I plane the veneer of expectations, free myself from the roles of good daughter, sister, mother, wife, woman, when writing poetry and personal essays. It’s a rare respite from shouldering family stories that would erase who I am. When I write, words paint my emotional truth onto the page.
I was mute and muted for much of my early years. I didn’t offer my opinions, my observations. I answered questions reluctantly when called on and laughed at the punchlines of jokes, written in my mind, instead of said out loud. (Once in the lunchroom, I spit egg salad all over a guy’s face because the joke was that good.)
Within the solitude and silence, I learned to listen and fine-tune the writerly art of paying attention.
When I began writing, I found my true voice for the first time and that I had stories to share.
Yet, shortly after my first book came out in 2011, I retreated back to the silence, in my writing and much of my life. I was processing a trauma, and life broke me for a while. I didn’t want to taste life twice, to paraphrase Anaïs Nin.
Then I had kids, which can be its own silencing, and moved to a city where I knew very few people, which made it easier to withdraw and quiet my voice and allow the smothering cloak of silence to cover me. Sure it was oppressively heavy, and in this time I upheld those family stories of erasure again. Familiar terror and territory, I hung out there for a while—seven years to be exact.
Thankfully, with a community of writers still circling around me even from my remote locations, I continued to hone my listening and observational skills.
I have resolved to free my voice again. To open up and let the words come out.
During this time, I continued to connect with writers who fill me with awe and admiration as they share their own brokenness in stories and poems. This awe and my splitting open broadened my heart channel and brought me to my writerly occupations of editing with Room magazine and teaching online courses.
Writing happens in a community. Mine sprouted from mentorship from both Betsy Warland and Miranda Pearson, and The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University, without whom I never would have learned to put the words down. Everything good in my writing life has sprung from this time and these connections sparkled on the sea of this beautiful center. Miranda once called my writing “awkward” in the best sense, and I think it’s true, there’s an awkward truth I’m always trying to come to, and hey, I’m the girl who spit egg all over the face of a guy at camp. She also wrote about my book, “Rachel Thompson’s poetry takes us into new territory, both feral and sophisticated. Musical, filled with compassion and a clear-eyed intelligence,” so I can’t hold the awkward comment against her.
The professional bits
My collection of poetry, Galaxy, was published by Anvil Press and won SFU’s First Book Competition in 2011. The contest judge, Gregory Scofield, wrote in his comments that my book had “Wonderful and clear imagery as well as a ‘real’ and ‘true’ sense of place, love, longing, family, and the constant struggle and re-negotiation of self and experience.” And Michael Dennis said in his review, “Rachel Thompson has all of the things I most like in poetry – the good story, passion, humour and the ability to laugh at oneself.” I have edited four issues with Room magazine, Mythologies of Loss, Murder, Lust, and Larceny, In Translation, and Family Secrets.
How to reach me
The best place to reach me right now is far away from email, though if you have an interview request or a gift for me, those are always welcome. Connect on my contact page. For questions or conversations about craft, join me on Instagram (I use #writingcheckin for my own writing accountability), and since you’re still reading, you might also be interested in one of my writing courses, or podcast, find out more about these on RachelThompson.co.
Rachel Thompson’s collection of poetry, Galaxy, was published by Anvil Press. She was the Managing Editor of Room magazine, where she currently sits on the editorial collective. She’s returned to writing after a prolonged absence and is working on short memoir pieces and poetry.
Here’s my official image for (authorized) interviews. (Click image for full-size.)