There are plenty of things easier said than done in life, and even more so in the life of a “writer.” I’ve decided air quotes are a necessity in this lede due in large part to the fickle nature of “writers” in general, myself included. Many a “writer” has every intention of writing something worthy of publishing into the physical book format, but few ever follow through. In fact, most “writers” rarely ever set out to begin such an undertaking. But for those who do, it’s an enviable feat of any and all “writers” in the world. Which leads us to poet Anna Gordon, who is certifiably a writer (no air quotes there). Unlike many writers, Gordon’s achievement is not some effort in self-service, but rather, a well intentioned work of feminine experience in five forms. Woman is an achievement in itself, but also a sign of what’s to come in thoughtful and accessible writing from Gordon in the future.
Now/It’s met with Anna Gordon at Falcon Coffee Bar in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood of Nashville, TN.
N/I - So, I didn’t realize you did a lot of writing.
Anna - I honestly was not very public about it, or active, until recently.
N/I - Speaking from experience, it’s very hard to be public about it.
Anna - Absolutely. This is my first time doing it. But I’ve always been writing, journaling things…. Here’s the book by the way.
N/I - That is so cool. I’m so jealous of that. Obviously, I like writing, but it’s always been incredibly intimidating to sit down and write something tangible. So this is really, really awesome. Anyway, I didn’t mean to cut you off…
Anna - I didn’t really have to deal with that intimidation, honestly. Because a lot of people have told me that, “I want to make a book, but it’s so intimidating!” A couple years ago, I started writing more poetry than anything else. Just tidbits here and there, things I was thinking about or working through, all based on my life experiences. At the end of last year, I looked down and realized that I had 70 [poems]. I’ve wanted to put my work out for a long time, so I made it a new year’s resolution. If you say you’re going to do it, do it! So I was like, “Okay, if I’m going to do this, I want to arrange it in a cohesive storytelling sort of way, so that it represents a journey.” Which I did. The chapters go “Hurting,” “Healing,” “Loving,” “Growing,” “Woman,” which are all adjectives that describe women throughout their lives, or at least their experiences. They apply to everyone, really. There’s a little bit of femininity and masculinity in every person.
N/I - That’s true. It’s a human experience.
Anna - And we relate on some [experiences] and don’t on others. I feel like this book a glimpse inside a woman’s mind and how we think about the world, how we process friendships, sadness, and helping people, or helping ourselves, growing. I just think that right now, people are not understanding each other, at all. I was at this public hearing the other day, and people just were not hearing each other.
N/I - Was this the public hearing downtown?
Anna - Yeah. For the abortion ban. I went, because I pay attention to Planned Parenthood newsletters and they needed people to represent and voice their opinions. I’m super proud of being a woman, and I’ve been wanting to get involved in the political scene, but I would tell people one thing, and they would hear it through their filter. They would hear it how they wanted to hear it. I think effective communication has to come from a place of respect, if you want them to even listen to your message. So I think those exchanges can be done in a non-confrontational way, but they’re still going to hear you out through their own experience.
N/I - On the subject of filters, do you think there’s a difference between someone reading something versus hearing something?
Anna - I do. Especially in a conversational setting. Especially if that conversation is in public. I think that reading is such a private experience, and you’re able to chew on it and see how it applies to your life. But when you’re in a conversation, face to face, and in front of other people, pride gets in the way. I think people can get caught up in trying to figure out what they want to say and things can get really heated. That’s been my experience.
N/I - In my mind, they’re both capable of being equally emotional experiences, but they are two totally different kinds of emotion. Speaking to anyone is first and foremost immediate, and in a way, it’s more physical. You’re moving your mouth to speak, and whatnot. Something about the fact that you’re a little more active in it might lead people to be more immediately responsive, whether they’ve thought something up or not.
Anna - It’s reactionary.
N/I - Exactly. We’re talking right now, and I have to at the very least continue to actively listen, and make sure I’m not cutting you off, to the best of my ability. There’s nuance. So taking that idea of the physicality, nuance, and vague aggresiveness of just conversation in general and applying it to something like abortion, not everyone is likely to be as thoughtful in the exchange as you are. Or receptive.
Anna - Especially if new information is being introduced. I was literally trying to show a man this article about a woman who died in Ireland because she didn’t get an abortion that she needed. He said “I don’t think that’s true! I think that you’re lying.” He wouldn’t even hear it.
N/I - And again, like you referenced earlier there’s this extremely nonsensical notion that all of a sudden, people can say things are not true, and that’s the end of it.
Anna - Right! This age of alternative facts is crazy to me.
N/I - It’s one thing to speak your own truth, relative to yourself, it’s another thing to believe your own truth relative to something totally unrelated to you. Anyway, that’s a bit of a divergence from the original question - being that these are all different movements on the female experience - do you find yourself writing through a different lens while full well knowing that other people will be interpreting it different ways?
Anna - Absolutely. During the beginning of the manuscript process, I sent it around to different friends whose world views I really respect, because they’re inclusive world views, and I asked them if they could relate to it, because there are a lot of relatable issues in there. There are poems about depression, gun violence, dealing with family, body issues, spirituality, and safety. There’s also a lot about love in there, too. So I do hope people read these through their own lens, and find them relatable. When I was editing them, I was trying not to get too specific, so they could stay accessible in return. I actually gave a copy to a woman at the hearing who was pro-life. I wound up getting into three very long discussions with people there and a lot of them said they don’t get to talk to people like that, respectfully in a way where they feel heard, which just confirms for me that nobody talks to anybody any more. But we had been talking on day one of the hearing, and I had a copy of my book hoping to talk to my feminist friends about it, or maybe use it to talk to somebody across the aisle. So I gave it to this woman, because she was in a world totally different from mine. She was a pastor’s wife, and they were there with their kids, and her husband had just made a bunch of loud, incendiary comments, and it was obvious they were in this very heated setting, so I wanted to come to it in a different way, and let her know that a woman’s experience that was different from hers was valid. It kind of lowered that wall, because I got to talk to her about it that second day, and she said she had read a little bit of it, and she said “I love that you are able to look beyond the surface level in life, and find the deeper meaning in things.” That’s what I wrote on the back of the book. It’s about things that make us all human. We don’t have to hate each other.
N/I - So is there an aim of general connectivity? Or is it mostly the fact that you want people to generally arrive upon it on their own?
Anna - I’d like for all kinds of people to read it. I hope it reaches the most people possible. People who know me or have known me for a long time know I’ve always had something to say. I have this innate search for justice. I want to right the wrongs. If you look at my Facebook, you can see that. I want to call out things I don’t think are right. So of course I want this to reach as many people as possible. Because I think we all deal with similar issues like love, loss, fear, and especially women can relate to feeling oppressed and put into a box. Hopefully people can get freed from things in their life that I was able to process and find freedom from through poetry.
N/I - Are the poems from a long period of time? Or is it from a fervent writing period of the past three months? Or somewhere in between.
Anna - It’s very much from the past three years, I would say. A lot has happened in that time. I had just graduated from college, doing a lot of self exploration, had just gotten into my first really serious relationship I’ve been in, and that taught me a lot. So there’s a lot of that in there. I was discovering who I am and where I stand in my feminism. So it’s a sense of me and nurturing that justice and finding a home for it, or channeling it. So I hope women read it, I also hope men can read it, too. A few of my guy friends already have, and they find it accessible, which makes me very happy. I hope that it can offer a glimpse into the female experience, for those who have similar experiences and those who don’t know much about it at all. A lot of my family and family friends who are conservative have read it and we’ve had some interesting conversations about it. This one woman - who I call my aunt - read it, and she had the most beautiful things to say about it, even though our views are vastly different. Hopefully that continues, because this book is not confrontational, it’s not attacking, it’s not on the offensive. It’s just “Here’s my experience. I know we can relate to each other.” So if people can focus on that, I think they can get through the other things they might disagree on.
N/I - Well that goes back to the universally feminine respects you mentioned in trying to make it accessible, despite your identifying as a feminist and your aunt not necessarily doing the same. But at the very least, you’re opening up the door a crack for her to see….
Anna - The similarities in views that someone she might not identify with has. And again, that’s part of coming to the situation with respect instead of confronting people’s opinions. And that’s part of why the last chapter is Woman. That’s the most feminist one, at least relative to the rest of the book. I included a lot of experiences that shaped my personal views in there. Things like being followed home, being groped in public, things like that, which solidify the lack of space and lack of respect that’s so prevalent in society. I want to stir that anger and that sense of justice in those women who might not consider themselves to be feminists, by being like “I know you’ve been in this situation too, and that you felt wronged as well. It’s still happening, and we still need to be fighting it.”
N/I - Right. Just because something happened during a different era doesn’t mean that there isn’t trauma associated with it. Because there’s a bygone era of “Boys will be boys!” does not mean it didn’t affect someone deeply, whether they realize it or not. That’s an absurd thought to the point of being infuriating.
Anna - Yes! I talk about that phrase so much.
N/I - But through what you’ve written, you’re allowing people to return to those experiences and possibly reassess.
Anna - Exactly! I want people to question things. I want them to question the things they were fed when they were growing up, and understand who or what really wants them to believe these things. Who does that serve? I think that’s feminism in a nutshell - let’s question these things that have been fed to us. Are they oppressing us?
N/I - I am a firm believer in challenging conceptions that have been laid out before us. From a woman’s experience throughout history, one of the larger versions of this is the Women’s Suffrage Movement of the 1920s. Prior to that, women could not vote.
Anna - Nothing will change if you don’t change it.
N/I - Exactly. And I’m certain there were plenty of women who felt like they deserved a say or a vote, but there wasn’t necessarily a large enough group of people with similar views. I don’t know what it was that put it over the edge to get women in agreement that things need to change, but this is how things like that start.
Anna - I hope so. I hope that for the women who read it, especially the ones who I can see that they’re on the verge of a breakthrough, or I can see that they are burdened with these things, I hope they find peace the way that I did.