Feminist research and anthologizing

Here’s the introduction to my anthology of some poems by women from Latin America, translated from Spanish to English. It explains my research methodology and the theories I developed while reading and translating.

* Introduction to Towards an Anthology of Spanish American Women Poets, 1880-1930 – HTML

* Introduction to Towards an Anthology of Spanish American Women Poets, 1880-1930 – PDF (154K, 42 pages)

Here are a few of my main points.

I considered poems by several different criteria; any one of them were sufficient.
* work of high literary quality by my own judgment
* work that was important in its time
* work is by a woman who was part of a known community of women writers
* work has a strong feminist message
* work is representative of a well-known category or type of poetry of its time and place
* work that was intertextual with other poems

I chose to use chronological juxtaposition, not by author’s birth date or publication of first book, but by when they were active in literary communities.

Some of the point of the anthology is to provide a backdrop for the more well known poets of that time and place. So, for instance, I believe that readings of Gabriela Mistral or Delmira Agustini may change when seen in context with the poems by their contemporary female authors writing in Spanish.

And,

Last but not least, I would like to shift the balance of gender in the practice of defining literary movements and other groupings of poetic styles. By re-presenting a broad range of women’s work from a particular time period, I hope to make it possible to refocus current definitions of literary quality. For example, modernismo as a movement was defined from men’s work, and then, in many cases, quality was determined from whether a poem and a poet’s life fit that definition of modernismo. Therefore, I feel it is a useful experiment to begin to define literary categories from a body of women’s work, from which it is possible to form other parameters of literary quality. To begin that task, it was first necessary to find the women’s poetry.
I began this project with the assumption and belief that there were women poets in Latin America 100 years ago who are worth reading today. My initial questions were: Which women were writing? What were their names? Where and how can I find their work to judge it for myself?

María Monvel
One more bit where I quote myself. (I am SO cheating.)

I noticed a common theme in many anthologies, including those which were promoting a feminist view: they hailed women’s recent work as if women’s poetry were a new phenomenon. As Adrienne Rich said in 1980: “Each feminist work has tended to be received as if it emerged from nowhere; as if each one of us had lived, thought, and worked without any historical past or contextual present. This is one of the ways in which women’s work and thinking has been made to seem sporadic, errant, orphaned of any tradition of its own” (11). Joanna Russ also pointed out this problem in How To Suppress Women’s Writing (1983); she calls it “the myth of the isolated achievement” (62). This isolation was especially apparent in short biographical notes in poetry anthologies, in which male poets were discussed in a context of other men, while women poets were presented as lone examples of excellence.

This bit about the “myth of the isolated achievement” is a pattern I see over and over again when women’s work is discussed — in literature, in poetry, in technology, in politics, or anywhere.

Look for it yourself in articles with a supposedly positive spin. Once you start to see it, and if you start looking at history, and women’s history, you will see the poison for what it is — the perpetual erasure of our history, and a tool that keeps us isolated from each other and from generations past and upcoming.

The time changes, but the pattern remains the same; not just in Latin American poetry, but poetry in general. And not just in poetry, but any genre of writing. Not just in writing, but in many, many fields. In poetry, a distant foremother is invoked, perhaps Sappho or Sor Juana. The lack of (significant) women is pointed out. Then a comparatively recent “appearance” of women is celebrated. The women appear, as if by magic or spontaneous generation. The crest of that wave of women’s achievement is always right now, or just about to happen.

You think you have achieved something in life? Made the situation better? Broke ground? Our daughters will be pointed at as if they were the first… over and over again. Unless we break through the wall, somehow, as I hope that the Net and blogging will help to achieve. Women have been achieving great things for as far back as I have ever tried to look.

Joanna RussDale Spender

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Call for submissions: WisCon Chronicles, volume 3

Call for Ideas and Contributions
WisCon Chronicles Volume 3 – WisCon 32

Were you at WisCon 32 in 2008? Aqueduct Press would love to hear from you with ideas and materials for Volume 3 of The WisCon Chronicles.

ANY panel, event, or paper you’d like to write about is fine.

Here are a few that we’ve noticed people talking about:

* Maureen McHugh and L. Timmel Duchamp’s Guest of Honor readings and speeches
* Women and Hard SF
* Elves and Dwarves: The Racism Inherent in Fantasy
* Fanfic and Slash 201
* The Battlestar Galactica panel
* The Eclipse One Cover Debate
* Not Just Japan: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy
* Writing Working-Class Characters

We’d also like to see writeups of your hallway conversations: What fantastic discussions did you have in the interstices? In the hallway, in the lobby? At parties, at dinner, in your room, or online?

If you were at WisCon and would like to participate — to offer ideas or to submit an essay — please get in touch with us. Don’t be shy.

If you were blown away by a WisCon panel that we haven’t mentioned and would like to see its ideas expanded upon in The WisCon Chronicles, Volume 3, please let us know. Tell us the name of the panel, which participants (including audience members) most engaged you, and what was valuable to you about the discussion. What was thought-provoking, inspiring, enraging, hilarious, worthy of deeper discussion? If you’re interested in writing an essay on the topic or contributing to the book in some other way, let us know.

Please query before writing an article. If you want to submit an article or essay, please email a query or proposal by September 15, 2008. (The earlier the better.) The deadline for the submission of finished essays will be October 15, 2008. Text in the body of the email is preferred, or rich text format (.rtf) files as attachments. We’re looking for essays of 800-3000 words. If your submission is published, you will receive a small payment and a copy of the book.

Feel free to forward this call for submissions!

Thanks,
Liz Henry
email ideas and submissions to: liz@bookmaniac.net

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Carmen Berenguer wins Ibero-American Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize

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Happy Poetry Month! Congratulations to Carmen Berenguer who has won the 2008 Premio Iberoamericana de Poesía Pablo Neruda.

I am very happy for her!

And for everyone who will now read her marvelous poems!

It makes me extremely happy that work so radical, experimental, feminist, and wild, has been recognized and honored.

carmen berenguer

“Es una sorpresa por la poesía que yo hago, que de pronto puede ponerle trabas al entendimiento y al sentimiento. Mi poesía es sonora, interna, musical, digo cosas increíbles”, comenta. “Soy una mujer combativa, vengo de los conventillos, de la pensión y esos argumentos hicieron que me fijara en las injusticias”, agrega.

*
It’s a surprise because of the poetry I write, that can suddenly put up blocks to understanding and feeling. My poetry is echoing, internal, musical, I say unbelievable things. I’m a fighting woman, I come from the projects, from poor neighborhoods, and that background fixed my thoughts on injustice.

Berenguer often breaks words and form, with poem titles at the bottom of pages or strangely broken across two pages, like this:

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and she ranges into concrete poems in her early work such as Bobby Sand desfallece en el muro as well as in later work such as the poem typeset to look like the Chilean flag. You can see a glimpse of that poem above.

I have translated some of her work over the last few years.

So far, I have spent the most time reading A media asta and La gran hablada. While I love her short poems, I am most fond of her longer work which sprawls and rants and sobs and screams across the page, long poems that build me up to a peak of understanding. It is not “leaping poetry” in the way that Bly meant, with graceful elisions. It is broken, unclear, obstructive, difficult, obstreporous. And, that is suitable, that is what is right, when you write about political violence, about gendered violence, about bodies, oppression, about Chile under Pinochet, as Berenguer does.

Carmen Berenguer

That is what I love best in poetry. I love when it has physicality, when it fights with sense, when it has elbows that stick out, when it feels like wading through mud or struggling to make my own broken body act and endure. It is poetry that rewards effort just as bodies do. Really kick ass poetry, seriously ass-kicking, rejects easy understanding, the facile Hmmmm and nod of agreement. It is perturbing! Bothersome! Berenguer’s work is all that. I think of her work as mixing up the neobaroque/neobarroso with écriture féminine.

I want to quote some of her poems and post my translations, but I am trying to get them published in journals at the moment. So here are a few excerpts. This is from “Bala humanitaria”, “Humanitarian bullet”.

…..Ese dardo
Penetra rompiendo la piel disparado a cien metros
Rompe la piel en sugundos el dedo gatillado
Rompe el silencio y lo dispara
Ondas sonoras irradian el campo comprometiendo el sonido
Interlocutor del suave murmullo El dardo penetrando
Los ojos abiertos y un ojo semicerrado afinando la puntería
El hombre acaricia el gatillo con deseos
…..
*
….. This shaft
Penetrates breaking the skin shot at a hundred meters
Breaks the skin in seconds the trigger finger
Breaks the silence and shatters it
Sonorous waves irradiate the compromised field of sound
Interlocutor of the smooth whisper The shaft penetrates
Open eyes and a half-closed eye sharpened the aim
The man caresses the trigger with desires
……

Here I thought for a long time about how to translate “dardo” and though “dart” or arrow would be more literal, I think “shaft” gets the phallic imagery properly into the poem. It is important because it is a poem that links rape and violence, that takes a gendered view of the sort of violence that can consider it right to make international law about the correct way to kill people with proper bullets. The lines on penetration and holes are not an accident… Further, I would say that it is good to note how Berenguer speaks about sound, about echoes and fracturing; this comes up elsewhere in her work and I think it is right to think of it as the Howl, as the song of the poet, the fundamental sound, poetry, art, creation — broken deliberately in order to reveal multiple truths. So, this is a poem about international politics and humanitarian bullets, violence; but it is also about gender, violence, rape; there is an industrial note, recalling thoughts of metals and mining, global industry; and it is also about words, poetry, logic, speaking, art, creation. That is the kind of poem I can get behind, 100%.

I feel inspired to go work on my translation of “Mala piel” now… and will post some excerpts from it later this month.

a media asta

It is maybe just a particular pleasure for me that poems like this have been honored in the name of Neruda. While I love Neruda’s poetry very much and honor him, I have some difficulties as a feminist with the way he writes about women’s bodies and how they become his male dominated metaphor of art and life and love, his landscape to traverse and discover and see. In fact, Neruda-worshiper Robert Bly is just the same for me sometimes with his graceful, easy “leaping”. For me as a poet, having spent years thinking about this in the way that poets do: I say fuck the leap. It is like cheating. Get your feet on the ground, dudes! Stay in your body! Go fast, but stay dirty! Thus it is particularly sweet to me, for a fantastic strong political woman who writes from and of the body, who makes words really embody, to win a prize named after Neruda.

Links:

* YouTube: el ojo no es un territorio, a video-poema.

* Palabra Virtual: The text of selected poems including a small fragment of one of my favorites, “Mala piel”, and a recording of “Desconocido”.

* YouTube: Berenguer en Chile Poesía

* Chilean wins Neruda Prize for poetry

* Carmen Berenguer, Ibero American Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize – with brief intervew.

* Pablo Neruda Prize 2008 to Chilean poet

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Wiscon panels coming up, and some commentary on a game

Here’s my panels for Wiscon! I can’t wait!

Last year’s flirting panel was a blast and at this year’s followup I’m hoping to make a cool handout. Debbie says if I email her the stuff she’ll make the handout, because I have too much to do! One good technique “touch/don’t touch” is actually playing out mini scenarios and then switching roles, so that you get to do the no-saying and the no-recieving and get practice doing that gracefully on both sides. (Something I learned in anti-date-rape workshops in the 80s.) Another super great idea I learned from Ian K. Hagemann – to always thank a person who lets you know a boundary, because they are honoring you by communicating it instead of letting you continue to cross it in ignorance.

I don’t have any specific and book-focused panels this year – no time to prepare properly for that – But I can’t wait for the Karen Axness Memorial Panel where we all list great little-known books by women sf writers and there are always fabulous handouts that expand my reading list. I’m also excited to go to the cultural appropriation panels.

Speaking of cultural appropriation! I can bring a copy of this: Bone White, Blood Red: a roleplaying game of the Pueblo Revolt. It is written in the voice of “Spider Grandmother” and “Worn Pot” who teach Bear, Coyote, Wren, and Badger how to play the game. My immediate reaction is basically, “huh” and a stance of automatic suspicion against what I think of as Cherokee hair tampon syndrome.

The game would be rough for me and I would rather just have character sheets with the beads and string as a metaphor or an optional visual aid, as I could never remember all the details of which bead meant what without written notes. But I would certainly give the game a try and the difficulty of remembering stuff would be part of the point. (Would that difficulty be fun, though?) As the fictional in character bits in roleplaying game books go, this one is not bad at all.

So is it cultural appropriation? Well, yeah. Does that make it awful? It’s not a yes/no on/off answer. It means that it is open to some criticism and commentary, which game authors as well as book authors should listen to with an open mind and some humility, as the Spirit of the Century rpg authors recently did.

In other interesting gaming news, you can download and playtest Steal Away Jordan. The players all play slaves in the U.S.

Your name
Your name is not your own. If you were born into slavery, your parents may not have had much say in the choosing. The name your master calls you may not be the name your relations use in private. If you run away, you will change your name. Therefore, the GM chooses your name, but you may pick a nickname.

That’s pretty interesting! You can read a report and discussion thread of a playtest game on The Forge.

Anyway here’s my Wiscon panels!

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Feminist SF Wiki Workshop
in Caucus Room (Time to be determined)

Come learn about the Feminstsf wiki, learn what wikis are and how to edit them, contribute your ideas, creativity, and feminist vision to the wiki.
Equipment: projector that can plug into a laptop, and a screen
Length: 70 minutes
Laura M. Quilter, Liz Henry

Please Touch/Don’t Touch (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m. Friday, 8:45-10:00 p.m.
One of the many qualities which sets WisCon apart from most other SF conventions is the perception that, for one weekend a year, the Concourse is a safe and inclusive space for SF fans of all genders, orientations, identities, races, and religions. Many people have commented that this extra level of comfort seems to create a very “touchy-feely” environment, with a lot more casual physical contact between old friends and new acquaintance, and a very different, (more open?) environment for flirting and hook-ups. But not everyone is quite so comfortable with such a relaxed atmosphere… Where do you draw the lines between casual and significant, affection and flirting, too much and not enough? How do the conditions change from situation to situation? And how do you tell someone to “back off”… or deal gracefully when someone else lets you know that you’ve crossed a line?
Karen Swanberg, M: Debbie Notkin, Mary Kay Kare, Liz Henry, Jed E. Hartman

Let’s You And Her Fight (Feminism, Sex, and Gender)
Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m. Sunday, 10:00-11:15 a.m.
This year there was a panel about how to flirt at Wiscon. Next year I’d like to see a panel on how to fight at Wiscon. It’s not bad to want to get along; but it is when that urge causes us not to speak our minds in public, and leaves us gr umbling in private. How do you speak up and explain that you think the respected panel member is talking out of her hat, while maintaining a friendly attitude towards someone who is, after all, a fellow feminist and fan? Ideally people will get a chance to practice. I would particularly like to draft Steven Schwartz for this panel.
Steven E. Schwartz, Liz Henry, Joan Haran, M: Alan Bostick, Lee Abuabara

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Very cool literary reading: Nalo Hopkinson, Jewelle Gomez, Marta

This is going to be an amazing reading. I hope to see lots of you there! I will probably be late, unfortunately, but will be there and then be at the afterparty at Debbie Notkin’s house.

Octavia E. Butler Memorial Tribute Fundraiser

Nalo Hopkinson
Jewelle Gomez
Susie Bright
Marta Acosta
Jennifer de Guzman
and
Guillermo Gomez-Peña

A fundraiser reading to benefit the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship.
Fabulous fabulists honor one of our great writers and raise funds for the next generation.

Sunday, March 4, 5 – 7 pm

The Starry Plough
3101 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA.
510-841-2082
http://www.starryploughpub.com/

$5-20 sliding scale.

The Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship will enable writers of color to attend one of the Clarion writing workshops, where Octavia got her start. It is meant to cement Octavia’s legacy by providing the same experience/opportunity that Octavia had to future generations of new writers of color. In addition to her stint as a student at the original Clarion Writers Workshop in Pennsylvania in 1970, Octavia taught several times for Clarion West in Seattle, Washington, and Clarion in East Lansing, Michigan, giving generously of her time to a cause she believed in.

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Dear Urbana Slam Poets and Bowery Poetry Club

Dear “Big Mike”… at the Bowery Poetry Club

Fuck right off.

No I will not take off my shirt or show you my ass for your polaroids. Skeevy asshole. I”m so happy to go back to San Francisco and say goodbye to the Bowery’s poetry scene… Where they knowingly tolerate blatant sexual harassers in their scene.

Dear women in the Bowery Scene and people who aren’t misogynist fuckheads, I feel sorry for you that you have to put up with that kind of thing. Why do you?

Dear mc dude of the Urbana slam team, nice job of laughing off sexual harassment to my face. Also thanks for letting me know that “that guy hangs out here every single day at the poetry club.” I’m sure everyone just thinks he’s SO funny and such a character!

Dear guy working the door… I thought you were laughing with me and were complicit in my fool-baiting. “Thanks” for then when I confronted the dude about his fucked-upedness, then acting like you didn’t hear anything wrong… And for saying that you didn’t hear anything hostile. Because we all know that asking all the women in a cafe or a poetry reading to take off their clothes for a camera and if they have any “intimate” piercings or tattoos is just totally FRIENDLY… It makes women feel all appreciated and welcome and stuff…

Oh also? The tempting offer of a free copy of your book in exchange for the polaroids of my naked body… not tempting at all.

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