“During my fellowship, every time I wrote, I was surprised by how fluidly and completely the words appeared on the page. It became clear that I had processed much over the decades and that, indeed, this was the right time for me to write this piece.”
Poet Alessandra Lynch’s renewal process was focused on a book she had been writing, tentatively titled Thinning, about the effects of anorexia on her life. The fellowship provided time to draft and research and to see just how much she’d already processed about her personal battle with anorexia. She also traveled to New York City in November of 2015 to interview the psychologist she credits with saving her life nearly three decades ago. Of this experience Lynch says, “She knew how to speak my language and reach through the complex mesh of the psyche, through dream analysis, to find me—someone who seemed all bones then but was somewhat whole after all.”
A painful facet of the process emerged when a friend whose sister died of lifelong anorexia sent Lynch a box of the woman’s journals. “I couldn't bring myself to open the box for several weeks, but when I did I was reminded viscerally of how lonely the life of an anorexic is, how removed. I also gained some insight into why she might have died and why it was I might have survived.” Lynch saw how much of anorexia is the removed sense of self, and “this woman’s absence on the page was chilling.” Yet, in drafting her new manuscript, Lynch found words appeared fluidly, helping her see just how ready she had been to complete this manuscript.
In addition to the book, Lynch created a collaborative dance piece with a Butler University student choreographer with music by a student musician that incorporated her poetry. She noted, “Working with dancers was illuminating and sobering. Many dancers are underweight; many engage in harmful behavior to keep their bodies so. Their relationship with their physical selves is fraught. To witness this firsthand while working on my book has deepened my sense of the importance of this project.” Altogether, the fellowship gave Lynch the catharsis she needed.