Mary Akers: Hi, Tiff! Thank you for speaking with us and for allowing us to publish your fine essay “Status Check” in this issue. My favorite part of this essay was the easy relationship between the mother and daughter…who are both recovering, or trying to recover (aren’t we all?). What do you like most about your relationship with your mother?
MA: I had the distinct pleasure of hearing you read recently in Buffalo, from your chapbook “Betty Superman.” I was fascinated by your mom’s feelings about the book, how she felt being the inspiration for the main character. Could you tell us a little bit about her reaction to the book?
TH: She loves it! She always told me I should give up writing poetry (my initial writing focus for 20 years) and write about her life. She said then WE would be rich. She also accepts that it’s writing–not always completely literal. However, she was concerned that my two aunts might not feel the same way. Mom thought they might excise one story in particular. So, I sent the books for the reading to a friend’s house instead.
MA: Along those lines, we also spoke about how once something is put into writing and published, it often becomes the new reality, even for the writer. I know that I have occasionally had a “memory” that when I examine it more closely turns out to be something that started as fact, but that I completely altered in the writing in order to fit a storyline…and then I remembered it the altered way. Has that ever happened to you?
MA: What did you think of the piece that our illustrator, Matthew Chase-Daniel selected for your essay? I’m always struck by the ways that readers find something personal to relate to in the /images chosen for their work. Did you find any personal meaning in the image selected for Status Check?
TH: The piece was perfect and there is lots of personal meaning there. I can’t sleep without a sound machine for one thing, and I keep it turned to “ocean waves.” Also, I lived in Hawaii for three years, but mostly I like the way there are three parts to the image, the raising, the falling, the crashing. It’s so much like my perception of the world in the months leading up to the stroke as well as to my relationship with my mother. It’s clear by the /images that they’re part of a cycle, something continuous and timeless. I need to get permission to print those up and frame them!
MA: And finally, I know you have an intimate relationship with physical recovery. Can you tell our readers what “recovery” means to you?
TH: Recovery is difficult to describe. My therapist discusses it as “creating a new paradigm.” For me it has been largely about accepting limitations, and I’m a perfectionist. Rather like the waves, it is a continuous cycle that rises and falls. I just know that every morning I have to check to see if I’m dizzy before I step foot out of bed and take a chance of taking a dive if I am. Every single second of every day my left ear is making some sort of infernal noise. I feel like “Harrison Bergeron” burdened with his handicaps, but no matter what I do, I can’t just rip them off, I can only hope for a moment of dancing in air before they pull me back down.
MA: Excellent. Thanks for talking with us today. And for our readers, here are some links to more of Tiff’s excellent work: