The Ritual was written when undergoing therapy and learning to live with the residue of CPTSD garnered in childhood, perpetrated by my adopted parents.
This poem went on to win a 3rd place in a national contest at the Morris Center in San Francisco, published by them and the in The Healing Woman. CLB
I love stories like this, the way poetry rescues us but more importantly, turns us
into warriors. Sending thanks for posting this, poet!
"In many ways through the years your writing has saved you again and again."
Judith Bader Jones
Covers up over the chin,
tucked in around my body
Teddy hugged closely to my chest,
Legs stiff out straight,
clamped together and
crossed at the ankles
Breathing quiet and shallow,
until it virtually disappears
Closet doors shut all the way
Bedroom door opened wide
Supersonic hearing activated
Eyes focused on the open door
Is this the way
all 7-year-old girls
prepare for sleep?
Cynthia L. Bryant ©June 12, 1994
Marvelous that you ended up a poet after the difficult journey you have made.
Novice Poets Test Their Wings at Open Mic Event (2005) Pleasanton, CA
By Sam Richards
TIMES STAFF WRITER
Cynthia Bryant remembers the first time she stepped up to a microphone to recite one of her poems to the world. She was a member of the San Ramon-based Across the River Writers' Roundtable, and she was scared. "It was a little like getting ready to jump off a cliff," said Bryant, now Pleasanton's poet laureate. "I read too fast, too quiet. It is for novice poets, those who haven't had much experience in front of an audience, that Bryant started holding once-a-month open mic poetry readings through the City of Pleasanton at The Bookstore on Hopyard Road.
The open mics happen every third Thursday of the month, up to 20 people show up at a given session, Bryant said. And those attending don't have to stand up to read their work, — a contrast to the Century House poetry events where established poets read, bigger crowds come together, and novice poets can be intimidated. At the Book Store you don't have to be published or polished," Bryant said.
By Ron McNicoll October 12, 2006, INDEPENDENT
Pleasanton poet laureate Cynthia Bryant has begun a project that calls for American poets to write poems to the people of Iraq. The poems will be translated into Arabic by Arab poets living in the Eastbay, and dispersed to Iraqis by Iraqis who are living in the United States, not through any government channels in the United States or Iraq. The idea is people-to-people contract, so that Americans can say what is in their hearts, said Bryant. There is no political agenda. It’s all about feelings, not politics. “As a poet, I’ve used my poetry sometimes for resolving feelings U.S. Poets Will Tell Iraqis How They Feel in myself. I was frustrated. I have never had to live with what they are living with in their country. I wanted to say something to the people (of Iraq),” said Bryant. “One thing that poets do is to notice things in detail. We also tend to be able to project ourselves into other people’s situation and try to look at things from their perspective. I can’t imagine living with war around me, for women and children especially, but for peaceful men, too. I know a lot of people have a lot of ideas and thoughts, and something to say (to them),” Bryant said. Many of the 55 poets from throughout the United States who have submitted poems to Bryant so far are “trying to make sense to themselves about what is going on. How did we get from 9/11 to being in Iraq? Some of the poets are women who tend to write to Iraqi mothers and grandmothers, and people with small children. They say that they are sorry about the invasion and what the Iraqis are living in, said Bryant. In talking about the empathy, she has seen in the poems so far, Bryant said that it is along the lines of “you have the same needs I do. You love your children as I do. You want to be able to sleep tonight with no bombs going off, as I do. I’m sorry you don’t have that.” Bryant launched the project three months ago. It has received little publicity. Only announcements at the bimonthly poetry readings at Century House in Pleasanton and on her web site, Poets Lane, have told the world about it, until now. With more publicity, the book could grow into a big volume. Bryant would like it sold in the United States, too, in an Arabic and English format. She hopes a major press will become interested, for broad availability to the American people. The original deadline for submitting poems to Bryant has been Nov. 1. She is thinking about extending the deadline into early next year. There will be a celebration of the poems from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Dec. 3 at Century House in Pleasanton, and a potluck will be included.
Cynthia Bryant claims poetry saved her life; that not only was poetry a safe way to transcend the terror and rage arising from childhood abuse, but also a tool to share and educate other survivors.
First published in 1997 by two important journals dealing with childhood sexual abuse, Cynthia Bryant has since been published in over 50 anthologies. She has shared her poetry in venues as diverse as a federal prison, women’s shelters, a continuation high school and neon sign shop in addition to coffee shops, libraries and bookstores.
Cynthia was the Poetry Coordinator for the Alameda County Fair in 2004 and 2005. She served as the Poet Laureate of Pleasanton, Ca from 2005 to 2007, and again from 2011 to 2013. During her tenure she was a passionate advocate for the literary arts, bringing diverse voices to share their work in the community. Today Cynthia resides in Monterey with her husband Allen and their Boston Terrier, Oscar Wilde.
Cynthia’s poetry books Sojourn, Pebbles in the Shoe as well as No Time to Shoot the Poets have been accepted in the new Ina Coolbrith Circle library section in Sacramento’s State Library’s Special Collections Reading Room. In her latest chapbook, FOLKS: Versions of Us, Cynthia steps into the shoes of others for a fresh perspective on the world and events that shape us.
Past Hostess of a poetry venue, now defunct, LAST SUNDAYS’ FISHBOWL POETRY, Cynthia was pleased to feature two poets and an open mic every month at Old Capitol Books in Monterey, CA. (2018-2019)
TEN QUESTIONS asked by Your One Phone Call, Wales
Why do you write?
I write when I need to reach outside of my head back into the world. I write when all of the sensory input overwhelms me and needs to empty out into my unique creations. I write when the dreams and emotions wrestle with my past and I need to touch the now and the others.
What books do you read?
I read poetry mostly, some history, genealogy, books on trauma and child abuse. The Courage to Heal is my bible and I will always be thankful to the brave women who wrote it.
What inspires you?
I am very visual, so movies inspire me. Art, photography and color inspires me. I also am turned on by music and lovely fragrances. I love the courageous, kindness and telling the truth. Talent in all its forms energizes me. I am revived with the touch of my husband’s hand, the sloppy kisses of our four-footed family members.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer and when?
When I was in my early forties, I was diagnosed with P.T.S.D. brought on from childhood abuses. While in therapy I was asked to write down events, emotions, pictures and people as they came to me in dreams and waking. Up until that time I had done only writing required in school. What I discovered in that process saved my life. The first sharing of these memories seemed to come out as poetry, or so I was told. The sharing was like taking part in the Lakota Sun Dance Piercing Ritual, where the skin is pierced through with a bone tied to a rope and the body’s weight eventually rips the skin open. But once I said the truths out loud, I was exhilarated, and people would thank me and share their truth. That is when I knew I was a writer, and it was important for me as well as others.
How do you deal with rejection?
I guess in some ways I experienced this early when some folks did not like the topics of my poems and suggested writing about flowers or happy subjects. Some rejection is harder than others and may be the reason that I have not bothered sending my work out as much as I could. I prefer hearing why something is rejected rather than a generic, 'we are sorry to say...'bullshit.
Who are some of the writers you admire?
I began my poetry journey with Langston Hughes and admired the clear-cut simple words that conveyed so much emotion. I admire him being who he was: black and homosexual in the beginning of the twentieth century in America. I also love Sharon Olds, Naomi Shihab Nye, David Whyte. I prefer reading poetry anthologies to hear many voices.
Is writing the only artistic medium you do?
I love to make jewelry from beads, shells and bone. I love to draw, doodle and dream of painting. I used to play piano and practice ballet as a child. I am an artistic want-to-be.
What would be some advice you would give to your younger self?
Love yourself and follow your bliss.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Read and write daily. Only accept critiques from people you respect and then only if it feels right. You are the best and last judge of your work. If you love it, and it makes you happy, go for it.
What is your writing process?
Sometimes I begin with a title, sometimes a line. On several occasions I began with a character who persisted until I wrote down their story. I am sometimes disciplined and write every morning, rewrite in the afternoon. But mostly I need to be jolted awake by an emotion, a need to let something go onto the page. Putting my work out there is even less regulated, but spontaneous. I most enjoy standing in front of lovers-of- poetry and taking in the huge exchange of energy sharing my work.
I am not even sure of the year any longer, but the story I remember. My poem won the theme award at the Alameda County Fair and then they purchased it to hang in the main office at the fair. I got a voicemail last week from a volunteer at Pleasanton’s library who searched me down. She saw the poem with the family picture and was certain she needed to see it back to the family. This was a poem written about my husband’s family who had loaded up possessions and headed off from Oklahoma to Shatner, California where my father-in law was born,(the baby in the picture next to his older brother and their father at a tent city). The most amazing part is that after making a copy of the picture for the entry, the original was chewed up by my puppy. I owe so much thanks to this kind library volunteer for searching me down and returning the poem and picture back to our family.
August 1, 2022 Cynthia L Bryant