editor's notes &

Several years ago, I participated in a very exciting conference of new writing and poetics--"Assembling Alternatives"--organized by Romana Huk at the University of New Hampshire. This conference brought together an extraordinary international roster of English-language poets and scholars making forays into a range of exploratory writing practices, and it included a great deal of thinking about the innovative character of poetry in its contemporary guises. I was struck immediately by the well-balanced distribution of women and men--on the theoretical panels as well as the evening poetry readings of new work--and what a radical shift this gender equation marked in the public community of literary conversation.

But I also noticed an all too familiar and disturbing phenomenon: that very often, after the formal papers had been delivered and the audience debate engaged, the proportion of women's voices took a nose-dive; these same voices were seldom heard from in the impromptu exchange of opinion and difference. A predictable dynamic played itself out: the same handful of adept individuals would address a speaker with an aggressive challenge and soon the discussion would be taken in the direction of the challenger's agenda. Still, one felt the silence was "pregnant" with alternatives that were not being voiced and could not find critical mass with sufficient speed to sieze the public moment and possess it.

This phenomenon had been remarked upon for years among the women writers I knew, and would often repeat itself after that conference; but, on that occasion of sincerely staged equality, it seemed more glaring. Clearly, the renegade women poets were still not all that adept at improvising divergent or conflicting thoughts aloud in the face of practiced "authority." Since the early Eighties, we'd begun moving into the publishing world with fuller representation as writers and editors, but we still had serious work to do in assuming our share of choosing and shaping the dialogue focused on what and how we read.


Clearly, more practice is needed. But maybe it's also that the acceptable language and model of discourse used in the public critical arena is too narrowly cast...stuck in the repeating grooves of a worn record. The problem might lie not only in learning to speak the existing foreign language, but in finding more registers and vernaculars in which to speak it. These continue to be the questions and urgencies that have determined the desire to create HOW2 as the next stage of HOW(ever).


It is in the spirit of the original print journal that HOW2's technological shift--and its focus on reading/s of texts--is dedicated to the San Francisco poet, Frances Jaffer--an originating co-founder of HOW(ever)--who died on January 20 at age 76, after a long and debilitating struggle with rheumatoid arthritis and its complications. Jaffer was a poet and a trained scientist whose non-stop curiosity, philosophic imperative and political readiness to claim parity combined to make her a poet/friend/warrior extraordinaire. Jaffer published two intriguing chapbooks and one substantial and brilliant collection of poems during her life, and was engaged with questioning and re-making the poem's body...even after her hands could no longer manage the keyboard. When her fingers wouldn't function, she used pencil erasers for pecking out e-mail and getting down rough drafts of poems. Some of these last poems and a very recent essay on H.D.--dictated, sentence by sentence, to a graduate student last spring--may be found in the pages of this journal. You will also find her uneasy thoughts on the predicament of feminist/experimentalist women poets--as we found ourselves in 1983--in the first issue of HOW(ever) V. I, n.1, soon available through the Rutgers University Libraries electronic archive (see below). .

The need for HOW2 had been perking in my mind for at least a year (the "perking" stage reinforced by my novice, slightly phobic relationship to technology), when Kathleen Crown--at that time working on her Ph.D, and the moving force behind the "Poetry in the Public Sphere" conference at Rutgers--engaged me in an e-mail correspondence. This exchange soon revealed my desire to reinvent HOW(ever) as an electronic journal, with an expanded international network potential; the question of an appropriate suppport system and web site address was still being thought through.

Crown suggested that there might be a potential for this project at Rutgers and quickly moved to put together a meeting of PPS associates with representatives from Women's Studies, the Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities and the Rutgers libraries, to seek funding and technological support for the new journal and the HOW(ever) Archive of the original twenty-four print editions (May 1983-January 1992). This project was given the go-ahead and a year of immensely time-consuming labor--some of it financially supported and much of it volunteered, as in the work of Miriam Bartha whose significant and thoughtful expertise was entirely uncompensated. The HOW(ever) project went forward with HTML translation of archival texts completed this winter. Primary to achieving this archival completion were Kathleen Crown and Miriam Bartha (PPS); Delphine Khanna and Erin Griffith (SCC/CETH); Stan Friedman, Designer; Theresa Duhon, Proofreader; Marianne DeKoven and Harriet Davidson, Women's Studies advisors; and librarians Peter Graham, Greg Murphy (SCC/CETH), Harriette Hemmasi and Jeanne E. Boyle who facilitated the archival emplacement at various stages. Through a complex and cooperative use of funding and personnel resources at Rutgers, HOW(ever) will very soon be available for scholarly research and the initial design and production of the first issue of HOW2 achieved. For this fantastic labor of love, the entire HOW(ever) project is deeply grateful.

Taking up the electronic torch for the second lap, Bucknell University--through the timely proposal of Cynthia Hogue, Director of the Stadler Poetry Center--will provide technical support for subsequent issues and, beginning with this first number, will serve as the electronic home for the new HOW2. Webmaster Roberta Sims will oversee tech production. Our special thanks to Nancy Dagle, Assoc. Director of the Bucknell library, for facilitating this project and its cooperative link with Rutgers.


A final thought:

HOW(ever) filled an original need for identifying and publishing a hybrid group of women poets experimenting with syntactic and formal approaches to the poem and claiming the modernist women writers--mostly erased from active canon approval and availability--as their foremost family of choice. What we needed in 1983, more than the assertion of manifesto-certainty, was a place in which to make informed choices and to register them publicly through the intuitive yet exacting selection process that made a journal WE wanted to read. We chose poems that shifted the mind's assumptions and the ear's clamor for habit. We were "odd ducks" who didn't fit the existing categories; what we shared was a resistance to being dominated by ANY rigid aesthetic proposition and a need for asserting new choices; we also craved significant dialogue with the few scholars who were seriously working, at that time, on the great modernist texts by those women writers we'd been denied access to in our university reading curricula.

So our urgency was two-fold: empowerment through editorial choice and the creation of a community of shared scholarship and innovative poetries being written by contemporary women. Since that time, complex discussions of gender stereotype have opened our questions further. Is it still a pressing need, a viable project, to create a gender-specific poetics journal? This question is argued in the FORUM section of this first issue and we will be interested in reader response. My position--at the moment--concentrates on practice and a site of focus directed to reading responses written by women, about women's published texts, as well as a continuing place to publish newly-made work. However, the new structure of production puts into place, with issue n.2, the model of revolving guest-editorships of several sections in which the guest editor is fully empowered to include whatever readings she finds significantly relevant to this project. Within these exchanges, gender exclusivity may not be the point nor the preferred choice.

This rotation of editors--editorial sensibilities--will also address the question of what it means to write "experimentally," to practice innovation, to swerve away from the givens as they inevitably harden into mandate. By offering a selection of models for writing about one's reading experience--via the reading/s, alerts and postcard sections--it is hoped that issues of "not enough time" or "in-draft" projects will be set aside as reasons for putting-off proposals for this discussion. While HOW2 will be a carefully edited journal and does not offer a "chatbox" or list.serv model, it is actively seeking to broaden the practice and the styles of responsive thinking as readers/writers. A "Workbook" section will be put into place as soon as drafts and works-in-progress become available. The terms will develop as more readers become contributors. -- Kathleen Fraser, Editor

Editor/Publisher: Kathleen Fraser

Managing Editor: Jo Ann Wasserman
Designers: Stan Friedman & Roberta Sims

Editorial Advisory Board:

Etel Adnan: Paris, Sausalito, Beirut/ Caroline Bergvall: London, Dartington College/ Eileen O'Malley Callahan: UC Berkeley/ Marina Camboni: Rome, Universita di Macerata/ Kornelia Freitag: University of Potsdam/ Elisabeth Frost: NYC, Fordham University/ Susan Gevirtz: San Francisco, Sonoma State University/ Eileen Gregory: University of Dallas/ Cynthia Hogue: Lewisburg (PA), Bucknell University/ Myung Mi Kim: San Francisco State University/ Linda Kinnahan: Pittsburgh, Duquesne University/ Michele Leggott: University of Auckland (NZ)/ Nicole Markotic: University of Calgary (BC)/ Hannah Moeckel-Rieke: Free University of Berlin/ Marina Morbiducci: Rome/ Harryette Mullen: UCLA, Los Angeles / Frances Presley: London/ Meredith Quartermain: Vancouver, Capilano College/ Linda Russo: SUNY Buffalo/ Meredith Stricker: Carmel Highlands (CA)/ Cole Swensen: University of Denver/ Ann Vickery: Sydney (AU), Macquarie University/ Momoko Watanabe: Tokyo Metropolitan University

HOW2 Internet Address (Bookmark it!):

Editorial correspondence may be e-mailed to:
kfraser@sfsu.edu or twoswirl@aol.com

The HOW(ever) Archive, at Rutgers

Rutgers' Scholarly Communication Center will host the HOW(ever) archive on its web server at the address: http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/however. The HTML editions of the original print version, volumes I-VI, [May 1983-January 1992] are available. As issues of HOW2 are completed, they will be added to the archive.

Web Development, the HOW(ever) Archive at Rutgers:

Kathleen Crown, Miriam Bartha
Production Coordinators, Poetry in the Public Sphere

Delphine Khanna,Technical Consultant--SCC/CETH
Erin Griffith, Archive Production/Editing--SCC/CETH
Theresa Duhon, Proofreader, html translations
Gregory Murphy, Technical Consultant--SCC/CETH

Design, Stan Friedman

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