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Showing posts from 2013


After Cara Mujer some silences, like soured linens, the too long gone on uncleanness in dreams, smells become characters that speak and move one of you, in a house of so many empty rooms you offer but my child will not sleep a billowing curtain is some historical, hysterical woman in a red floral print she will not quit her haunting until a tall opera singer blasts the hallway with her clear supersonic voice one of you, you come to my house while it is being built, I have to wrestle the door moulding from your hands and ask you to leave one of you, I find you dressed as a teacher in the back pews of religious high school assembly with my old bible/computer science instructor, and I mutter through the sermon and the children ask me to leave these vapors and their faces take so long to wash out

Women as Mythmakers: Brenda Shaughnessy's flying women in "Calling Her Home"

A Response to "Calling Her Home," Brenda Shaughnessy, Interior with Sudden Joy It's a familiar story. From the small room, the women go flying, the lost mothers, a brief selection:as when a little girlhow can I breathe!What song, devil, is best flying off, her mouth openinghaunting the black air. Each one, a benediction, a blood stain.

Some Presses I'm Ogling

Able Muse Ashland Poetry Press Bona Fide Books Brothel Books Carolina Wren CCM Evening Stree Press Folded Word Philistine Marsh Hawk Press Imaginary Friend Press Cold Line Medusa's Laugh Press MilSpeak Paris Press Exterminating Angle Press Canarium Mayapple Press Bargwrn Books A Midsummer's Night Press Matter Press Sibling Rivalry Press So to Speak Feminist Review Hireaeth Press Pleasure Boat Studio The Feminist Wire Convulsive Editions Crisis Chronicles Etched Press Wild Embers Koan Books Keyhole Press Kore Press Perugia Press Patasola Books Lumonox Press Liquid Lights Press Ugly Duckling

Woman Writer: Susan Rich

Some lovely poems by Susan Rich: "Cloud Pharmacy," "The Invention of Everything Else" Susan Rich What I most love about these poems is their complicated relationship with desire. Resistance and fascination tangle in these poems about female speakers and their desire for their male beloveds--and yet the discourse of romance isn't untroubled, easy, taken for granted. Instead there are complications, threats, perhaps even structural ones bigger than individuals: "an all-embracing/ ocean view" and "The pharmacist’s paper cone/ parsing out a quarter cup." Agency is complicated in these lyrics, and so, somehow, more accurate to the language of desire.

Poem on Poem Ekphrasis: Brian McHale's Feminist Reading of Berryman's Homage to Mistress Bradstreet

In Brian McHale's The Obligation toward the Difficult Whole: Postmodernist Long Poems, he starts his chapter on Susan Howe's The Europe of Trusts with a short introduction to the idea of silence of women and the canon, describing "Berryman's 'Homage' a kind of parable" of "the received version of literary historiography" in which women are silent or overwritten (205). McHale argues that Berryman's "poetic 'homage' to the precursor-poet consists in silencing her." (205)Anne Bradstreet , in "Upon a Fit of Sickness" writes, 'Bestow much cost there's nothing lost,/ to make salvation sure,/ O great's the gain, though got with pain, / comes by profession pure." In "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet", Berryman says as Bradstreet's persona "Hard and divided heaven! creases me. Shame /is failing. My breath is scented, and I throw / hostile glances towards God. " You might be wo…
Jennifer Knutzen, one of the students in the War Stories course I TA'd for, made this presentation that I wanted to share with you all. If you are interested, as I know many of you are, in teaching ethnography as part of composition studies, on approaching veterans in your classroom respectfully, or in teaching creative writing to students who are survivors of trauma, there are resources and links in this prezzi for you.


I love to garden. Seeing things grow you understand things about how this world works, where beauty comes from, and what life is.

Here is a beautiful essay by a gardener who explains how gardening forced her to confront the reality that fruits and vegetables need animal remains--and how she accepted mortality as a part of her diet and how this gorgeous world consumes everything in order to make any other lovely thing.

Feminist Mythmakers: Forrest Gander

from,  "To C"
 by Forrest Gander

"Inside, inside the return, inside, the hero diminishes./
Over her vessel they place a veil"

What a difference a pronoun makes...

Today in Women Writers: "American Novelists" Means Men, Duh

E tu, Wikipedia?

Thanks to Amanda Filipatcchi, for noticing "something strange on Wikipedia. It appears that gradually, over time, editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory. "

"Men" isn't subcategories, it is THE category. "I am the universal standard," dudes of the internet whisper, one woman-obscuring edit at a time.

Women and Myth: Margaret Atwood and Circe

Circe, by Wright Baker "One day you simply appeared in your stupid boat," "Circe/ Mud Poems," Margaret Atwood, from You Are Happy I was alerted to this poem series by Estella Lauter's great chapter, "Margaret Atwood: Remythologizing Circe" from Women as Mythmakers. If you have the Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry, there is an excerpt in Vol. 2. And here is some interesting discussion of the text as well.

Feminist Ekphrasis: Margaret Atwood and Manet's Olympia

Margaret Atwood confronts the male gaze directly in her poem, "Manet's Olympia."

Poets Responding to the Female Canon: Emily Dickinson

She's one of the super-stars, influential to both men and women. Today I want to highlight poems that respond to Emily Dickinson because my first poetry teacher, Carol Ann Davis, has a poem up at APR. But because I am also trying to find a Rita Dove poem for my website's discussion of women and the body (which still evades me) I also came across this poem by Dove. There, that's two awesome poems responding to an amazing poet.

Compulsory Motherhood

The piece about the British mother who publically admits to regretting ever giving birth to her children came to me via a second blogger, this one a single woman who is grateful for the validation that she may never in fact want to have children. The British mother always knew that she didn't want children, but married her high school sweetheart who wanted a large family. They both thought the other would change. Within a few years, the woman decided she couldn't deprive her husband of children and bore him two. The people who told her that once she became a mother, she would be happy she did were wrong. She loves her children and raised them, but regrets ever having them. The second woman also knows that she has never wanted children. She isn't married, but expresses the input she receives from society and family that she is wrong in her evaluation of her own feelings. She is told that she will change her mind about children, that she is a bad person for not wanting…

Women as Mythmakers: Lucille Clifton's "Leda"

Lucille Clifton's response to the story of Leda's rape by the swan-formed Zeus, I cannot help but compare to William Butler Yeats' "Leda and the Swan:" "How can those terrified vague fingers push / The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?" Honestly, I think "Leda 1" is a direct response: "there is nothing luminous/ about this." Clifton gives voices to other Ledas, less victimized than Leda 1. But all of them are attempts to give voice to women's perspective, not that of the swan-god or the onlooker. My reading of this poem is hardly original--for some interesting criticism that suggests that Leda 2 and 3 are Mary and Eve, visit Shara McCallum’s “The Volta, the Vulva, Leda, and Lucille” at Voltage Poetry. Note: It was disturbingly difficult to find an image of Leda where she isn't smiling or kissing the swan on the beak. Gross.

Women as Mythmakers: "A Certain Kind of Eden" by Kay Ryan

A Certain Kind of Eden by Kay Ryan : The Poetry Foundation "you can’t go back and pull/ the roots and runners and replant" It's hard for me not to read Ryan's poem as a feminist lament. If the foundations of our story are unhealthy and skewed, can't we start a new one? Some people argue that feminism, by always reacting to patriarchy, is restrained from new and original growth. But aren't we bound by our origin stories? We can attempt to change them, recode them, but can we ever destroy a story with the power of Eden?

To the Future

To the Future (response to the Futurists) What I mean when I say anything Is that, in a desert, you need Water and a compass. To forget this Is to become suicidal. When I look at you, I see your skin With its constellation of moles And the train-wreck galaxy of eczema And this is at least part of what defines you As a “person.” I’m sorry. Without your border Of skin, you would not be a subject But a skinless corpse. I apologize again Because I am no postmodern woman— I have been told to be otherwise is to be the victim Of a historical mistake. I have been fooled by this body And its insistences, its constant nagging And miracles. What I mean when I say anything Is that I have my ration of truth, or naivete Or passeism, and I have more, even More than I need. And I am in a city That is starving for lack of money And not of food—and here— Have some— What I mean when I say anything Is that I mean. In this particular desert, To forget suicide, to embrace an apologetic skin, Embar…

Zong!’s Miraculous Poetics and the Problem of Witnessing

What does it mean to tell a story that can’t be told? In her experimental book of poetry, Zong!, M. NourbeSe Philip confronts the impossibility of recuperating the “complete story,” of the massacre of 150 Africans aboard the slave ship Zong and creates a mystical poetic procedure in order to “conjure” and “re-transform” the slave commodities back into speaking human presences (Philip 199, 196).

Feminist Ekphrasis: Alicia Ostriker on Duchamp's Nude Descending the Stair

Mansplaining William Cullen Bryant

Get thee to a scanner! Here's a phone pic of my webcomic for Medusa's Head. I think Politics of Poetics might become an ongoing topic. The poetess is Lydia Sigourney, who was brought to my attention by a very interesting article by Annie Finch. The romantic poet is William Cullen Bryant, contrasted with Sigourney in that same article by Finch. The dialogue is quoted from Sigourney's poem, "The Orphan," Bryant's poem "The Yellow Violet," Sigourney's "The Butterfly" and Bryant's "June." For some feminist background on men who know things, check out Fannie's Room's take on the mansplaining phenomenon.

C-Word and Fugue in the Key of Machine

I have a new chapbook coming out, Fugue in the Key of Machine. The chapbook collects the poems I wrote during and immediately after my husband's deployment to Afghanistan, while I was pregnant with our second son. The poems in it are some of the most tense, direct, and angry poems I've ever written. I read poems from the collection for the first time at The Louisville Conference last weekend, and as I was preparing for the reading I was almost overcome by nerves. This chapbook is the dumpsite of the most traumatic things that have ever happened in my life--my anxiety about my husband and my fetus' safety, my deepening estrangement with my father, and the anger I had about the unfortunate detour that my delivery of my son took when I delivered after picking my husband up from the airport in a town hundreds of miles from my supportive Ob/Gyn. I wasn't uncomfortable reading about my anxiety or trauma, as some of the best contemporary poetry is haunted with both. But I was…

Annie Finch on Lyric Subjectivity in the Work of a Poetess

Finch’s work on the tradition of sentimental poetry , and Lydia Sigourney in particular, in her article “The Sentimental Poetess in the World: Metaphor and Subjectivity in Lydia Sigourney’s Nature Poetry” positions 20th century poetry and its critics within a Romantic tradition of poetry which demands a certain subject position. Finch argues that the critical rejection of Sigourney and her fellow “poetesses” is culturally constituted by the expectations of the Romantic tradition, a tradition in which all things described or addressed in the poem serve as vehicles to illuminate the state of the subjectivity of the poem’s persona, rather than the conventionality of their religious or moral convictions, which more ego-driven male poets of the time also display even while such male poets continue to be paid critical attention as “serious.” Finch explicitly connects such lyric personas as both authoritarian and gendered, suggesting that “This egocentric model of poetry is based on the m…

Introduction: Mystique School

“I hurt all over,/ I am so loved” are the last two lines of my first book. I wrote the book at the beginning of my marriage and titled it “Mystery School.” I thought of the poems as diving into the profound mystery of a woman’s experience as wife, mother, bearer of both life and death. It was easy to think, as I was writing the poems, that the sadness I felt haunting my young family was the loss of my first pregnancy and the loss of my family of origin. It’s only years later, with the manuscript still unpublished, that I wrote a comic to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and I understand “the problem” causing the deep dissatisfaction running under and through the poems I wrote as a young wife and mother. One of the poems, “Still Life of a Carpet Moth,” ends on this image of neglected and thwarted potential, “the shriveled sapling/ our landlords planted/ before they left.” I offer this introduction, and the retitling of my book “Mystique School,…

Armantrout's Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity

Because it doesn't seem to exist in digital form AT ALL, here's my annotation for this totally foundation feminist poetics essay. Rae Armantrout’s foundational essay “Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity,” offers a way of understanding the social in experimental poetry that is critical of a particular type of lyric subjectivity, described as univocal, closed, Romantic, imperial, and appropriative. For Armantrout, the stable poetic subject is inherently appropriative, serving epiphany demanded by mainstream form, constructed by metaphor’s appropriative nature. Armantrout specifically calls out the type of poems that most agree constitute conventional poetry of witness: “The conventional or mainstream poem today is univocal, more or less plainspoken, short narrative, often culminating in a sort of epiphany” (Armantrout 288). Elaborating, Armantrout argues that “such a form must convey an impression of closure, and wholeness, no matter what it says” (288). Closure an…

Never Say Dead

It's fun to be engaged in an art form that constantly has its legitimacy questioned. After the inaugural poem, some questioned how important is poetry, really? One of them was this unfortunate Washington Post blogger, and here is her amazing retraction/apology. With so many links to angry poets and defenses of poetry that truly, you will feel sort of like you're engaged in a worthwhile endeavor, my poet friends.


It's that time, last semester of my MA at Georgetown. I'm part of the group that gets to try out the new way to earn a degree here, with a final capstone project "e-portfolio." I've been working on ekphrasis for about a year, writing on ekphrasic works by Elizabeth Bishop and CD Wright, working on ekphrasic poems for my chapbook Fugue in the Key of Machine, and nonfiction pieces. What is left for my capstone? I could, and probably will, revise my academic work to submit it to literary journals that accept such pieces. But for my capstone I'm debating between two more creative projects. 1. Video-Poem 2. Web-comic


Poetics. I always thought it meant critical and analytical work about the structure and form of poetry. How irritated was I when I plugged "poetics" into my database search and got a bunch of other stuff.

From Wikipedia: "Poetics refers generally to the theory of literary forms and literary discourse. It may refer specifically to the theory of poetry, although some speakers use the term so broadly as to denote the concept of "theory" itself."

My searches yielded a ton of what might be called Narratology. This spring I'm learning about Narratology and efforts to apply its methods and concepts to poetry, and I'll be posting about what I learn here as part of my tutorial.