Domi Shoemaker, w/ Lidia Yuknavitch

LIDIA: So you've been with Corporeal Writing since the beginning. Your presence, voice, passion, and body gave me a grounding that was not possible on my own at the time. What evolutions have been most meaningful to you and what are you most excited about in the Corporeal present tense?

Domi headshot 2.JPG

DOMI: The most important evolutions to me are the ones that involve expanded accessibility. That is almost a non-answer, because accessibility has been in the conversation from the get-go, and is part of our overall mission. One example is our commitment to offering multiple ways in to our collaborations, via scholarships and work-trade. I also like that we strive for accessibility even in terms of the language we use to talk about what it is that we do. Using accurate terminology, like "collaborations" rather than "workshop," for instance. That's meaningful. And hot! But I digress.

The thing I am super excited about presently is having a physical space. Corporeal Center is such a warm and grounding place, and it makes my mouth water to think of all the ways we can use the space to be an accessible hub for people to create and share their work. We are in such an interesting and pivotal time, that having a physical space to bat ideas around and CV challenge ourselves through our art feels crucial.

LIDIA: Your own writing explores multiple genders, identities, experiences, and bodies as articulations of experience. You often amplify what is ordinarily unseen or unheard, those voices and bodies underneath the surface of the dominant culture. How does Corporeal Writing help people to discover and explore those stories, experiences, voices and bodies in the "underneath" or at the edges of culture? 

DOMI: As someone who identifies as a superfat Kinky genderflexing queer who has some distinct internal consciouses and rides a scooter, I have experience with edges of things and how to traverse them. I have been in prominent writing groups and through an MFA program, and what we do here is different. Not claiming better or perfect by any means, but different.

Corporeal Writing does these super cool Jedi mind tricks that bypass the cerebral and get people to drop down into the less than conscious workings of our brains. We hold onto memory through all the senses, so we might start with an image, a sound, a smell, a tactile memory, you get it. So we start out there, with the body. Corporeality. And we write INTO it by taking these small bites. And when we you get a word or a phrase that pops out, we just keep digging by asking, in a number of ways, "what's underneath that?"

The whole thing feels like alchemy when we are all in a room doing it together. Each of our experiences are so different, but the human emotional, cerebral, and ethereal landscapes are something we can all visit and relate to.

That's what I love doing! Getting people you would never think would be in a room together, and watch as they recognize themselves in the other. I keep an eye out for those moments. When things click. And our bodies are so magnificent at protecting us, not everything works for everyone, so I make it my mission to watchand idenrify when someone is just not getting to what they really want to say. And I use multiple methods to facilitate these discoveries. If verbal or written words aren't working to facilitate tunneling, I like using things like light, color, and sound. The most beautiful thing is watching collaborators surprise themselves with what they find.

LIDIA: How do you work with people to come into their own voices and stories? 

DOMI: Essentially, I listen and attend to sensory input. Bodies will tell you a lot more about someone than the words they put out into the room. So telling stories that center on and around body? That's the Jedi stuff right there.

LIDIA: Tell us about the offering you and Ruth Bryant will be doing (PUT dates here), Transmutation. 

DOMI: We will be doing the Transmutation Collab June 30th and July 1st. It is my first Corporeal Writing Collaboration that I will lead and I am really excited. Accessing our stories through alternative forms is my gig. I love it. I kicked around a few ideas which I plan to pursue, but when I met Ruth and saw her work, I knew instant that I wanted to work with her. We had met briefly at a book event, then actually got to talk at this really cool event created by Margaret Malone and Katheen Lane, called SHARE. It's here in Portland, and what they do is get a bunch of creative types together from different disciplines, and offer up a prompt and 2 hours to create something. At the end, new people "share" their work and returnees draw names and some of us share. It's super cool. Anyway, Ruth was there for the first time and shared a very cool little book she made. We started talking and decided to meet up. She showed me her work, and I was absolutely smitten with it. She had incredible things to say about bodies and books and and her conviction that the book itself is a narrative. I was convinced that we could collaborate on a workshop that would explore narrative from multiple perspectives. The making of the book, the body of the book, and the words in the book all make their own narratives. We are eager to lead participants through mining and combining words and their vision into a physical thing they can take with them at the end of the weekend. How delicious is that?

LIDIA: Why be a writer? 

DOMI: I have known since that I was a storyteller and by 14, I knew I wanted to be either a writer, a radio DJ, or a social worker. I did DJ and social work and wrote the whole time. Most poetry and a few articles at a stint at a now defunct little gay newspaper.

But WHY Be a writer? Especially now, we need the stories of people and bodies we have not heard enough of. The people who are misfits, disenfranchised, disillusioned, or just plain fed up and ready to tell stories that matter!

LIDIA: Why collaborate with others inside artistic practice? 

DOMI: A different thing happens when you are in a room with a bunch of other people, creating. We are all a part of each other's stories no matter what. And another thing is that we often convince ourselves that our stories do not matter. And when we collaborate inside art, we can see how our stories impact and strengthen the larger story we are creating together. Just think about the #metoo movement. All of these stories make a much larger narrative that can have a real and lasting impact as long as we keep telling them.

LIDIA: In The Misfit's Manifesto you shared a story about growing up inside a repressive city, how you had to get out in order to become. Given that we are living in something like a repressive regime just now, how do individual mammals sustain their passions and dreams in the face of fuck? Does writing help? (this seems related to the question above it)

DOMI: Ha! As you said, it is related to the question above. Staying in that oppressive environment WAS killing me. While I was stuck IN it, writing was the only constant that kept me alive. Through alcohol, drugs, risky sex, dangerous people, I continued to write and read fantasize about writing as a life. I moved away as quickly as I could, which was when I was 22. 1986. It took a lot of years to find my people, and that's one of the reasons I am committed to helping hold a safe space for people who need some relief from this constant assault on decency and humanity. The current administration is just the catalyst for the lid coming off of this shitshow illusion of some inherently great "America" (U. S. Of...) that has never existed. The bigots and hateful chickenshits are squirming their way from under the floorboards, and igniting a bonfire that has been brewing for a couple centuries, but has been tamped down, beaten down, silenced, and swept under. I know that sounds really dramatic, but I have known too many people who were killed, quieted or left to their own torment and killed themselves all because they could not find a way to participate in the telling of their own truth. With art, in whatever form, we have power. And I want us to use that power now.

#wearetherestofyou #revolutionsinskin #genderisahoax.