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“A book of myths / in which / our names do not appear.” -Adrienne Rich
According to Adrienne Rich’s essay Writing as Re!"ision#$ Re!%ision&the act of loo'ing (ac'# of seeing )ith fresh eyes# of entering an old te*t from a ne) critical direction&is for us more than a cha+ter in cultural history: it is an act of sur%i%al,$ On another occasion# Audre Lorde also )rote that )riting is a means of sur%i%al for )omen, They s+o'e se+arately# (ut mo%ed (y the same s+irit# (oth introducing a ne) frame)or' for %ie)ing the female literary tradition: not as something that e*ists in inferiority to men&some insignificant collection of furti%e )ritings (uilt into a to)er of incom+lete e*+ression&(ut as a full lineage, Today# this lineage continues# as young female )riters ha%e ada+ted +u(lic s+aces -namely# the internet. as a means of transmitting stories and emotions that )ould in the +ast ha%e (een delegated to +ri%ate s+aces, Traditionally# )omen )riters ha%e e*+ressed themsel%es %ia diaries# letters# and other +ri%ate )or's, / dedicated +oems to Anne Fran' and 0mily 1ic'inson +artially out of res+ect to this tradition -and +artially (ecause / feel a dee+ connection to each# and an interest in their %ery different forms of isolation.# (ut there are thousands of diaries and +ri%ate collections# only some of them +u(lished, 0%en female authors )ho ha%e )ritten for +u(lic consum+tion ha%e tended to e*ist )ithin a conte*t (uilt (y men, 2ane Austen stayed in the shado)s# a++roaching male! a++ro%ed su(3ects li'e marriage and sisterhood -a to+ic later em(raced (y Louisa May Alcott., 4he im(ued a le%el of sarcasm into her )or'# sure# (ut she functioned as a male fantasy of the female )riter: sim+le in content# full of flo)ery language and moral +roselyti5ing, The dese*uali5ed# ultra!femini5ed )oman is reminiscent of the Catholic Church6s cele(ration of
female saints such as Catherine of 4iena# )hose celi(acy and anore*ic aestheticism (ought her a +lace in the hea%ens, That said# )e must (e careful not to denigrate )riters li'e Austen 3ust for their su(3ect matter: to declare that traditionally female!coded to+ics are (ad$ is to declare that to (e feminine is (ad,$ The issue is that# for many years# the only )omen )ho could achie%e +u(lic attention )ere those )ho clung solely to the female!coded su(3ects, A )oman (roaching something li'e moral am(iguity )ould (e an encroachment on male territory# and treated )ith something )orse than criticism: it )ould (e as if her )ords ne%er e*isted# as they )ould ne%er (e +u(lished, / )ish not to trace the +rogression of female authordom# as that’s treaded ground, What / )ould +refer to do no) is to loo' at ho) su(3ects that e*ist in all )omen’s diaries# letters# and )his+erings ha%e recently ceased to (e ta(oo, Audre Lorde )rote in Uses of the Erotic that# /n order to (e utili5ed# our erotic feelings must (e recogni5ed, The need for sharing dee+ feeling is a human need,$ For Lorde# the erotic is not merely a se*ual term# (ut something that lies in a dee+ly female and s+iritual +lane# firmly rooted in the +o)er of our une*+ressed or unrecogni5ed feeling,$ The erotic +ro%ides +o)er from sharing and from feeling# +articularly from sharing and feeling 3oy, /t’s a sensual e*+erience# not 3ust a se*ual one7 to (e a )oman and to (e truly 3oyful# to (e dancing and singing and laughing freely# is a sla+ in the face of the +atriarchy, We are told to (e 8uiet and demure7 e%en a century and a half of feminism hasn’t sto++ed )omen from feeling the societal +ressure to al)ays s+ea' a little more softly# to (e a little smaller# to dress a little less )ildly, When )e counter these +ressures&)hen )e scream# )ithout fear of (eing called hysterical7 )hen )e )ear our hair long# )ithout fear of (eing called dirty7 )hen )e dress for each other# )ithout fear of (eing called slutty or +rudish or insane&)e are claiming the +o)er of the erotic,
/ (ring u+ Lorde’s )or' as a )ay of loo'ing at the aforementioned female!coded to+ics, What sets Austen’s )or' aside from contem+orary female )riters# is that Austen does not di%ulge her heroines’ desires, 4he descri(es situations (eautifully# (ut she does not re%eal )hat Li55ie 9ennett or 0mma Woodhouse really want out of life, 4urely# a hus(and isn’t the ans)er, What did they tal' a(out )ith their friends: What +oems and doodles did they ma'e in the sides of (oo's: This is )hy the +u(lici5ation of +ri%ate )or' is so im+ortant: it em(races Lorde’s definition of the erotic, /t’s unafraid, The t)o young authors / )ish to loo' at here are Ga((y 9ess and Marie Callo)ay, 9oth are (ased in ;e) Yor' and (orn in the early <==>s, Ga((y 9ess’ +oetry com(ines a childli'e ac'no)ledgment of the )orld around her&she )rites ho) she initially +ercei%es things# see'ing a 'ind of sim+licity&)ith the erotic# in (oth the se*ual and sensual forms of the term, /n Miniature 9ears#$ she )rites# On a (ed )e sit li'e miniature (ears, ? You can (ury me in your mattress# ? / )ant to sit ne*t to you ? until )e (ecome dangerous,$ @er +oem @o) to li%e$ is a(out )atching +orn and com+aring it to actual se*# and she concludes that this +oem isn’t going to teach you anything, ? Loo' to +orn to teach you a(out good li%ing,$ 4he’s )riting a(out se*# (ut she isn’t )riting a(out se* as an em+ty# faceless commodity: she’s )riting a(out )hat se* means to her, 4e* (rings u+ an odd (ut immediate correlation&to sitting li'e miniature (ears &as much as it connects to +ornogra+hy, This is not male!a++ro%ed se* tal', This is the in!the! moment stuff# the 'ind of )riting that matters only to )omen, / see this almost as slum(er +arty tal': a grou+ of teenage girls trading first!time stories# )ithout conte*t for ho) se* should (e discussed&they say )hat comes to mind# in%enting language as they go along, /n her essay Losing Your "irginity#$ Marie Callo)ay re%eals the +hysical and emotional sensations that come )ith ha%ing se* for the first time# that are often only told to close friends# if
to anyone at all, We hear ho) it hurts# ho) she feels calm and rela*ed#$ and# after he teases her for seeming ner%ous# if she felt a (it offended and )ondered if AsheB )anted to ha%e se* )ith someone )ho had teased Aher,B$ Throughout the e*+erience# she descri(es feeling a)')ard# em(arrassed# sur+rised# and shoc'ed, Yet she +asses no 3udgment on herself7 this retelling is o(3ecti%e in its su(3ecti%ity# as Callo)ay allo)s the feelings as she remem(ers them to dictate the +rogression of the story, And it is %ery much her story&the man# though descri(ed do)n to his American A++arel (riefs# may(e (e in control of the situation# (ut he is not in control of the retelling, /n another essay# @o) to Ma'e Money in London#$ Callo)ay descri(es +rostituting herself %ia a Craigslist ad after losing her de(it card, 4he )rites (efore meeting the 3ohn -all in lo)er case.# i )as mostly an*ious a(out him not finding me attracti%eCor it (eing really a)')ard, i loo'ed at myself in the reflecti%e )indo) of the train station, Ddon’t )orry# you loo' (eautiful#’ some old man said as he )al'ed +ast me,$ This is a %ery uni8ue and +ersonal concern that (elongs in a diary7 the +ro+er male )riter %oice )ould say that no one needs to hear of a young girl feeling a)')ard )hile selling her (ody, 9ut she does need to say that# (ecause it is ho) she felt# and her feeling is something she needed to share, This communication is integral: Callo)ay )rites for herself# to understand her feelings# (ut also for other women, And e%en though her )or' is se*ual# it is not +ornogra+hic, Callo)ay instead uses se* as an entry)ay into other con%ersations7 it is the language she chooses to use, And language&a ne) language# one 3ust for us&is ho) )e are going to e*change our forms of the erotic# and ho) )e (uild the lineage and legacy that 'ee+s female )riting afloat, We need the +ast in order to inform the +resent7 this is a trite clichE# (ut it holds true, /n the follo)ing +oems# / see' to e*+lore language as it +ertains to )omen as a )hole# and to se+arate
)omen indi%idually, There is an e*change at +lay# (et)een myself as a )riter and the su(3ects / chose to )rite for, Though most are dead# / see myself as s+ea'ing to them# not s+ea'ing for them, / end this introduction (y again 8uoting Adrienne Rich, /n her +oem Flanetarium#$ Rich calls herself an instrument ? in the sha+e ? of a )oman trying to translate +ulsations ? into images for the relief of the (ody ? and the reconstruction of the mind,$ This is )hat )e all must (e: instruments +ro%iding %oices from the +ast# and from our o)n inner li%es,
Wor's Cited 9ess# Ga((y, Miniature 9ears$ and @o) to li%e,$ G:AM Maga5ine, H><H, Ihtt+:??))),Gammaga5ine,com?Gam?three!+oems!<J?K, Callo)ay# Marie, @o) To Ma'e Money in London$ and Losing Your "irginity,$ what purpose did i serve in your life, ;e) Yor': Tyrant# H><G, Lorde# Audre, Lses of the 0rotic,$ Rich# Adrienne, When We 1ead A)a'en: Writing as Re!"ision,$ Rich# Adrienne, 1i%ing into the Wrec'$ and Flanetarium,$
Lines and 4ignals for Saca awea The land )as )ritten on the lines of your +alm7 you )ere a ma+# harnessed and ne%er unleashed# haunting my north)est autumn, / lift a rusted leaf (et)een my fingers, / )onder if you could ha%e found me, / am lost# / am co%ered under measures of earth# there is a fog a(o%e me, / can feel it, a (a(y in your arms# a nation )aiting for your footste+s to de! clare itself# a nation# indi%isi(le# a nation# that is yours no more, / am )al'ing across land that only increases, / am )al'ing across your o)n disco%ery, A ha)' s+ea's, / o+en the ma+ stuffed in my +ac', The lines lead to nothing, They are mere in', We )rite ma+s for the em+ty s+aces# digging lines in the dirt )ith gathered stic's, We )rite ma+s for the dead# guiding them (ac'# and into the +resent,
The Calculation for Shakuntala !evi a num(er im+rinted )ith care# all from memory, )ith )hat small com(ination of fragments of e8uations can one (uild an ans)er to )hy )e lo%e the )ay )e do:
4ilent 4ounds for Emily !ickinson 9ecause she could not sto+ for death# she +oured her life into solitary Amherst )inters# s+ea'ing at )alls, For some# li%ing is too much# the )orld too large# too )hole# too magnificent that the mere conce+t of e*+loring it is o%er)helming# nearly im+ossi(le# in its intensity, 9ecause she could not sto+ for death# she interru+ted a thousand li%es, 4he )rote her )ay into the (loodstreams of tri(es of lonely girls, 4he inscri(ed herself into infinity,
An 0ducation of 1aughters for "ary #ollstonecraft The girls in their +laid s'irts formed small circles# touching s'in and cele(rating hair# rehashing tele+hone con%ersations and s+ea'ing in the hushed tones# occasional out(urst# of all +eo+le learning to (e )omen, 0ach allotted circle )ith its o)n )ays# its o)n decisions and its o)n 8ueen, / gre) tall among them# s+ending lunches laying in the grass# a guitar across my la+# +laying the same three chords o%er and o%er, / sa) her first on a Fe(ruary morning, 4he )as crossing in front of the alge(ra classroom# and suddenly * did not e8ual y# and nothing )as greater than ># and e%erything (ecame her# floating into fractals (uilding into the dar' of her eyes and the soft cur%es of her torso, Am / too irrational: 4to+ me if my emotions are o%ercoming my senses, We must ne%er forget to learn our e8uations, / felt a need to lay in (ed# to s+lay my lim(s out of o+en car )indo)s# )atching )ater dance in the s+rin'lers of su(ur(an la)ns# air+lanes dra)ing +atterns of her (ody in the s'y, / )anted to lean my head against hers# to find the center or heart# or may(e a +it# an a++le core# that li%ed inside her, To feel it )ith )hate%er )as li%ing inside me, /n the fall# / reached out to her, / said that / needed an education# / did not say that / needed to learn ho) to (e the goddess she )as, @o) she could )al' )ith those (oots do)n those hall)ays# graffiti on classroom )alls# ho) she could e*ist so se+arate and strong from the )orld )e sa), They )ere all gold nec'laces#
dad’s money# morning coffee# )aiting for di+lomas and heading for degrees, 4he )as a secret she )as sil%er# she )as a +ure enigma, 4he +ic'ed me u+ in her @onda, We sat on the hood of the car# her )ith her half!sha%ed head# her fuc' 9ush$ (um+er stic'er# and me# )ra++ed in a hooded s)eatshirt# (oth so young, The thing to it is# you 3ust li%e#$ she said, You find the +eo+le )ho )ant to li%e and you don’t gi%e them u+# or gi%e u+ on them, ;ot e%er,$
A Family of 9irds for $arper %ee / assumed )hen she )rote of him ta'ing off his glasses# )i+ing s)eat from his face# to shoot the sic' dog# that she )as also )riting of her o)n father, 9ecause )hen you )rite# it’s ne%er a(out )hat you say# (ut )hat you’re not saying# and )ho you’re not saying it to, / go out (ird)atching# / see a family around a nest in a tall tree, / )ait for them to lea%e# / )ill gather the eggs, / am a fo*# / am a ha)', / )ill not (rea' one# (ut / )ill ins+ect# and see the light (lues and dee+ cream s)irls of the near!+orcelain smoothness and smallness, /t’s enough to in%ent memories# (ut )hat of the stories that did ha++en# (ut that )e can ne%er tell: / left the eggs alone in the nest, Their mother is coming,
<=MN for Anne &rank A dar' s+ell, 4omething s+inning, A scream, The )orld is (ro'en into a thousand +ieces, /t is our 3o( to +ut it together again# ti''un olam, / read )hat she )rote in secret# in her +ri%ate language& a sin too readily committed, / 'no) / cannot sa%e her# my endless litany# eternal shi%a# she is )hat (ends me at the )aist, @er )ords that (ought her immortality roll through my %eins, 4he is )ith me in deserts and in citysca+es# she is falling from the s'y into my arms,
Gloire for "alala 'ousaf(ai A fire)or' lashed out from your eyes, You )ould not let them (rea' you, @o) could they: 1id they not see )hat ru(ies you hold in your cu++ed hands: Your (lood# though it san' from out of your s'in# (urned harder# hotter e%en still, Feace# they )ant to a)ard you, 9ut you are more than +eace, You are flame# you are (urning# you are consuming, You are sha'e!the!)orld!do)n mad!)oman glorious,
Re(irth for )ora *eale $urston a shado) (anishes harlem afterglo)# )here should my eyes (e turned: )e )al' in (eauty# u+ hills and through +alaces e%en though they ha%e tried to (loc' our entry, to (e (orn again,
Fragments for Sappho the +ieces she left of me scattered across the floors of secret rooms# eggshell remnants, it is (est to lea%e if you ha%e to go, / )ill ne%er 'no) a full sentence of )hat she meant to say# she s+o'e in line (rea's and in charred remains,
A True 4tory for +ir,inia #oolf / )ill )rite a true story that ne%er ha++ened, /t is late autumn# early )inter, / am )al'ing under a gray s'y in Los Angeles# (eside the ocean, /t is cold# (ut in a soft )ay# the 'ind of cold that clutches red on your nose# that heals you# the mist a mi'%ah, Another figure (egan to a++roach me# from another side of the (each, /t )as )earing some long coat# smaller than me# (ut gro)ing larger, / (rushed hair from in front of my eyes# tasted salt on my cha++ed li+s# and called out, ;o res+onse, / returned to staring out at the hori5on# an acti%ity )hich naturally releases endor+hins into the (ody -/ read that some)here# an interesting fact,. The figure s'ims across the sand# nearing me# something of a shado)# though, 4omething / don’t trust, / slide out of my sandals and (ury my toes dee+ into the )etted sand, / call out, There is still no res+onse, / thin'# may(e this is it, May(e /’%e finally lost it# )hen / hear a )ord# Wait#$ (lo)n to)ard me from the (each )inds, What am / )aiting for:$ / say, The figure sto+s, We are still too far from each other for me to distinguish any features# (ut our (odies face each other# a stand!off, Why am / )aiting:$ / as', What is there to )ait for: Am / )aiting for another +erilous day# through the silence of my mind:
/s there some esca+e: What )ill / do )hen / cannot )rite anymore:$ The figure seemed to loo' at me# although / )ill ne%er 'no), You )ill )ait#$ the figure said, And )ait / did,
On the 9eauty of 4mall Things for -osalind &ranklin T)isting s+irals# as / t)ist my hair, )e (uild shoc'ing s+irals u+ to the hea%ens# e%eryday# )ithout noticing, Our cells re+roducing +atterns# in an ingrained choreogra+hy, What mysteries are held in the folds of my s'in: What mitochondria com+letes me: Am / a +redicted 8uality# does my (ody already understand my future: What language do my hair# eyes# (ac'# stomach s+ea' in unison: The miniscule +erfections that roar from e%ery +ore# are so much greater than )e ha%e (een led to (elie%e,
Foetical 4cience for Ada %ovelace A father else)here# his +oems seducing other lo%ers, 4he too' to something more concrete, 4he is ># she is <# she is an algorithm# communicating loss through re+etition,
/n Translation for .milie du /h0telet Ta'ing the terms of men# )e im(ue our o)n meaning# defining gra%ity (ecause )e 'no) )hat it is to fall# inertia (ecause )e ha%e (een told to sit still, These )ords are not foreign to us# e%en as they tell us that )e 'no) nothing of science# that )e are not meant to understand, 9ut don’t they 'no)# that )e in%ented natural mathematics dee+ inside our s'in: We ta'e their )ords# and turn them inside!out, We are )or'ing from a frame)or' in%ented to deter us# (ut )e are ma'ing it our o)n,
Rhetoric for 1da 2. #ells this is ho) )e )rite stories no): first# )e must research, crossing enemy lines# )e enter strange territory returning )ith lists of horrors, )hen )e )rite# )e must use our o)n )ords# that s+ea' our o)n truth,
Mo3a%e for 3eor,ia 456eeffe A s'ull dries in a red (lue desert, / am dra)n through the dust and dirt (y a man )ho says / ha%e shar' eyes, @e ta'es my )ords# )ra++ed in sil%er cu+s# and sa%es them for me )hen / )ill need them, /n the desert# / (loom around him, @e leads me u+ a mountain of roc'# so that )e can see for fore%er, / thin' of a cactus sha+ed li'e a )oman# / thin' of a )oman )ho could +aint a cactus flo)er )ith the same finesse that he (rushes my s'in,
;o Gods# ;o Masters for "ar,aret San,er /nformation +assed in secret (et)een ner%ous tongues, @idden stains and scared eyes des+erately demand ans)ers and alternati%es# to ta'e control and declare +o)er )here there ne%er )as an in'ling, There are those )ho )ere told to ans)er to masters# to gods# )ho )ere told that their (odies )ere not their o)n, And then there are those )ho )ished this not to (e true# )ho# )ith science and deli(eration# altered the course of our se*, Ma'ing +lans to retrie%e futures, And still# though# nothing is +romised# the freedom (orn in determining fate s)ells under foregrounds e*+lodes into stars,
;ames for So ourner 7ruth There are names that )ere (e8ueathed# chosen ar(itrarily# decided u+on (y strangers, 9ut then# there are the names )e gi%e oursel%es# torn from old +ages and em(ossed on our s+irits, Can they e*+ress the secret# un'no)a(le# unsaya(le sel%es: We must dictate our (iogra+hies# (ut ho) )ill )e ho+e to achie%e the correct assignment of sylla(les if so much of )hat )e can say comes u+ short: ;ames +retend to con8uer# and )ords feign accuracy, 4o )e s+ea' out of (ounds# )e create ne) routes# )e dig u+ dirt and )e li%e u+ to the names )e ado+t,
An /nstructional Manual for Re(ellion for Susan 2. Anthony and Eli(abeth /ady Stanton / cannot use their )ords, / cannot claim to 'no) )hat they said in meeting halls and con%entions# )hat arguments and deli(erations )ent into designing +am+hlets# (uilding declarations# ins+iring conflict, / 'no) )hat they +u(lished# their +u(lic sel%es# (ut / don’t 'no) )hat fears they had# the daily stress# )hat it )as li'e not to 'no) if anything they (elie%ed )ould +ro%e to matter, @ere’s an instructional manual for re(ellion: You ha%e to (rea', You reach inside yourself# through the (ones# and ta'e out the +ieces you ne%er )anted to sho) to another soul, You +ut them on a shelf# and you dare the )orld to touch or tarnish the +ri%ate as+ects of you no) on dis+lay, Re(ellion isn’t 3ust the +rotests and rallies# 3ail cell nights and dis+ersed +a+er)or', /t’s crying solo# constant an*iety# hands in the air shouting is it )orth it# is it )orth it, /t’s (rea'ing do)n the shell of the )oman and +ulling out the real thing,
To Tongues ;e%er @arnessed for my ,randmother First# a longing, The last strains of a Ferry Como record# mum(ling through the %ictrola# and from the 'itchen# onions and chun'ed %egeta(les see+ing into (oiling )ater, / si+ the (roth# loo'ing through her 9etty Croc'er coo'(oo', / )onder# )hen her mother and father’s shi+ arri%ed# and they )ere stam+ed# ins+ected# eyelids torn# names recorded# miss+elled# too many %o)els# and then 8uarantined# mar'ed for tu(erculosis# small+o*# yelled at# )o+s& / )onder if they# gna)ing on )orn!out +ecorino# trains from ;e) Yor'# (urning their (odies in California farmland# still strangers# / )onder )hat the immensity of their tears )ould (e to 'no) that their daughter# granddaughter# me# that )e all 'no) more a(out macy’s+arade3ellosaladthan'sgi%ing than )e do our o)n +eo+le, When / s+ea'# it is not )ith her mother’s )ords, / stand against a )all of +annetonne at Genoa’s 1eli# surrounded (y sylla(les that only laugh at me, 9ut / remem(er that she )as ne%er silent herself, Fifty years a nurse# sa%ing children’s li%es# fighting the myriad of small fights that go into ma'ing u+ an a%erage day, Child of the 1e+ression# selling a++les off the side of the road# her +arents afraid and unsure# mostly illiterate# forcing her to read# to s+ell# to (uy (oo's, There )ere )ords she sa%ed me from s+ea'ing# the misery )ords of hunger# hurt# cold, /n all of her years# not one day silent,
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