IMG_4772On writing about trauma: being split, being divided…

“I am torn in two

but I will conquer myself.

I will dig up the pride.

I will take scissors

and cut out the beggar.” 

Anne Sexton

Turning back to face trauma in our own history and writing about it can be an emotionally tiring task. I must believe that I am not the only one who encounters a plurality while writing about personal trauma. There are many parts of me in conflict while writing on this subject. The one holding on to loss after all of these years. He is the one who goes asleep drunk and crying. But there is the me who wants to cut him out and move forward by looking people in the eyes. Both are at play while writing, for me. Part of this is due to a need to be honest/vulnerable/open to some difficult realities on motive and all that guilt, while offering a reader some form of transformation. How far down the unlit hallway do I enter? Below are some of the loudest parts of me while writing about trauma.

Guidelines (italics are my poetry)

1) Avoid placing stones in your dress before you begin your float down the river of dark memories.

1.5) But, put artifacts around you- stones disguised as familiar familial gems.

Now hair hangs on me like your absence

I mold further into you the closer I get to your suicide-age

Shag carpeting in a twenty year old double-wide.

2) Don’t place your head in the oven while cooking up a few ghosts.

2.5) Or do just that and singe your hairs, live dangerously and write about the darkest corners of your mind’s castle.


I think of the fragments of many loved ones

their guns wedged deep into the crevices of my body

and my history

3) Be cautious not to put on your momma’s fur coat then asphyxiate yourself on fumes of riddled history(ies)

3.5) But wear one of her dresses, spritz her old perfume then dance and write, damn it!

pretending to sleep when mom’s drunken rants began

holding her head in place during seizures—

dodging her biting teeth to pull out a lit cigarette.

4) Do not use the suicide(s) of others as code to an escape route.

4.5) Write yourself a bridge or a boat toward understanding their reason.

The direction of the bullet

is front to back,


and slightly right to left.

5) Perhaps the only advice is to hang out the window where the trauma happened but tie yourself to something/someone first. 😉

Randy Shinn holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College. He recently completed a creative thesis on the loss of his parents, suicide, and queer identity. His work has appeared in OCHO, Trillium, Bricolage, in rejection letters, and online. Randy works as a tour guide in Alaska and travels for half of the year.

Important Announcement

The Board of Directors for Goddard College have made the difficult decision to close the college at the end of the 2024 Spring term.  


Current Goddard students will have the opportunity to complete their degrees at the same tuition rate through a teach-out with like-minded institution, Prescott College. Updates and scholarship funds will be available in the coming weeks and months. Information will be posted to

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