Biography of Jul
I was born in Long Beach in 1957, a California girl, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with my family at nine. A few years later I started writing and eventually that essential release of feeling became poetry, short-short stories, essays, travel memoirs and over thirty years of journaling. I’ve self-published five chapbooks, all out of print now, and one released by Omerta Publications out of San Francisco in 2013. Wild Ocean Press of San Francisco solicited a book length manuscript in 2010, and in 2012, House of the Unexpected - Selected Poems of Julie Rogers 1981 - 2012 was published. Among it's poems are pieces from several book-length collections: Torch – Walking through Fire, The Passion of Dragonflies, The Wishing Bone, Chrysalis, and Savior in a Straightjacket.
I've completed a children's book, A New World – Poems and Rhymes for the Young. Various poems have been included in anthologies such as The Cafe Review, Big Scream, World of Change, Sparring with Beatnik Ghosts, and in Beatitude – Golden Anniversary 1959 – 2009, a renowned San Francisco Beat Poetry publication. In the Afterward, editor Latif Harris wrote, “her poetry is beautifully lyric combining the inner and outer worlds in a seamless unity of visionary grace,” and is “following in the steps of Beat literature in its broadest sense.”
I began writing because I realized, quite young, that I had to. It’s been my devoted companion, my passion, therapist, catalyst, drawing board, a trail through wilderness. During the late seventies I finally worked up enough nerve to read the poems in San Francisco cafes. A string of readings followed: originally at Comisery Café on Laguna St. in San Francisco hosted by Carl Hall, then at Talking Leaves, in Mt. Shasta City and at Jambalaya in Eureka, CA, on public radio in the cities of Portland and Ashland, Oregon and public television in Jackson County, Oregon, various readings at Southern Oregon University, Mark Anthony Hotel, Bloomsbury Books, Illahe Gallery, Carpenter Hall, Mobius and cafes and bookstores around Oregon’s Rogue Valley.
Though I initially thought I should, I never attended a college or university writing program and through the years was strongly advised by various recognized poets: “Don’t go to school! They’ll try to mold you as a writer. Find your own voice.” However I did receive scholarships to notable writing conferences in California and Oregon, and co-facilitated a writing workshop with Laurel Hansen for four years in Ashland, Oregon. For several years I joined the monthly readings of the Ashland Poetry Group hosted by Richard Hartley and Michael Brewer. And I wrote.
I have a daughter, Sangye, and as a single parent writing was a lifeboat at times, and a way to work with all that encompasses motherhood. My daughter and I are very close. I recently completed a manuscript, Lovebird, a compilation of all the poems I've written for her since I discovered I was pregnant through her thirtieth year. It's currently being reviewed for publication by Penguin/Random House. Sangye helped me with editing and we had extensive long-distance discussions from her home in Hawaii about the poems. She has been immensely helpful and my teacher in many ways.
For many years I’ve been involved at Tashi Choling Temple in the Colestine Valley of southern Oregon and at Orgyen Dorje Den in Alameda, CA. During my time as a student of Venerable Gyatrul Rinpoche, various works have been published in conjunction with the Buddhist center: poetry, essays, and a column. In 2007 a manual entitled Instructions for the Transitional State, a guide for Vajrayana Buddhists and their families during the time of dying and death, was published and is available online from Vimala. Now an "End of Life" training program is being established at Orgyen Dorje Den Temple in Alameda, CA. (For information about this, please see the "Hospice Manual" page on this website.) Other works of poetry and prose have been included in several journals such as The Siskiyou Review, The Suspicious Humanist, Furry Chicklets, Fringes, Lithiagraph, The Jefferson Monthly, Rogue’s Gallery, Poetry USA, and Sketchbook on the web.
Finally in May of 2010 I read again in San Francisco with poet and author Sharon Doubiago as part of Philip Hackett’s production at Caffe' Greco in North Beach, over thirty years after having first braved sharing my poems in SF cafes. Since then I've been refining several poetry manuscripts pulled from a forty-year body of work. Currently, my husband, poet David Meltzer, and I are reading our work together in the SF Bay Area and elsewhere. This creative partnership has enriched both our lives. Since meeting, we've been writing a dialog of poems titled 'Sharing Breath", a gesture of our love, but this remains unpublished. David and I recorded a CD with saxophonist Zan Stewart at our home in December of 2012 called 'Two Tone Poetry & Jazz', engineered by Doug Col of Ashland, OR. It includes both of us in duet with the sax and it should be out by April of 2015. A good time was had by all. Hope you can check it out!
WORLD OF CHANGE - part of a San Francisco Bay Area poetry anthology
To Rip Out the Husband’s Stitch for Sangye
My daughter was born on a mountain in a trailer with no power and three midwives were present. I chose midwives after “firing” my conventional, allopathic physician due to several rather distressing interactions that took place in the office, including medical errors, and was glad I had those three deeply committed, trained, and experienced women to help with the birth. The baby was very overdue. Though she was born strong and healthy, the birth was difficult for me, the placenta wouldn’t deliver, and I was rushed to the nearby emergency room. There the delivery was easily completed; the placenta came out whole with one tug of the doctor’s fingers on the cord. However, some of the work was left undone. I was charged for a “DNC” procedure, but the birth canal had ripped open from one end to the other and was left unrepaired. I didn’t have medical insurance.
Eleven years later, during my thirties while living in another state, I began to experience signs of incontinence. I went to a doctor and it was discovered I had both bladder and uterane pro-lapse due to the weakness of the vaginal walls, which, due to the lack of suturing after the birth, had healed wrong. Everything was falling out. A friend recommended an esteemed surgeon, and at that time I was eligible for medical coverage through the state (though I worked full time, I couldn’t afford insurance.) During the pre-op appointment, it was decided by the surgeon that I would be given a hysterectomy and a bladder “lift.” I had to sign a statement that read, basically, if the surgery was not successful I couldn’t sue the doctor for malpractice. Also during that appointment, the surgeon assured my partner that he’d do a good job and I’d be tightened up. He said to him, “You will like it.”
My vaginal wall was rebuilt, my uterus removed, and my bladder reconnected. Post-op I was allowed to vomit for several hours before being given a shot to subdue the symptoms of having been given too much anaesthesia. After returning home the following day bearing a prescribed pain medication with an inaccurate, low dosage, I spent hours curled in a fetal position in agony as the morphine wore off. I was unable to work for a month. Following the expected recovery period as I healed from this traumatic experience, I realized, as I would for months afterward, that I couldn’t have sex without great physical discomfort. I returned to the surgeon, hoping for a solution. What resulted was a disturbing and humiliating consultation, a quote from which is included in the poem below. Finally, I went on my own (since the medical insurance would not cover it) to another well-respected local surgeon, a woman GYN, and she examined me. I then learned that my vagina had been sewn up to the size of a six-year old girl. When I told her about my experience and the name of the surgeon, she remained silent, but promised to help me. Her eyes were wide, but not with shock, I discovered, when I began investigating this phenomenon, referred to by mothers, grandmothers, and women for generations as “the husband’s stitch.”
Two more appointments were necessary with this woman doctor who, in her compassion, cut me back open, twice, barely charging me for each procedure. I had to heal from the first cut and measure my pain threshold before she made the second, of course. I found that the practice of sewing a woman up too tight is not uncommon in the United States, not to mention other countries. I soon met others who had experienced the same thing, being unable to make love with their lovers or partners or husbands after such a surgery, and sometimes the result was just from a routine episiotomy following a birth. Not to mention that hysterectomies have been said to be one of the most often performed and least required surgeries done in the US today.
I spoke with an attorney during the aftermath and was advised not to take the doctor to court, “You’ll only be further humiliated and you won’t win.” Now at fifty-six, I’m on my way to wearing Attends. My daughter is the great love of my heart, and worth all I can give and more, however this experience was a deep wound that has caused untold grief. I wrote the poem ‘To Open the Eye of the Needle’ in 1996. I finally had the courage to read it in public at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco in 2010. I shook the entire time I read it. To speak out, I read this poem. It was first published during 2012 in my first selected book of poems, House of the Unexpected, in the section titled, “How We Go Along Quietly.” This is its second publication.
This poem is an outcry from that overwhelming ordeal. My heart is with every woman who has had to live with suffering - physical, mental, and emotional - due to this type of misogyny, and especially with those who’ve been afraid to speak up. Like most usually are. Like I was.
May 19, 2013
To Open the Eye of the Needle
…To Rip Out “The Husband’s Stitch”
I don’t want to talk
about my body, having slept
with the surgeon’s knife
to wake up knowing
my womb was gone,
feeling my sex undone,
feeling the swollen skin
sewn into ridges inside me,
jagged accidents tucked into seams,
the hard pucker of flesh
caught and stretched
like the lip of a hooked fish
and tacked down, tissue and muscle
hard as a fist. I did not know
I wouldn’t be able to open,
I did not know that the doctor’s stitch
would make me a captive,
a woman trapped by herself
as if a rejected man, a refused erection.
He can’t get in unless he gives me pain.
I did not know the doctor
would make love give me pain
or how the man I love would struggle
to be inside me, how I would struggle
to be inside me, did not know
our love would be in pain.
He said I should stretch myself apart,
“Get a thing from one of those shops.”
How I have tried to open myself.
I have pulled with the grip of a midwife
to release the suture’s teeth
where the doctor closed me up.
He said, “Your man will like it,”
this scarred heart hidden
between my legs, a shallow well.
My body has been stolen.
Let it go. Just don’t mention it.
Don’t tell them which part got hurt,
Don’t say the word vagina,
no one will ever know.
Julie Rogers / 5-31-96