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Showing posts from April, 2013
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).