My name is Annecy Baez and I am a poet, writer, and author of My Daughter’s Eye and Other Stories. I am also a psychotherapist, and an Associate Professor at Touro College Graduate School of Social Work. My stories and poems can be found in Callaloo from John Hopkins Viajeros del Rocio: 25 Narradores Dominicanos de la Diaspora and Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers. My clinical social work/professional research can be found at academia edu. In this brief about me I am sharing my personal experiences and what led me to writing poetry and short stories
I started writing when I was a child. Words and stories soothed me. I would write on the walls, the floor, and on paper of course, but creating was empowering. Later, producing words into sounds and sounds into stories created a loving expansion in my heart. I knew then that I could not live without the music of words and the healing power of stories.
As I grew up, I began to notice how we tell our stories. I realized that the stories we tell change with time, with growth, and with an empathic listener. A listener who can mirror our goodness, remind us of our fullness. I came to understand that we re-story our lives through the sharing of it. A little question here and there, like a seed, could change the remembering.
I grew up in the Bronx and stories surrounded me. I went to college majored in Psychology, and worked at Bronx State Psychiatric Hospital, and later at a foster care agency. Two years later, I went to Hunter College School of Social Work at CUNY. It did not surprise me that I became a clinical social worker/psychotherapist. I was taught to be empathic, compassionate, and attuned to those who came to tell me their stories. I was taught to listen to their stories, not just their words, but every movement, and gesture. I was taught to listen with my eyes.
It was psychotherapy that brought me to writing and to my book. I understood my experience when I created a story or a poem. I was always writing, painting or drawing, but in 1989, I was the Director of an inpatient trauma center for children. Slowly, more and more children came to our facility because of sexual abuse. Some children were as young as 3 or 4 years old. As a sexual abuse therapist, I needed a creative, spiritual outlet to deal with the stories of suffering I was hearing on a daily basis. I sought peace through creativity, yoga, meditation, healthy eating, prayer, painting, photography, collage art, book art and writing became my tool box for peace.
In 1998, I become a professor at NYU where I had received my doctorate. Believing that academic might stifle my creative writing, I wrote on my long Metro ride from Westchester to NYC. I wrote, and on my way back home. Some of the poems I wrote and the stories too were eventually published in Callalo from John Hopkins University. But, it was not until 2004, when I left NYU. I went to Lehman College/CUNY where I became the Director of the Counseling Center providing mental health services to students. There were no expectations as a Director to write grants, and research in order to keep my job, so I was able to have the space to focus on My Daughter’s Eyes and Other Stories. However, it is not easy being a wife, a mother, a full time Director of a Counseling Center, and a creative spirit. Every job has its stressors, and every job has its demands.
So, in 2004, I left and started working at Lehman College as the Director of their student Counseling Center. There I grew as a person, as therapist, an educator, and as a writer. After work, I would write. On the weekends I would write. I found myself writing in restaurants, at a red light, or on a long line in the supermarket.
The stories in My Daughter’s Eyes and Other Stories were written from 1992-2004 while working full time. I had the support of my Tuckahoe writing group led by Emily Halon, then in The Tertulia group in Queens led by Daisy Cocco di Fellipis who is now the President of Naugateck Community College. It was through my friendship with Daisy that I met many wonderful Dominican writers like my great friend Nelly Rosario, Angie Cruz, and Dominican poets like Marianela Medrano, Josefina Baez, and others. And through Nelly and Angie I met Junot Diaz early in his career. Through their support, I was able to read in many places throughout New York City.
I have read many of stories in public, and in college setting, and for those who have invited me or used my book in their classes, I am forever grateful. I have stories that are related to sexual trauma. At the time of writing this book, I was deeply informed by the clinical literature on child abuse and sexual trauma. I was the Director of the Diagnostic Center at Andrus Children’s Home. I did not write the stories I heard from the lips of children, but I did give voice to their experiences in this book. It takes courage to be able to speak toabout the realities of sexual abuse like in my story “Pinocchio”. I thank all of you for your courage to use this story in your classes. I also thank Marianela Medrano for using my stories in her Poetry Therapy groups. I always say that I have a Master’s in the Fine Art of living and it has been wonderful to bring this to stories and poetry. It is my living experience, my dreams, my memories, that I use to create art. It is what brings breath and authenticity to what I do. I write for the love of it, and the results of this love is what brings me joy, and for that I am deeply grateful.
I am the author of this little book I love, My Daughter’s Eyes and Other Stories (2007), winner of the Curbstone Press Marmol Prize for First Latina Fiction. Shortly after its publication, my editor Sandy Taylor who was a great mentor and supporter passed away. His death brought a sudden halt on my work and my process, but not as much as the sudden diagnosis of Stage 4 Colon Cancer of my husband David Hernandez. David and I had met at Hunter School of Social Work when we were both studying to become clinical social workers. I wanted to become a psychoanalyst, so I was immersed in the teaching of Freud, and Karen Horney, and David had a double major in English and Psychology, a philosophical Bronx guy, he was an existentialist immersed in the works of Otto Rank, and others. I knew Otto Rank well because he was Anais Nin’s analyst and I had read all of her diaries. A deep intellectual friendship developed between he and I during those graduate years. Then we graduated, lost touch with each other and reunited again in the late 1980’s and married soon after that.
When David was diagnosed we were shocked, mostly he was never sick. He was a healthy man, a social worker, and grant office at Bronx Community College. He was a volunteer long distance running coach for the students he so passionately mentored at the College. Many wondered why he became sick, but I believe we all come with an expiration date, however, I know that in 2001 David was visiting ACS in the World Trade Center area, so I have always assumed that this had something to do with it.
David lived a courageous life even during his most difficult times. During the first years of our marriage, he had been a social worker who cared deeply for his HIV clients and families. He was familiar with death and the dying process. In September of 2011, I did hospice care at home, something I was not prepared to do. I thought we were so young, I never imagined this would happen. It was as if our lives happened so quickly and suddenly he was gone.
After 3 years of living with cancer, he passed away in my arms. His little dog was sitting near him, as was our daughter. It was a peaceful death. That year, thanks to the former President of the college where he worked, a scholarship memorial fund was created for the students to persist and graduate. That’s what he cared about. During those years that he was sick, he supported my writing and always reminded me “Never to stop writing”, that’s all he would say, and so I would write. I understood that stories are like seeds. I would plant them in my journal and wait for some day when I could return to them and help them grown.
In 2013, after a career change that has saved my life, I started to edit the stories I promised him I would write. Thanks to my writing group at the Hudson Valley Writer’s Center, I completed 2 stories in my collection, “David, Zen and Suki”. I read the first story “Just Sitting” at the Hudson Valley Writer’s Center. It is a story about his love for Suki, his little Japanese Chin and his love of Zen meditation. During the day, he would sit with his little dog in the backyard and meditate. The second story, “The Knowing” was about art, and how our creative process is stored in our bodies, but so are our losses, our pain, our sorrow, but also our strength, our courage, our wisdom. I read The Knowing, at the Bronx Museum of Arts.
I am coming full circle and embracing all of who I am. I am a woman, Latina, a psychotherapist, an educator, a poet, a writer and sometimes I believe I am a painter, a collage artist, a book artist, all of which I combine to make a whole. I am also a mother, a grandmother, a sister, an aunt and a friend to many wonderful people and I have come to learn that I am free to be who I am and not worry about what others expect of me.
I feel deeply blessed, and my heart is full of gratitude for all of the support I have received during this wonderful life full of love and creativity.
I am the author of My Daughter’s Eyes and Other Stories. My stories and poems can be found in Callaloo from John Hopkins Viajeros del Rocio: 25 Narradores Dominicanos de la Diaspora and Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers.
Presently, I am an Associate Professor at Touro College Graduate School of Social Work. I teach social work practice and human behavior to the most amazing students. My professional research can be found at academia edu, and if you, like me, are a mental health