melissa m. tripp, poet & author
I've been following melissa m. tripp on Twitter for a very long time, and it was that one twitter account that I can gain wisdom from. Melissa, published her first book root in 2015 - a book comprised of intimate short poems. We are so honored and excited to share the story of Melissa's creative career and words with thecnnekt community in today's spotlight:
Melissa, describe yourself in three words.
Admittedly, I always dread this part. As someone who strives for honest dialogue, I think it’s only fair that I elaborate on this and why this space makes me feel so vulnerable. Immediately, I feel a sense of reduction: choosing only three words. It’s why I change my social media bios constantly. It’s why I’m the most awkward at introductions. That, and I over-analyze everything. Limitation is uncomfortable. So, naturally, there’s always been this thematically consistent element of descriptive escapism in every aspect of who I am. Personally, romantically, creatively, and so on. “Open to interpretation” would be the most liberating choice.
When and how did you discover your voice and why do you feel the need to share it?
Words have always been my portals in every dimensional sense. I wrote recently about how I don’t trust my (deep, monotone) speaking voice and the metaphoric impact it’s had on my sealed fate as a writer. Often times we’re resistant to these realities about ourselves, and it wasn’t until I began challenging my own resistance to what my insecurities are that my voice fully emerged. The most defining moment in regard to actually sharing my work was in 2011. I was watching the coverage of Sara Sidner reporting from Muammar Gaddafi’s compound in Libya. It was during the time I was feeling apprehensive about making the transition as a writer to the public arena, contemplating my creative direction altogether. I remember the surreal imagery of her dodging gunfire and thinking how dangerous her work was, and how silly my writing fears felt in comparison. It’s something I try not to do: compare, but sometimes human nature wins. It was Sara’s bravery that inspired me to navigate those terrifying waters— she’ll always be my hero for that. My swimming trainer, too. And, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to have that conversation with her. It’s those real connections we draw to the work of others in an authentically fallible light that alleviates some of the darkness for us in our own individual journeys. The same light I aspire to emit with my own work.
What has been a creative challenge for you, if any?
When does a guest become a tenant? In reference to one’s own mind. I’ve just given you the full scope of me as a perpetual over-thinker. Creatively, things can get exhausting if you don’t have the discipline. It’s those echoes of abstraction and colossal thinking habits I’m still learning to tame. I don’t ever want to dumb my art down or minimize those authentic and complex parts of me, but I think everybody has those honest moments of longing and wanting to be understood. With me, there’s always that desire to be overstood. Whether it’s something I wrote that was lost on most, or just on an intimate level.
How has poetry shaped culture, and do you think this form of art makes a social impact on a mass level?
I think poetry has always and will always connect us in the ways that are real. Ways that aren’t necessarily always “safe” (whatever that means for those of us with real fears about expressing the things that are real for us) but I feel those human breakthroughs that happen when real stories are told is what has preserved poetry as one of the most sound historic forms of expression. I say “sound” because, with poetry, hearts are audible. Collectively beating. And breaking. And opening. And healing, too. Something with that much power, I’m incredibly grateful to be contributing to expanding the space for it.
The best and worst advice you were ever given.
Being that our bond was primarily founded on intellectual exchanges and twin humor, I always believed my dad thought I was “weak” for integrating so much of my emotions into my decision-making (both personally and professionally), often suggesting I “use my mind...more”. January marked the 1-year anniversary of his death. Since then, I’ve had time to reflect on the most painful loss of my life and the hidden truth behind his recurring wisdom. A daddy’s girl, I know better now and that his words weren’t rooted in emotional negligence at all, but instead was his fatherly way of providing me with a valid alternative when my heart became too much. As it often did. Seeing him become completely vulnerable before me as I watched cancer cruelly and rapidly robbing me of him (the childhood amenity of the strong, protective grip of his hand holding mine a figment of memory as I contemplated our roles reversing as he slept in that hospital bed, my hand holding his), he was preparing me. I wish he were here in the flesh to tell him I was wrong for thinking he didn’t see me.
What should we expect from you in the future, Melissa?
First, I’d like to thank you for having me. My story is one that is very much still developing and I appreciate your genuine attachment to it. Things feel especially raw right now, and I just hope I can sustain the momentum and continue to create as authentically as I can through it. All of it.
Interviewed by Chary