Tuesday, August 23, 2011

sugar in water: Mary Karr

This is excerpted from an interview with Mary Karr in the Winter 2009 issue of The Paris Review:
Do you have any writing rituals, things you have to do in order to write?
I pray. I ask God what to write. I know that sounds insane, but I do. I say: What do you want me to say? I have a sense that God wanted these books written. That doesn’t mean they’re meant to be bestsellers. Nor am I hearing voices. But a lot of times I’ll get stuck and I’ll just say, Help me. A nonbeliever might think of it as talking to my superego, or some better self. But I do have a sense of being guided.
What does it sound like when you get stuck?
Fuck. Shit. Don’t. Fuck. You dumb bitch—who ever told you that you could write? That’s what it sounds like.
When did you start praying?
When I got sober, in 1989—twenty years ago now. Only with prayer could I stop drinking for more than a day or two. Once I made three months clean, but it was a white-knuckled horror show. Call it self-hypnosis, prayer, whatever. To skeptics I say, Just try it. Pray every day for thirty days. See if your life gets better. If it doesn’t, tell me I’m an asshole. People tend to judge a faith’s value based on its dogma, which ignores religion in practice. It’s like believing if you watch enough porn or read enough gynecology books, you’ll know about pussy. For me, being a Catholic is a set of activities. Certain dogma seems nuts to me too. I’m not the Pope’s favorite Catholic.
Do you pray before you write, or during?
Both. I try to pray formally morning and night starting with breathing exercises or centering prayer. Then the Lord’s Prayer or the Prayer of St. Francis: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace...” Sometimes I listen to the daily liturgy on my iPod from Pray-As-You-Go.com, or I go online at Sacred Space—both Jesuit sites. I say thank you a lot. This morning I walked out saying, Thank you for the wind, thank you for the blue sky. Really dumb, puerile stuff. At night I do what Jesuits call an examen of conscience, plus I keep a list of people to pray for.


Ann said...

Dear Miss Whistle,

Learning to craft a life of recovery requires more courage than we think we have. Yet the process or journey, if you will, brings a richness and depth unexpected at the start. I am grateful to Mary Karr and other women who so eloquently share their journey with us.

My friend and colleague, Patricia Lynn Reilly, M.Div. is a woman of great wisdom and compassion who authored the amazing book, A God Who Looks Like Me. Another of her books, Imagine A Woman, is based on her wonderful poem of the same name. Patricia is in recovery herself and brings an empowering spirituality to all she does.

Her work is a gift to all women as each of us eventually must confront our shadow material or live our lives unconsciously.

Please google her if so inclined.

peace and blessings.


Michelle Trusttum said...

This is good; very good. I want to read more about her now. Thank you.