INTERVIEW WITH GAIL LEVINE
What is the name of the piece that you have in Grabbed?
What was the inspiration for your piece? What compelled you to write it?
I’m mostly a narrative poet, and this incident has a beginning, middle, and end, which I guess is why I wrote it–because of the nice narrative shape. In it, I fictionalize a real event that stayed with me because two shames are wrapped up in it: the shame of a thirteen-year-old who didn’t know how to ride a bike and the shame of the groping itself.
Why did you choose this particular form or genre for this piece?
I write poems for adults and novels for kids. It isn’t just that this incident isn’t for the age group my books are written for, it’s mostly that I go to poetry to explore my feelings, my understanding of my past and the present, and my relationship to the world. This poem goes to a lot of that, and it had to be a poem.
As a writer, do you feel obliged to share difficult experiences? Why?
I regard poetry as a place of freedom, as the perfect place for me to be imperfect. It’s hard to admit to being a victim. My real groper was a stranger. I was in Central Park in New York City with a friend from school. At the time, she didn’t realize what had happened and I didn’t tell her. I was too embarrassed. We’re still friends, and I told her only recently.
What would you say to another writer who has been uncomfortable or silent about their experience? How can they begin to share their experiences?
I’m not hopeful that sexism and the exploitation of women will end. But no headway will be made if writers remain silent. Silence is isolating. In silence, we believe that what happened to us happened to no one else and was our fault. A friend told me after the accusations against Harvey Weinstein that she was having lunch with three other women when the topic came up. In talking, they discovered that all four of them had been raped.
How can a publication such as Grabbed help to empower or heal readers?
It is exhilarating to find one’s own experience coming from someone else’s pen. When it happens to me I feel understood, sometimes for the first time.
Have a blog idea for us? Submit it here.