Nina Gaby

Essays, art, and healthcare


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Telling, Breathing

 

 

“Show Don’t Tell” is the favorite meme of writing advice. Though, in guru Philip Lopate’s nodal book on writing the essay, I seem to recall that he does dispute this. His is a large book, one that I don’t carry around. Especially not on an overseas trip as now, to Ireland, to a writer’s conference. While at said conference, my most recent creative non-fiction piece is published back home, and I’m feeling quite “all that” until I look at it with a newly critical eye.

 

I have committed the sin: I told. I barreled ahead and wrote it all down thinking, well, it might help someone else– this exposition of clumsy forgiveness. It certainly helped me to write it and measure how far I have come. And here I am, telling you again. And I should just let you read it if you wish, in this amazing and loving journal Manifest-Station, while I breathe this cleansing sea air and stop apologizing.

http://themanifeststation.net/2017/07/21/not-quite-forgiveness-yoga-story/

So imagine what it is like to be in Ireland, 2819 miles from work, from the honorable but vicarious trauma saturation of my profession. It is as if I am slowly being wrung tight and stretched across the green field, lain across the stone fences, in the sun, drying out. Here on the Dingle Peninsula, once again forty years later. Long walks in the early morning and long days surrounded by like minded souls. Young Madelaine who reads her poetry with the cadence of a classically trained jazz singer as she dances us through her words. Beautiful Leanna and Suzanne, steel and the voices of angels. Elinor, so, so on point. Kathy and Tommy and Ann and Charles who layer their words with transparency of emotion that makes us all quietly gasp. Then laugh. Then gasp again. Judith who doesn’t do her homework the first day (there are tears) and then wows us beyond belief in the second class. Dinty who slices it up with kindness and precision. All of us so holy in our efforts. (I’m the only one judging me, of course.) And then we gather and sing and laugh and eat a lot of cheese. This cheese is very different from the cheese I ate on Dingle forty years ago. Many more choices today. And I am very different. Another story, another type of drying out. And here’s the newest essay, I can only say, I told you.

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Non omnis moriar

 

Non omnis moriar, not all of me will die. A tribute. 

“Autonomy” from Poems New and Collected by Wislawa SzymborskaNon Omnis Moriar - Gaby

Mixed media, porcelain, paper, wood, text by Nina Gaby

In danger, the holothurian cuts itself in two/ It abandons one self to a hungry world and with the other self it flees/ It violently divides into doom and salvation, retribution and reward, what has been and what will be/ An abyss appears in the middle of its body between what instantly become two foreign shores/ Life on one shore, death on the other/ Here hope and there despair/If there are scales, the pans don’t move /If there is justice, this is it/ To die just as required, without excess/ To grow back just what’s needed from what’s left/ We, too, can divide ourselves, it’s true/ But only into flesh and a broken whisper/ Into flesh and poetry/ The throat on one side, laughter on the other, quiet, quickly dying out/ Here the heavy heart, there non omnis moriar—just three little words, like a flight’s three feathers/

The abyss doesn’t divide us/

The abyss surrounds us.

Wislawa Szymborska

Artist’s note: I had chosen a portion of Szymborska’s “Autonomy” as the epithet for my anthology “Dumped: Stories of Women Unfriending Women” published in 2015. The idea that we separate and we go on, we persevere, had become an important theme in my writing. The recognizable connections in this piece have to do with the recent death of the poet, the idea that we leave something behind– “not all of me will die” (non omnis moriar) and the encasement, the box, with its obvious reference to a casket. What is most interesting to me is the fact that I do not recognize these connections myself until the piece is done. Nina Gaby

 Another artist note: Every summer I submit work to two regional exhibits. UNBOUND is a book arts show outside of Woodstock, Vermont and where, a year before I made my first artist book, I was aquainted with the work of Szymborska. Her poem “A Contibution to Statistics” was made into an art book exhibited at the show. I made a deal with myself to get into the show the following year. I made good on that goal. Last year this piece, and another were not selected for the show, but my rambling, dissociative piece on a disintegrating ego did make it in, and I admit the whole thing surpised me. I tend to fall in love with my own work, be it written or visual or even the work I do with patients as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. The creative process has saved me every time, starting when I was four or five, and rejection is a fundamental and inevitable blow. It was not my disintegrating ego, at least on a concious level, but could have been. I have not heard back as to whether my submissions for this year have been accepted. My work is small, fragile, full of esoteric and crowded fragments of memoir. I don’t know if the fact that the judges have all been male has made a difference, or if my tiny, strange statements are too easily disregarded. I remind myself that I should focus on the process.

The second show is the Vermont Book Arts Guild members annual exhibit. It will run this year from July 6-August 25 at SEABA Gallery on Pine Street in Burlington, Vermont. There is an artist talk on Tuesday July 11. This group is a great resource. I will post more on this show after we set it up tomorrow.

http://www.bookartsguildvt.com

 detail Szymborska  Continue reading