It is my task to introduce these writers to you. That is not easy. To say they are expressive, unbelievably brave, full of wit, angry and tender would be an understatement of the first magnitude. In their writing they constantly challenge themselves to come closer to the epicenter of their pain and joy - to what pulses at the quick of their being.
The writers in the RELEASES Creative Writing Workshop are all living with AIDS/HIV. That does not define who they are, but it does-in a powerful way-inform their art. For them, the personal is intensely political.
Most of the selections here - written over the past several years - are the result of guided writing exercises and are first drafts, or are only slightly revised and edited. A title or line only in italics indicates a given subject, line or phrase. Because many of the participants were new to creative writing, the emphasis has been on writing exercises that would provide a springboard from which they could dive into the deep waters of their own experiences, feelings, thoughts and memories. Responses to the exercises have take the form of poems, stories, character sketches, lyrics and personal essays. Some pieces by new RELEASES members were written outside the workshop. Some pieces the writers and I have worked on together in the hospital or at their homes when they were too ill to attend the workshop. In my selection, I've tried to choose varied works by each writer and arrange the in such a way that a composite portrait of that unique person would be rendered. During the course of facilitating this workshop, to come to know the members and to share in their unfolding as literary artists has been a profound gift.
These 'releases' are extraordinarily poignant and charged. Ernst Barlach, the German Expressionist sculptor, once wrote: "Now the unbearable is necessary to me." The darkness of living with HIV - physiologically, emotionally and socially - is awesomely articulated here. It is necessary for these writers to speak of what is unbearable so that it may - somehow - be borne. Yet, again and again in these pages, light - of inner strength, compassion, striving, eros and love - insistently breaks through. These works celebrate their creators. The act of writing/expressing/sharing is an act of birth.
I would like to thank Mary Thompson, MFCC, Director
of the Cosmos Circle, the West Los Angeles HIV Support Center
where the workshops were formerly held, for her unflagging support
to make the workshops and anthologies possible.