Poet Melissa M. Tripp explains how poetry lets us communicate our anxiety and celebrate ourselves
April is National Poetry Month. Here, HG contributor Rachel Wells speaks with poet Melissa M. Tripp about her writing process, protecting her mental health, and the uniting power of poetry.
Melissa M. Tripp’s poetry is a tour de force. With themes of self-love, empowerment, and vulnerability, the Boston-born poet crafts language into life rafts where we all can fit. Tripp takes what we question, doubt, and fret over within ourselves, and skillfully places them into phrases that many people feel but can’t express on their own. A recent piece, titled “How to Love a Woman,” celebrates the power of loving a woman while giving her space to love herself. On Twitter, the piece garnered over 2 million impressions and 11,000 retweets; in layman terms, it went way-viral.
Tripp redefines what it means to love yourself and others in a world that profits from self-doubt, and her audience loves her for it.
For Tripp, “How to Love a Woman” represents much more than instruction. She tells HelloGiggles, “The [piece’s] creation process felt like every tenant that ever lived in my heart [was] writing through me—every apology, every plea, every word left unsaid, every word that can’t be unsaid, every line crossed, every line redrawn, every time I wish I had been loved differently, every time I wish I had loved differently (myself, too).”
The well from which Tripp levies her work is not fully illuminated. It’s what’s in the dark that drives her to embrace what’s in the light. “Loving myself means deepening my relationship with myself beyond what I see or don’t see when I look in the mirror,” she says. “While there are still times I’ll catch myself—five minutes or longer than should have elapsed—standing in the mirror hyper-focused on something I’m feeling sensitive about that day, that doesn’t mean those real moments when I feel self-conscious about my body should negate the breakthrough moments when I feel empowered in my skin,” she says. According to Tripp, beauty hangs in the balance. false
As an overly observant child, Tripp didn’t have the wisdom to apply logic to the world around her, but she knew one day that the right medium would find her. When asked what first stirred her to write, Tripp says, “the stir itself.” Even her unfiltered thoughts release like prose; it’s no wonder her work is prolific. That’s not to say that her insights are easily earned, but the context of her world is built with words: “I get to create my own model for generating that same sense of curiosity, interpretation, and wonderment that raised me,” she says.
Her lived experiences are at the heart of her work, in which internal reflections become eternal inspiration. Tripp says, “My encounters with women as a lesbian, having had the luxury of learning and sharing intimate space—loving women has been the greatest inspiration I’ve ever known.” She credits the “delicate balance of exploration and cocooning,” and what it “feels like [to be] a woman carving identity” as her driving forces.
Tripp’s process of self-reflection is nowhere close to being complete. She is still learning how to balance the delicate dance of unearthing parts of herself while taking good care of her wellbeing and mental health. Her “core-connected writing” requires her to reinforce boundaries with those she’s closest to, especially those that don’t understand the emotional labor of exploring and writing intimate work.
Tripp shares her poetry in many formats. She has written two books, root and 24 hours later, shares frequent content with her ravenous social media following, and writes a daily newsletter titled “Daily Love Letters.” Reader engagement is paramount in her career, but due to anxiety, even positive feedback can be daunting. “Anxiety doesn’t always afford me the social capacity to interact with my readers as much as I would like to,” she says. “So to convey to my readers that ‘Hey, I’m not just some arrogant jerk. I’m actually incredibly humbled and grateful, this is just overwhelming for me,’ I started feeling brave enough to share my story as someone living with anxiety.”
A piece she wrote for her newsletter called, “An Open Letter to Everyone Struggling to Find Their Place,” prompted some of her readers to share their own experiences. “One in particular was from someone who recently lost their mother. They communicated having found comfort in that piece,” she says.
Ritual, however strict or not, is a ceremonial decision for most writers, but the trope of poets and writers sitting in cabins, sipping tea, and churning out words in day-long sessions couldn’t be further from the truth. Recently, Tripp re-examined how her writing ritual is working for or against her. In the past, whenever she’s gotten the urge to write something profound, she tends to want to shower and incubate in that headspace. “It’s a great time for reflection when you’re feeling inspired,” she says. However, since she made the decision to write the daily newsletter full-time, her feelings on structure have changed.
“Part of me being against that [structure] came from not wanting to lose my authentic voice but—from an organization standpoint—it can be a good thing,” the poet says. After reading her “Daily Love Letters,” it’s clear the new ritual is working. Tripp’s voice is stronger than ever.