total novice, but I

Zoe Tuck:

guess literally it's a way of describing poetry, which is language, which involves

Zoe Tuck:

breathing, but with rhythm to it, you know, whether that's like a formal, like

Zoe Tuck:

traditional rhythm, you know, of a sonnet or you know, a sistena or something

Zoe Tuck:

like that, or, you know, something like, like free verse still has a rhythm.

Zoe Tuck:

Uh, it just might be a more idiosyncratic one, but I think that, yeah, I mean,

Zoe Tuck:

this is sort of me having the poetry as a healing method mm-hmm conversation.

Zoe Tuck:

And it involves me telling a story that my friend was having a hard time.

Zoe Tuck:

And I remembered how good I had felt in my body when I read the words

Zoe Tuck:

of her particular poet out loud.

Zoe Tuck:

And luckily my friend was a poet.

Zoe Tuck:

So when I asked her, I was like, Hey, would it make you feel better?

Zoe Tuck:

If I read to you?

Zoe Tuck:

You know, she was already primed to be up for it.

Zoe Tuck:

And so I, I read the words of this poet and sure enough, it did.

Zoe Tuck:

I feel like it helped her calm down.

Zoe Tuck:

And there's something about, yeah, there was something I noticed that was like

Zoe Tuck:

both part of the content of the writing, you know, the themes that it was dealing

Zoe Tuck:

with, but also something about the long lines and the particular cadence.

Zoe Tuck:

And this was, this is now like, I don't know, like a few years ago, but it

Zoe Tuck:

really got me thinking on a certain path.

Zoe Tuck:

I was like, oh, I, I stumbled on this accidentally, but what would it be like to

Zoe Tuck:

explore this more purposefully and which has gotten me interested in people like

Zoe Tuck:

the writer, Kay Prevelay who does this, you know, somatic practice and has yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

Has a book called Trance Poetics, which I think goes back to what I

Zoe Tuck:

was trying to do with the guided meditation is, you know, how to use

Zoe Tuck:

both the techniques of narrative, but also just like slow, careful speech

Zoe Tuck:

and modeling a kind of breathing.

Zoe Tuck:

That invites other people in yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

To enter this sort of shared, shared rhythm.

Mara Thomas:

That speaks to me so deeply as a somatic therapist.

Mara Thomas:

Cuz I think what you're talking about is co-regulation yes.

Mara Thomas:

And bringing our nervous systems into a align.

Mara Thomas:

There's this through line, even through our whole talk of sharing space, being

Mara Thomas:

in these, you know, community or class group settings, where we can kind of be

Mara Thomas:

in healing community with one another and even something I definitely wanna look

Mara Thomas:

up tramps poetics, and for the listeners, we're gonna have links to all of these

Mara Thomas:

wonderful resources in the show notes.

Mara Thomas:

Makes me think about another book I recently read called

Mara Thomas:

breath by James nester.

Mara Thomas:

That is essentially how we've lost the ability to breathe.

Mara Thomas:

like in a efficient way that serves our bodies and he found this among many other

Mara Thomas:

things in the book, this common thread of.

Mara Thomas:

Chanting and traditional prayer being a method that actually sort of soothes

Mara Thomas:

the nervous system, that it, it kind of falls right into this natural rhythm

Mara Thomas:

that allows people to take deep breaths.

Mara Thomas:

And I wonder if we're even getting back into that, what we talked about

Mara Thomas:

earlier, like getting into an altered state of consciousness and even

Mara Thomas:

just doing that through the breath.

Mara Thomas:

Or if nothing else just calming our nervous systems from this consistently

Mara Thomas:

anxious world that we all inhabit.

Mara Thomas:

Yeah.

Mara Thomas:

And what a, what a lovely way to do that through speaking of the written word, I

Mara Thomas:

just think that's such a beautiful idea.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah, absolutely.

Zoe Tuck:

I mean, I, it's part of why I like poetry because it's, it's such an old art form.

Zoe Tuck:

And I feel like just intuitively I I'm sure I could find something

Zoe Tuck:

historical to back this up, but just in my heart, I believe that it's

Zoe Tuck:

more than a genre or it has roots in something that's more than a genre.

Zoe Tuck:

Yeah.

Zoe Tuck:

Um, and I think that goes back to book magic too.

Zoe Tuck:

On like a poem can be a spell.

Zoe Tuck:

A poem can be a chant.

Zoe Tuck:

Poem can be cure for something

Mara Thomas:

that's beautiful.

Mara Thomas:

I wish we had all the time in the world to talk.

Mara Thomas:

Maybe we'll have to do another whole episode just on bringing

Mara Thomas:

tarot into creativity, because I am fascinated by that idea.

Mara Thomas:

But Zoe, I wanna thank you so much for taking this time and sharing all this

Mara Thomas:

beautiful knowledge with us today.

Mara Thomas:

Thanks so much.

Zoe Tuck:

Oh my gosh.

Zoe Tuck:

Thank you for inviting me.

Zoe Tuck:

It's lovely to share space with you, whether on this podcast or at SOTA.

Zoe Tuck:

So.

Zoe Tuck:

Hopefully we get to do it again soon,

Mara Thomas:

right back at you.

Mara Thomas:

All right.

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Artist Soapbox

Artist Soapbox is a platform for original scripted audio fiction and an opportunity for artists to discuss their creative work in their own voices. We do this through our interview podcast, our blog, and original audio dramas.

Artist Soapbox is an anti-racist organization. We believe Black Lives Matter. In addition, as an audio production company, ASBX has signed the Equality in Audio Pact on Broccoli Content.

Artist Soapbox is more than just an interview podcast.

We lead writers groups, accountability support, events, and workshops. We create and produce audio dramas too! Listen to the Master BuilderThe New Colossus Audio Drama, Declaration of Love, and ASBX Shorts. Stay tuned to hear about more projects written by the Soapbox Audio Collective Writers’ Group.

Artist Soapbox is about Empowerment & Connection.

Artist Soapbox was founded on the belief that if we (humans/artists) talk with each other, and if we LISTEN to each other, then we’ll make better art. We’ll form a stronger community. We’ll feel more empowered and less alone.

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On Artist Soapbox podcast, artists in the Triangle are invited to put words around their creative journeys and processes.

Artist Soapbox explores all artistic mediums.

We believe we can learn from all artists. Artist Soapbox is open to the full spectrum of art-makers and has interviewed creatives in theatre, dance, visual, literary, craft, administration, film making, photography, music, design and more.

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