Snapshots of a complex life—including accounts of abuse, rape, grief, suicide, love, and loss—in the form of poetry, memoir and essay.
||New Jersey, United States
||6 publishers interested
Based on the popular Huffington Post essay and short film, the book Suffering is the Easy Part chronicles trauma, including sexual assault, abortion, the crushing silence and depression surrounding survivors afterward, the mental health issues that arise in the wake of trauma and the healing power of our own nature.
In its longest silence, trauma is even more present. Trauma is the unsaid, the uncertain, that prolongs feelings of loss. How do we define this notion of presence and absence? What is the paradigm? Poet Li-Young Lee offers an analogy regarding presence and absence: He equates them to inhaling and exhaling breath. Our presence is marked by the inhalation. Oxygen spreads into our lungs and bloodstream, nourishing our bones, our cells, and our skin. Breath is life.
The exhalation manifests an absence or a silence, but still there is life. When we inhale, speech terminates; communication is stunted. As we exhale speech is regained, but nutrients exit the body; the organs weaken; the lungs lessen in size. Lee describes this as “dying breath.” When we speak we use dying breath. Meaning grows in “opposite ratio to presence and vitality.” He suggests a kind of paradigm for life, especially in the case of trauma in that as we die meaning is declared. The “less vitality we have the more the meaning of our lives gets disclosed” (Lee qtd in Chang 19). That absence in our bodies translates as presence. Trauma narrative is born out of this relationship.
Throughout the book, readers are invited to find entry points into these short pieces that take the form of poetry, memoir and essay. These snapshots of a complex life—including accounts of abuse, rape, grief, suicide, love, and loss—are rendered poetic, yet accessible to a wide audience. Suffering Is the Easy Part will appeal especially to those craving an authentic voice that is at the same time unique and universal.
Suffering Is the Easy Part presents eight parts, which ask/answer to one another’s suffering and ultimate healing through a series of poems and short creative nonfiction. Such conversation through creative writing is meant to illustrate the recursive nature of healing process.
1. This is love: Introduction to the assault and how there are connections to love even in the wake of devastation.
2. On walking past the sycamore: A transition to nature where the narrative begins to explore trauma’s literal and figurative roots.
3. Between love and breath: Counting breath, Following Breath, Measuring Breath, and Dying Breath: The place where healing occurs, or the space between inhalation and exhalation where true meaning is declared.
4. In my next life: The space for reimagining oneself in a new body, as a person reborn from the dying breath.
5. When it happens, we hope we’ll accept love: When we make the decision to practice healthy living through therapy, exercise and self-love, we hope we’ll accept the opportunity to reinvent oneself.
6. He will never let me go: Relapse back to the place before dying breath, the pace where one struggles to let go even after taking steps to procure one’s self after trauma.
7. This is how loss tastes: The final acceptance of loss
8. Love is the chair you sit on: Love is a part of letting go, it’s a vital part to the healing process and moving on. Without accepting love into one’s life, there is no chance for self-preservation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression, and data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health highlights the problem among young adults. It is a leading cause of disability.
From 2008 to 2010, more than 8 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 and 22 reported a major depressive episode in the previous year. And depression is the cause of over two-thirds of the 30,000 reported suicides in the U.S. each year.
But what if we could use art as a supplement to help people who are suffering with depression get better? The latest research on creativity and the arts shows that drawing improves children's moods by helping to distract them (Cognition and Emotion, April 2013), that happiness and creativity go hand in hand (Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, online, Feb. 10), and that acting classes may help people avoid unhealthy emotional behaviors and adopt healthy ones (Journal of Cognition and Development, online, Nov. 14, 2011). What these research show is how art does have the power to heal. While art should not be a substitute for mental health treatment, it could be a supplement.
Suffering Is the Easy Part aims to continue the conversation on depression and healing, and is specifically targeted to women ages 18-34. When it comes to gender, young women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. And despite depression’s high treatment success rate, nearly two out of three people suffering with depression do not actively seek nor receive proper treatment (DBSA, 1996).
Could this lack of treatment be a result of complacency? Or is that no one in their lives has spoken to them about recovering from depression? Where are the models of people who have gotten treatment, and who have continued to remain committed to healing? Is it easier to suffer than to work out a treatment plan? These are just some of the questions that my book aims to respond to by using art.
Such a targeted audience would benefit from reading my book as it serves as one positive model of people who have been exposed to trauma and then made an active decision to work towards healing. This book is for those who are still trying to decide if they want to remain victims or take the steps to participate in their mental health. This book is not a manual for how to “get better,” nor is it grounded in psychological remedies. It is however a personal account about my own path and continued path the mental health, specifically, how we can turn to art to better understand our own healing or inspire one to serve the self first.
Loren Kleinman is an American-born poet and writer with roots in New Jersey. Her writing explores the results of love and loss, and how both themes affect an individual’s internal and external voice. She has a B.A. in English Literature from Drew University and an M.A. in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Sussex (UK).
Her poetry appeared Drunken Boat, The Moth, Domestic Cherry, Blue Lake Review, Columbia Journal, Stony Thursday Anthology (Arts Council Ireland) LEVURE LITTÉRAIRE, Nimrod, Wilderness House Literary Review, Narrative Northeast, Writer’s Bloc, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Paterson Literary Review (PLR), Resurgence (UK), HerCircleEzine and Aesthetica Annual. She was the recipient of the Spire Press Poetry Prize (2003), was a 2000, 2003, and 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee, and was a 2004 Nimrod/Pablo Neruda Prize finalist for poetry.
In 2003, Spire Press (NYC) published her first collection of poetry Flamenco Sketches, which explored the relationship between love and jazz. Her second collection of poetry, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs was released in March 2014 (Winter Goose Publishing), and was an Amazon Top 100 bestseller in Women’s Poetry and chosen as one of the best poetry books of the first half of 2014 by Entropy Magazine. Poems from The Dark Cave were also nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize. Her fourth collection of poetry (prose poems), Stay with Me Awhile, released April 2016 via Winter Goose Publishing and her novel, This Way to Forever released with Evatopia Press late August 2016. You can read her interview with Joyce Lamb on USA Today.
Kleinman judged the literary entries for the book Alt-History: New Writing from Brighton published by QueenSpark Books (UK). She was also a contributing editor/writer for the Cancer Dancer by Patricia San Pedro. Kleinman was a columnist for IndieReader.com (IR) where she interviewed NYT bestselling indie authors. Many of those interviews in IR reappeared in USA Today and The Huffington Post. She is the author of Indie Authors Naked(IndieReader Publishing, 2014), which was an Amazon Top 100 bestseller in Journalism in the UK and USA. Her third collection of poetry Breakable Things released via Winter Goose Publishing March 2015.
Her nonfiction has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, The New York Times, Nimrod, ROAR, USA Today, and Woman’s Day. She recently finished a memoir The Woman with a Million Hearts published by BlazeVOX, and is currently working on a screenplay called Self, Help.
The Nettles Artists Collective produced a multimedia and physical theater piece called A House of Skin and Bone inspired by her poetry collection The Dark Cave Between My Ribs.
Kleinman recently finished a short film, Suffering Is the Easy Part, which premiered at the Manhattan Film Festival and won the ASIFA EAST award for Best Writing. This short film continues to make its way around the world from India to Italy to New York City, and many, many more locations.
She also co-founded National Translation Month, a month-long celebration of writing in translation during the month of September. Kleinman has a blog The Huffington Post and is a faculty member at New York Writers Workshop.
With more than 10,000 followers on social media, I plan on using a combination of targeted Facebook advertisements, email list, and my Huffington Post blog to leverage pre-orders for this book. In addition to social media outreach, I plan on working on an email marketing campaign to help launch the book using my email list of 500 subscribers.
For book launch, I’d like to work with influencers that I know as a way to get on their email lists and blogs as way to drive traffic to the book as well as using the short film’s viewers and distribution channels to support the sales of Suffering is the Easy Part. Specifically, I plan to use Suffering Is The Easy Part as a companion book for the film, and working with my film’s distributors Docademia and Seed&Spark to help promote the book as the companion.
Finally, I will use Instagram campaigns as a way to leverage the large poetry community to support buying my book. In April, during National Poetry Month I will be doing an IG Poets series so I will also leverage these connections as a way to support or cross promote the book.
The following books I consider closest reading and most appealing to my audiences therefore making them competition for Suffering Is the Easy Part. However, all have creativity as a theme, and creativity is a mechanism for how they each talk and tell the story of their lives. Creativity is also used to facilitate their healing process for either the narrator or those related to the narrator.
In the poetry Milk and Honey published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, Rupi Kaur uses drawing/illustration as a way to supplement her poems on love and loss and womanhood. Each illustration offers a window inside the poem, ultimately, encouraging her readers to climb inside to a place that is ultimately free of suffering.
Even though drawing isn’t used as a supplement to the poem in Depression & Other Magic Tricks published by Button Poetry by Sabrina Benaim, it is her use of performance poetry that points to creativity as mechanism for healing, of taking suffering and transforming into art and self-love.
And in Black Book of Poems (independently published) by Vincent Hunanyan, healing happens when we address the private; when we choose to practice intimacy out in the open thereby making the painful seclusion of depression, disappear.
However, while each book implements drawing, performance, and secret notebooks as conduits that help us feel less lonely, they remain superficial with lines like: “other women’s bodies are not battlegrounds” (Rupi Kaur). Then what are they?
Then there is the abstraction of Vincent Hunanyan’s poem: “love could be labeled poison and we’d drink it anyway.” Yes, that is an apt description of love, but what else? So what?
Suffering Is the Easy Part will expand on these one liners and offer more narrative into the account of depression and healing, something these poetry collections lack, and offers a space I could fill.
In its longest silence, trauma is even more present. Trauma is the unsaid, the uncertain, that prolongs feelings of loss. How do we define this notion of presence and absence? What is the paradigm? Poet Li-Young Lee offers an analogy regarding presence and absence: He equates them to inhaling and exhaling breath. Our presence is marked by the inhalation. Oxygen spreads into our lungs and bloodstream, nourishing our bones, our cells, and our skin. Breath is life. The exhalation manifests an absence or a silence, but still there is life. When we inhale, speech terminates; communication is stunted. As we exhale speech is regained, but nutrients exit the body; the organs weaken; the lungs lessen in size. Lee describes this as “dying breath.” ** When we speak we use dying breath. Meaning grows in “opposite ratio to presence and vitality.” ** He suggests a kind of paradigm for life, especially in the case of trauma in that as we die meaning is declared. The “less vitality we have the more the meaning of our lives gets disclosed” (Lee qtd in Chang 19). That absence in our bodies translates as presence. Trauma narrative is born out of this relationship.
Thinking about trauma narrative, its types of witness and psychoanalytic process, I imagine my own trauma memory. It is often hard for me to separate myself from the research, and even harder to write about personal trauma in such an objective manner. My personal encounter with trauma began on May 28, 2004, when I was forced into an empty bathroom and raped by the doorman at a nightclub. I remember him following me around the dance floor. I couldn’t get away. My friend had left me to go to another club, and I was alone. The days following the assault are something I can’t even begin to imagine how I survived. Like most survivors of trauma, I was living my life under a siege of silence, with the hope that someone would eventually hear me. For me, silence equated to a type of guilt: Somehow, I must have done something wrong to deserve this. Who would believe me if I spoke? Who would help me? This experience altered the way in which I lived my life, and for seven months I suffered from severe anxiety attacks, nightmares that replayed the rape, paranoia (e.g., the fear that it would happen again), health-related problems, flashbacks, and depression. I remember one repeated nightmare:
I am waking up alone in the bathroom stall of the nightclub, and all I can see underneath the space between the stall door and the floor are my rapist’s bare feet. He doesn’t move, just waits for me to come out. My mother is at home, I call to her. My father is at home, and I call to him. My sister is at home, and I call to her. No one can hear. I sit on the toilet seat and wait for him to go away, but I just wait. I don’t say anything. All I can see and hear through a crack in the door is my doctor’s face. He is yelling at me and holding a vaginal clamp.
A large percentage of raped women I met with during my recovery mentioned similar feelings of absence and presence. I remember trying to explain what had happened to me to my mother, and her reply was: You just have to move on. Get over it. I didn’t want to hear that, I wanted her to just listen and not judge the progress or lack of progress I was making. I wanted her to hold my hand and tell me everything would be all right. But my mother is also an alcoholic. Sick in her own skin, she couldn’t have helped if she wanted to. (I forgive you, Mom.) I realized as the months went on that my only salvation was my art; my art was the one place I could go to, that if no one listened, the page would — it had no choice.
During my recovery, I became obsessed with other people’s trauma. Not only was I obsessed, but also I became completely empathetic with their situations. It was depressing and sad, and I felt like my recovery was going backward at times. My own trauma connected me so profoundly with the world around me that at times I felt I would break. I cared so deeply about every tragedy in the world, whether true or imagined, and it was breaking.
I felt overwhelming guilt that I survived. What about the girls who committed suicide because such a violation was too much to handle? What about those girls who were raped and then dumped in a desert somewhere? What about the families that sit alone in the darkness of their daughters’ rooms? I made it. I’m here to talk and blog and write about it. (This doesn’t make me special. It doesn’t make me stronger.)
My recovery became a full-time job. It consumed me. Every day I thought: Why? Why does this world turn in on itself? I was really saying: Why did this happen to me? I knew inside that it wasn’t my fault; however, I still felt an overwhelming guilt. My coping mechanism became my writing. I felt compelled to tell my story. Like Roland Barthes’ discourse on love, this was my discourse too. The love I had for myself pushed me to understand my trauma and forced me to break silence.
Even if no one cares to listen, you’re remaking your place in the world; you’re retaliating against the boundary your suffering has imposed on you.
In the end, there’s nothing left but love.
Part 1: This is love
His hair knotted in the brush
This is love
Pick the heart from my body tree.
The juice stings.
The skin peels.
The muscle pours over the cutting board.
This is love.
I’m eaten piece by piece, wrapped in a damp towel, squeezed onto the sheets.
I’m a sunlight orange, a flower orange, a stinging orange.
This is love. The only way I know it.
A boy cleans the dishes off the table
Christian kisses my neck.
At 15, I love his hands under my shirt twerking my nipples.
My head is a firework.
My head is a record on high.
My head is a lotus.
We'll never get caught here.
No one is looking at the lights above us, or our lips stitched with silk.
I don’t know if I love him, yet.
I don't know if I should go down there, that long, milky road, strewn with mouse tails and beetle wings.
I don't know how I'd get back, how I'd say no to his shirt covering my shoulders, his foot kicking my foot, his crooked smile, like a painting over my bed.
I love how we look together: the smoky kisses, our cigarettes piled next to splattered disco fries.
I get drunk a few times before I can really love, stumble out at dawn
Knee scraped. Lip busted.
A little scar,
star with the dreams sucked out.
Is that what you thought I’d become?
A vein on the wet grass, begging for your love?
My appetite grows.
Hard to believe I’d take pleasure in this night, alone and horizontal on the cracked driveway getting high off the hot tar.
I fly with the fireflies this evening
graze your warm cheek,
slice it open with my wing,
words fall out:
But they have no weight when you’re a flower in a velvet garden, when you love someone so much you might just—
I’m in front of his house now
without my hooves,
without my camera,
without my breasts,
without my white tail,
without my crown.
Where will this lead you?
the snail asks.
What will you eat without a mouth?
the fox whispers.
I wish I’d never want him.
I wish I’d never beg.
I wish I’d never met him.
I wish I’d never have these thoughts
of eating him whole.
while the neighbors sleep.
Must be the full moon
He left me lying on the sheets. The sun shines through the window pane, the sound of the bird, and the fly, and the windy grove beats the side of the house.
He left his hair knotted in the brush, a season stuck in the hollow light of itself, in the distance between him and me, and the stars, and the moon, and the rush of willow leaf.
The dreams sway inside me, a foggy midnight in the crippled eye of the storm.
I loved him then, over the hills, and beyond the sloped sidewalk in front of his father’s front door. I loved him more than the cracks in the pavement, the broken shingle, the tired dog, the lazy slug stuck to leaf and twig. I loved him the way the wind drifts over the maple.
Such a wonderful day to love this much, to eat its chaos, to hurt into oblivion. To have no tears, no shoes, no stars to fill the sky.