Saturday, May 9, 2009

On this week's Delirious Hem "This is what a feminist [poet] looks like" forum

I've had a really strong reaction to the "This is What a Feminist [Poet] Looks Like" pieces posted over at Delirious Hem this week.

At first it was something along the lines of, Oh wow, this is so cool, hooray for this!

And then as the week went along I became troubled as I realized that not only was it cool, but that I had been starving for it.

I never experienced a 1970s consciousness-raising group, but I imagine that those were something of what this forum has been for me.

Elizabeth Treadwell wrote in her piece: Take for example all our corporate storytelling and our profit-driven notions of beauty. What if the energy and resources currently spent on these consumerist abstractions were instead reserved for the localized articulation and idiosyncratic ornamentation of our stories and selves?

That is partially what it's been for me: an articulation of that economy, a carving out of that space.

Danielle Pafunda reminded me: I think we should all start taking up a freaking huge amount of space.

This was something of the "conclusion" that came out of the Feminist Presses roundtable I organized for the Lifting Belly High conference in September 2008. Space has been cleared for us by the last generation of feminists. Are we taking it up, or are we letting it close back up again?

Delirious Hem takes up gorgeous, dense space. Switchback -- our events, our blog, and of course our books -- does, too. So does writing and publishing my own work. But now that I've gotten the chance to read the stories of contemporary feminist writers, I'm ravenous for them -- I want them every day. I don't want any more silent histories.

I also want to extend huge thanks to Danielle for organizing the forum. I'd like to say I don't know why women don't write and share these sorts of things every day on their own in blogland, but I do. First, there's something very powerful and power-generating about doing it en masse. Second, these women are busy tending to their children and their partners and their students and their clients and that can fill up days and weeks in no time unless someone steps in and asks you to clear some time for something else. And you sometimes have to pretend it's "work" instead of the fun it is (it's both) in order to find an excuse, an hour here or there to work on it. 500 pounds and a room of one's own.

I know there are more forums planned (I plan to co-organize one, too), but I hope this topic gets a second run, because I imagine there are plenty of women [poets] who thought they weren't feminist poets until they read this -- just as there were contributors who thought they weren't feminist poets until they entered grad school, until they were employed by a bureaucracy, until they sat down to write their pieces.

A note on blog comment boxes: It's a thrill to see these filled with women's opinions. I can feel, but can't yet quite articulate, how the rhetoric shifts when women enter into comment-box conversations. It seems to me that comment boxes are sometimes like city streets at night: women know they shouldn't go alone, know they risk danger -- leering eyes, men who do not know how to listen in earnest but would rather hear themselves talk. I hope many more people -- women and men, but especially women -- will comment here.

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