Postcard is an edited and continuously up-dated section of brief comment received on work in recent issues of HOW2, as well as excerpts from letters circulating privately among writers/readers and with HOW2 editors/writers. Your postcards and excerpted letter exchanges on literary questions appropriate to this journal's focus are welcomed. Please send to Kathleen Fraser <email@example.com>
"Opening the doors...of haunted houses"
Since I came back from the U.S., I have been thinking about ways of making poetry more accessible to people outside the academic circles. After the New Modernisms conference was over I went to Bethlehem (PA.) both to visit H.D.'s grave and meet some scholars from Moravian seminary where I intend to go back in order to learn more about Moravian rituals and religious philosophy and work on the connections between H.D.'s poetry and Moravianism. When I talked to people about the reason for my visit to Bethlehem, I saw that most of them hadn't even heard HD's name. I think we must work much harder in order to make people more aware of her and other poets' work. I believe that poetry is self-making and what people of our age need is a new self. Jung declares : ' A work of art is produced that may be called a message to a generation of men.' We are carriers of the message and must attempt to increase the number of hearers by creating a new medium (a new language) to reach people who can form a new self by reading poems, thereby discovering their common heritage and opening the doors of their own haunted houses.
So the question of language is a very important issue and I would like to see people discuss it.
"Does it matter?"
from letter exchange between Fanny Howe & Kathleen Fraser ]
I just feel that generally there is something about poetry now that is bigger than any particular person--women poets especially. There are so many of us, and more and more and more, and each one as intelligent and concentrated as the one before, so that there is this feeling of a huge field with lots of women standing in it, looking out at the sky, wondering together when the noon light will follow on her or her or her. There are no judges.
....The frightening fact is, we don't know what all this intelligence means. It won't be known until all of us are gone. What is really being said? What is the subject of all this work? Does it matter?
I think it does matter because it's part of the history of intelligence, but unfortunately we can't be the ones who know. And I think people get really upset by being left out, or misunderstood, because of this fundamental unknowingness. Maybe we will all be understood only en masse, and not as individuals, as in the past. . . . And maybe life itself will rear its ugly head in the end, and how each of us lived will actually be important, not just how we wrote, and there will be some sudden heroic poets who laid down their life for it, and for life itself, who will explain its meaning--to those who come after.
I 've continued to be haunted by your description of all of us standing in the field, waiting for some noonlight to find us, some recognition by the non-existent judge/s. And then--in mental space-- I place this image next to the proposed division of labor recently expressed by a prominent scholar that "poets should stick to writing poetry and critics should write the criticism"....
Somewhere in this dynamic there is both the absence and presence of "the judge" figure who seems to represent--at least for many women poets--the internalized symbolic as well as the actual operating dynamic of "sit & wait," with its enemy adjuncts and undermining maxims that "excellence will win out" and "the talented will find their readership"... (scouted while waiting tables in the studio lunchroom).
It is not that one does n't deeply appreciate the brilliant scholarship--both traditional and exploratory-- currently available, but that beyond those few figures repeatedly read as exemplars are all the other women standing in the field.
It is the perception of how this subtle reinforcement works--i.e., "few will be chosen" (by the few others doing the choosing)--that should provide the spirited impetus for more women poets & scholars to begin writing about the under-appreciated, non-reviewed works that excite them to further writing and reading as thinking individuals. For this reason, How2 encourages/ incites active resistance to the depressing and self-limiting conclusion that there is only ONE useful (official? rational? authoritative? properly trained?) way to think and write about work being produced--in this case, by women writing outside the establishment mainstream.
The issue that at present really presses on me is that of the proliferation of perfect poems coming out of everywhere. It is as if a certain level of education, mixed with a certain amount of time to think, produces a certain kind of construction in language--about which one could have no complaints at all!
What I am getting at is the feeling that it is time for life itself to matter again. That is, the life of the poet. This isn't something that you can dictate or deliver, but I feel that it will begin to happen on its own, a kind of storm from under, the way hip hop blasted its way up and through all the obstacles. Now I am not even sure exactly what I am after, but I know I am amazed by the wonderful poems women (in particular) are writing, and feel the intelligence as an act of freedom in itself.
But I also wonder what happened to the stench of reality that used to cling to certain works/words. Gone! So it is partially an aesthetic response I am talking about, but also one about the actual human, lived life of the poet. We used to know something of that, and care about its content.
Responses to How2/n2
from Lisa Docherty, 10/30/99:
Dear Kathleen Fraser
I've just emerged from three days in How 2 No 2. Full of it.
Carla Harryman's essay has given me that elusive and crucial idea for a paper I am to give at the Retrospections conference in Sydney at the U of NSW at the end of November. I was fascinated by Hazel Smith's piece and delighted to find in her bio that she teaches at NSW. Given conversation I'd been having earlier in the week with Michele Leggott and some other students about small presses, and that here it is seldom the girls who are involved,
I circulated Pamela Lu's triumph of sloth, and read with interest Keller and Miller's piece about modernist publishing.
Since I emerged I've been on to the Interloan Department of the library for several books mentioned in How2, and made a list of things to look at next--firstly, I think Dodie Bellamy's The Letters of Mina Harker. I've added to my home-made book of my favourite poetry pieces from the first two issues, and made a note to look out for publication of your Essays book, with "The Uncontainable". Uncontainable? I would barely wish to try.
What else? Kathy Lou Schultz, and the forum on class very exciting, especially given the similar plight of Graduate students in NZ : massive debt, and little hope of an academic salary to kick off the repayments. Michele Leggott has taught an MA paper on Robin Hyde and HD for the last two years and one of the most interesting and frustrating questions is the effect of financial support (for HD, Bryher's generous distribution of her inheritance, and for Hyde, a great lack).
So much, too much. Give Me More. Thanks for all of it.
oh and maybe a mantra -- Robin Tremblay-McGaw's, in her piece on Dodie Bellamy . . .
THERE IS MUTINY HERE, BUT NO MUTENESS.
from Carla Harryman, 10.28.99
I want to say something about the Laura Riding Jackson discussion, which I think is about frustration. She wants to frustrate communication, dialogue, comparison. So anyone who writes about her or even thinks about her for half a minute is going to have to encounter this desire to frustrate. So this is kind of fascinating.
Then as for the question of exercising caution at the workplace in respect to the language one uses, such as the word "feminist," [see XXXXX] I find this to be quite scary. There is a market place commercial interest that is controlling language and discourse and research in universities. Also, an action is not the same action if one has to take the word feminist out of one's language in order to affirm the action. There are in this case two, or more, actions: the action with the word, which has been suppressed and is therefore not in the (public) world, and the apparent action without the word that is the action in the world, which secretly confirms the sexist desires to erase feminism even from feminist motivated actions.
Does this make sense?
Fear of "going public" with private ideas
from Elizabeth Costello,10.29.99:
I'm a student in Susan Gevirtz's class at USF. Last night we were discussing that fear that even some very accomplished women have of contributing to HOW2, and, more generally, that fear of presenting one's private ideas in a public forum. I think that fear has a lot to do with the habit of defensiveness that comes from having a set of ideas that are disruptive to the status quo. Once you get to a place where such ideas are welcomed, it can be slightly disorienting. The combative stance is no longer necesary in such a place, so you have to learn a new mode of discourse. You're no longer banging your head against a wall, but instead have been given a set of drums. However, now that you have found "your people" what if you are actually incapable of expressing yourself in this new mode? The fear says that these friends, these comrades and colleagues will be able to see, better than any of your detractors, the flaws in your argument.
There is always a battle going on (I daresay in everyone, on some level) between the various selves of a self. In one of those battles the self that would be, given the right conditions fights the self that is, given the actual state of things. When the conditions begin to get right for the would be self to emerge the fear arises that, in fact, it wasn't the conditions that were wrong afterall, but it was something in the core of the self that was always, and continues to be, wrong. The combatants return to the mind out of a habit of using the mind to fight them. Self-doubt appears just as the mind prepares to relieve itself of self-doubt.
Comments re. New Modernisms conference/Penn State Oct. 7-10
-- from Alicia Ostriker, Oct. 11, 1999
For better or for worse
A quick thought in response to Kathleen's talk on Niedecker at the New Modernisms Conference...There is a parallel between Neidecker's mascot-status among the objectivists, and Marianne Moore's among the Modernists. Moore was of course more of an insider, more of a player; but the boys-club condescension was there straight along, and gained force during the hegemony of the New Criticism, and never in any case was she accorded major status.
Was she complicit in her minor role? Yes; consider the modesty she so admired and which became such an integral part of her constructed persona. Was this not making, precisely, a virtue of necessity? And if Neidecker toned down or tamed her style in response to what her mentors seemed to admire, it is worth remembering that the young, acerbic Marianne Moore -- the Moore of (for example) To a Steamroller, To Statecraft Embalmed, and Marriage -- disappears from view as the poet matures. In late interviews, Moore makes disclaimers about both Marriage and In Distrust of Merits, insisting that these were merely effusions of emotion, merely protests, not really poems. The disclaimer is perfect nonsense, but it does indicate a sensititivey to what was critically correct. the poety police are always with us.
Notes on Mina Loy, by Carolyn Burke
August 16, 1999, from Carolyn Burke
When Does Scholarship Become Fodder for Fiction: The Case of Mina Loy
Dear HOW2 editors and readers,
Mina Loy's life is the stuff of drama. Given her expatriate experience, participation in the radical art movements of the early twentieth century, and romance with the boxer/poet Arthur Cravan, it is not surprising that her life has been recast in a work of fiction.
It is disturbing to note, however, that Antonia Logue's novel Shadow-Box (Bloomsbury, Grove/Atlantic, 1999) relies heavily on my Becoming Modern, The Life of Mina Loy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996)--not only for historical facts but also for overarching themes, treatment and interpretation of cultural milieux, and in some cases, narrative structures. A comparison of the two books shows that while Logue sought to transform this material, her novel piggybacks on my work, often interweaving innovative parts of the biography and presenting them as "fact."
On Logue's behalf one could argue that since the publication of Becoming Modern Mina Loy's life has entered the public domain. Judging by the stares of nonrecognition that still greet me in bookshops, however, such a claim is misleading. When I began work on the biography twenty years ago, she had been so thoroughly forgotten that most people thought I was writing about the film star. Since its publication critics have recognized Becoming Modern as the definitive work on Loy. As such it has a different status from lives of figures like Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, or Pound, about whom new biographies are written every decade.
"Moreover, although Logue credits Becoming Modern as one of two outstanding sources," this acknowledgment is misleading. It suggests only a partial recognition of a much greater indebtedness and could be thought to imply some form of cooperation on my part.
Excerpts from reviews of Shadowbox partially demonstrate the similarities:
-- the biography's themes reappear as those of the novel: "the conflicting forces at work in the first decades of the century; the dynamism and energy of new movements in art and thought, as opposed to the left-over Victorian propriety that traps the talented, intelligent Mina in an early loveless marriage; forward-looking New York, where her first poems are published and appreciated, versus stuck-in-the-past Europe" (Literary Review)
intellectual and cultural milieux:
some uses of specific details, settings, and structures:
Readers should compare the following sections of each work:
pp. 28: Mina walking Oda in Luxembourg Gardensp. 29: treatment of the name "Loy"
pp. 99-102: narrative use Futurist serata, Florence
pp. 110-111: Marinetti's trip to Vallombrosa
pp. 263-267: Salina Cruz scene, details of boat, communication system, role of Bob Brown
p. 96: detail based on my experience, inserted for verisimilitude
p. 97: interpretation of the fragmentary evidence
pp. 102-104: interpretation, considered controversial by Mina Loy's family
pp. 151-153: original research, interpretation, and staging of scenes
pp. 155-157: original interpretation, staging of scene
pp. 171-172: "invention" of this meeting based on fragmentary evidence
pp. 263-265: interpretation and staging of material woven from diverse sources
pp. 212-223: interpretation & treatment of this group & individuals including details of badinage with Duchamp
pp. 223-233, 234-251, details, interpretations & narrative device of highlighting Cravan story (my Ch. 11)
pp. pp. 263-265, recreation of Cravan's fate from disparate sources including Brown
It is for others to judge Shadowbox Others will decide whether it transforms the biographical materials or whether it remains a derivative work.
It would also be instructive to compare Logue's novel with Albert Guerard's The Hotel in the Jungle (Baskerville, 1996), a work of imaginative fiction composed before my book appeared and based on what was then known of the Loy/Cravan story. Guerard made the legend his own by creating a setting for their romance (the hotel) and a group of characters who retrospectively piece together their story.
Since most reviewers have ignored the questions of literary method and ethics raised by the publication of Shadowbox, it was encouraging to see them addressed by Emily Barton in the New York Times Book Review (Nov. 14, 1999). barton writes: "With all the techniques of fiction at her disposal, Logue never allows her characters, many of whom were famously witty conversationalists, to engage in dialogue; and thus the anecdotes here, many of which seem merely to have been cribbed Carolyn Burke's recent biography of Loy, read more like a book report than a reinvention of the events and people portrayed." Caveat lector.
Laura (Riding) Jackson: an exchange between
I would love to hear more of what you meant in the quote (below), from your last e-mail...
"However, feminism is being somewhat squashed in the academy, while it makes steady advances in many other guises but its own name. So... guerrilla tactics in all places are probably in order."
What are the "other guises" and why must they be in dis/guise....? It shows the power--in this case, negative??--of a name. It's not that the needs of female empowerment have been entirely met, I take it, since you suggest the need for "guerrilla tactics"...I love the sound of "the Gorilla Girls" MORE than the sound of "feminism," but I wonder if HOW2 has already gone beyond that possibility by announcing its project right out in the open. I do think there are women who are oddly fearful...if only of being thought of as "dated" in their politics, thus not "sexy." What is/are the solutions to this vexing conundrum? A real question to be thought about in HOW2....
July 7, 1999
About my comments on feminism in the academy and guerrilla tactics, etc, I suppose I am looking for a course of least resistance, while protesting that this needs to be done in a sense. When I wrote that "feminism is being somewhat squashed in the academy while it makes steady advances in many other guises but its own name," I meant to say that in many ways feminism is an unstoppable force--and many of its agendas--dismantling of certain hierarchies and certain kinds of oppression--are now being carried out under other banners, i.e. multiculturalism, postmodernism, and postcolonlialism. So what to do with the misogyny that continues to make feminism a bad word, discrediting and dishonoring the work of feminists? While I will sometimes defend the name and defend feminists quite directly, I often feel myself to be on the losing end of this approach. So, I suppose when I put out guerrilla tactics as an answer, I am looking to beat the anti-feminists at their own game, slipping the word feminism in when it is least expected, and otherwise pushing forward many feminist agendas. I don't want to get stuck in "their" misperceptions and hostility to feminism, so rather than announce it, I suppose I sometimes behave as if actions speak louder than words--which I believe they do--and can run less danger of reinvoking the old specters.
July 7, 1999
Responding to the section in your paper on Laura (Riding) Jackson, I still find it difficult to put together almost any poem by Riding and her theory about it. I find her theorizing--and your brilliant comments on it--fascinating, whereas her poem language seems evasive, the words heavily inflected with abstraction and an overused 19th century poetical lexicon. (I wish someone would take this on, analyze it....) ....A selfish request: (only if you have the time...) I'd love it if you could elaborate on your use of the word "mistakenly" and the statement that follows (bottom of p.5): "While some critics have mistakenly seen (Riding) Jackson's emphasis on the mind throughout her work as making her a "philosophical poet," an epithet that L(R)J herself abjured, importantly her emphasis on the mind is rather on what the mind enacts, its intellectual judgements, and negations." Isn't that last phrase at least a partial description of what philosophy does do?? I'm not trying to argue here, but rather to get a fuller sense of what you mean to say...how you are thinking about this.
July 7, 1999
...your point about how often L(R)J's poetic language is evasive, overused 19th century lexicon is one that needs to be taken head on, although I am not sure what I would say about it right now. I think that L(R)J didn't want to be considered a philosophical poet, for she saw philosophy (perhaps somewhat wrongfully) as ruminative, not active enough, not committed enough, as responsive to its own systematic ways of thinking, rather than willing to make intuitive judgments. She has been compared to Nietzsche, somewhat appropriately I think, but she hated this comparison, as she hated all comparisons between herself and others. And, I would say there is something finally rather singular about her, really beyond comparison, so in this sense she is right, but overly viciously so??
But who am I to mince how she feels about herself.
6/18/99 from Michele Leggott, re. the lost work of anti-modernist, Robin Hyde; & a response to screen- reading techniques
I'm doing the Collected Poems (I think I may have told you already), and Lisa Docherty* plans to go on to a Collected Letters. [*Lisa is one of my PhD students, also the exact type of research assistant you suggest as aid for my eyes, and a keen follower of HOW2. Her thesis is on the Letters of Robin Hyde, and it is our combined mission to return Hyde to the international arena she had entered at the time of her death by suicide in London, August 1939 at the age of 33.]
Both projects provide ample ammunition for refocusing Hyde (real name Iris Wilkinson) away from the cultural nationalism she was conveniently boxed into for decades. She fits otherwise so well into paradigms of writing by twentieth-century women (feminist, championing, voiceless and oppressed, mythopoetic imagination) that the smaller frame is at this date ludicrous. The Hyde/HD paper I'm piloting at masters level begins to open the kind of parallels we want to make.
But Hyde's not a modernist. In fact, she reacted strongly against the British-derived modernism as it was installed here in the '30s by slightly younger, self-confident male contemporaries who were intent on erasing a Georgian/feminine/literary journalistic tradition that preceded them. Her early death made it possible for that hegemony to prevail unquestioned by a female critical voice or by poetry which was other than "hard clean lines" so dear to the hewers and cleavers of national identity narratives of the day.
So I'm sending you a copy of the long poem just published 62 years after it was written in 1937. It's called THE BOOK OF NADATH, and I am curious to know your reaction to it. I've argued long and hard. in the intro, for its importance as an alternative to just about everything else that was written here in the '30s. Am anxious now to send it out in the world to discover what parallels it may find with other kinds of prophetic writing....It would give me great pleasure to think that Robin Hyde might be read on the other side of the world again as the millennium turns over.
On Linda Russo's comments: I was of course very interested in the screen vs. hard copy observations. I thoroughly appreciate the argument for having a print copy in front of reading eyes but would also say this: because I have to read on-screen, I print only a fraction of what I encounter. If I do print, it all has to be copied into files wherein I can hike the point size (minimum 16 points Arial; 28 if it's for reading to classes etc; uses forests of paper). So I've become accustomed to thinking of the Net as a library I can get to anytime and browse in a way I can no longer browse a conventional library. I like scooting around in a site, picking up bits here and there. I like all the stuff archived there in cyberspace, quietly waiting to be got to by any and by all. I will probably never read HOW2 "right through" because instead I will have tunneled around in it half a dozen times. I may miss something important, but if it's that important someone will tell me about it . . .
I think there's an argument for HOW2 staying rich and big in cyberspace, and us not panicking too much about failing to read everything, feet off the ground! The main thing might be to guide other readers in so the site is covered in activity from which conversations multiply. If they've found one thing there, they'll be back. The bookmark is already made that will flag them in. Return is an idea to play with.
Well, best wishes from here. (I'm waiting for them to develop a laptop with big foldout screen. Then I will have the perfect tool to carry about and get at everything I need in situ. Hooray for that day.)
[Editor's note: Michele Leggott, our Editorial Advisory Board member from New Zealand, is partially sighted; thus, reading is a very strenuous task, with unusual time constraints. In the light of this, it is also interesting to read her responses to Linda Russo's comments (see full discussion of this in H2/n2, "editor's notes &") as an alternative that may express others' related needs as well. However, in my mind we need not choose one or the other way of reading or browsing, but can work to make both the screen version and the printed-out hard copy as easy to access as possible...to have both capabilities, side-by-side. KF
[Webmaster's note: Michele, I wonder if you know how to change the font size on your broswer so that the font is large enough for your comfort? In Netscape, look under "Edit," and chose "Preferences." Click on the plus sign beside "Appearance" to expand the information, then click on "Fonts." Set the font and size to your liking and then select "Use my default fonts, overriding document-specified fonts." Click "OK" to accept these changes. In Internet Explorer, chose "Tools," then "Internet Options." Under the "General" tab, you'll see a button for "Accessibility." Select "Ignore fonts sizes specifed on web pages. Click on "OK", which brings you back to the Internet Options dialouge box. Chose "OK" again. Doing this will disrupt the design somewhat, but it will increase the size of the font. You can also chose "fonts" under that same "tools" menu and select which font you would like your browser to display in. Perhaps this will help? RS
June 2, 1999/ from Linda Russo re. HOW2 browse/ability problems
....First of all I think your idea to publish 2 issues per year is sensible. I initially thought the first issue was too large, but probably this is more of a "virtual" problem than an "actual" problem(??). I can't stand to read things on the screen, and need to print things up to really consider them. And for as much convenience as the web affords, I like to HAVE the thing, have it lying around, read it, show it to people who come over....If it seems too big I think this has to do with the "lack" of browseability in the way it's set up, which the hard copy introduces-i.e. that of being able to see it all in any order at one time.
This is absent from the web version, in part because of the layout: each item sits somewhat separately. There are links of course, but the items seem discontinuous and the links are uni-directional in a way. This might also address the issue of formality-there is an "official" entry to sections to which the table of contents is a "master plan" and with the links further relegating those possibilities. Again we are faced with the issue that Alice Notley raises (if one wants to gender the issue) that we live in a "man-made" world, that the "journal" itself is a "man-made" form. Does it need to be re-imagined? Or is this one of the pitfalls of living in space, which is time (or vice versa)?
The link-format presents a related problem in printing, in that one must open every single item and press print, and some items lead to further items (e.g. Frances Jaffer's selection of poems. There are a few items I missed and have to go back and print)-an ominous task. When one is not surrounded with campus computing resources-i.e. paper, toner, a laser printer, limitless on-line time-this can be daunting, economically and technologically. Lacking these resources one might not print up the issue at all.
I do think we should encourage people to think of HOW2 as "an issue" and not just a collection of parts, as printworthy and not mere cyber ephemera or pastime, and I think the design could encourage this. One way to do so is to have a scrolling format-all items link from the table of contents and with different subsections but themselves compose one long document (in the order presented in the table of contents), in the way that the "Sections" scrolls, for example, hit print once. This arrangement also saves paper as it allows for the whole to be double-sided, eliminating those lone pages incurred in odd page-numbered items.... Is there some way to make it printable with some sort of "print the whole thing" button/command?
In choosing scrolls over links you lose some of the neat hypertext embeddedness (its feminine quality?) which increases the sense of depth, but it is here, in the case of Frances Jaffer's poems, that things get overlooked-or are easy to overlook. When browsing, one at least has to look before one can overlook. Poetry, as a visual-linguistic medium, seems particularly dependent on this condition. Yet it's into the pockets (or is it the seams?) of (homosocial) discourse that women do get pushed...and lost. Perhaps we are still "leveling the field"-as much as we'd like to think we're post-feminist!-and we might think of HOW2 as a textual analogue of the work to be done to increase visibility in the larger (textual) world.
Other than this user-convenience issue, the website is really well done, a really nice design with some happy little neat cyber-tidbits (bells & whistles so to speak) going on.
Best and happy June,
Rome/ June 3, 1999
Thank you for taking the time to write down your thoughts-as reflected in precise technological terms for this particular journal & the electronic medium, generally-and for reviewing options available to us as we think into future issues of HOW2.
I'll immediately FORWARD your suggested "browseability" options to our new webmaster, Roberta Sims, at Bucknell University. She is just beginning to actively engage with the overall design process, having inherited the design of n1 from Stan Friedman, the excellent designer provided by the Rutgers HOW(ever) archive project. As we think towards issue n2, Roberta has already come up with some great ideas in response to our need for a visually livelier entry page (splash page) as a gate to the rest of the journal/archives/etc. Roberta has developed visual design changes that you will soon find incorporated into the home page & section introductions of the current issue and throughout issue n2.
Your problems and possible solutions for making the actual "browsing " easier are related to the actual engineering design and I would guess that if it can be done, Roberta can do it.
Regarding the original design of HOW2 following the "man-made" template, which Alice Notley speaks of, I'm not too worried about this since we are very spontaneous and fluidly-inclined around here, and quite open to anything that can help the reader to take in the work. While our Table of Contents may derive from a "master plan," it was put there as a useful tool to consult & guide the reader through the overall picture, as well as to propose individual items a reader might have particular interest in pursuing-generally a good idea, in the way that certain kinds of books include useful indexes. The rest of the original design-visually-speaking-was encouraged by me as a first-time-out resemblance between the new electronic HOW2, & its original in-print predecessor, HOW(ever)....just to reinforce that recognition of lineage.
As of now, our tech support (including html translation and every aspect of visual and engineering design) is under the care Roberta Sims at Bucknell. I will take very seriously any concrete ideas that are put forth and will immediately forward them to RS.
I particularly loved your suggestion that HOW2 might be thought of as a "textual analogue of the work to be done to increase visibility in the larger (textual) world." This is a model to hang on to and continuously address.
I hope that you and your colleagues will be working on snippets, sentences, responses, collaborations coming out of your reading/s. Remember that in the "alerts" and "postcard" section, comments on other cultural events-as related to language and the innovative spirit-are very welcome (film, theater, visuals, dance, mixed (multi) media...as well as comments/descriptions from the more pedagogical arts of teaching and curriculum development and media use-especially where experiments have opened up a work of writing Please tell your poet/scholar friends and promising graduate students to send us things. This could be a first-and happy-chance for some of them.
May 29, 1999/ from Carla Harryman, re. the question of women claiming voice in public space
I have at last read all or almost all of HOW2. It was deeply satisfying. And I was of course thrilled by the record of Jaffer's eloquent testimony to H.D. and the sample of her work. It is a fine memorial. The thread among the articles (other than modernism) is between the female author's relationship to history, literature, and the canon and the masculinist interpretations of aforesaid (and I'm thinking here about the themes of surrealism, classicism, objectivism, and the New York School) as controlling women's positionalities and products based on certain kinds of apriori investment. The dialogue between the more extended articles is rich with common concerns.
I agree that the "forum" answers did not respond directly to your question and frankly, I think your question is key and I mean the one about public articulation. I do not think that that form of publicness is necessarily equivalent to modes of domination. Indeed, I think that I sometimes get myself in trouble, because I assume that such forums are based in a democratic ideal that is not about domination but about speaking to things that matter, challenges to norms, policies, intellectual assumptions. My notion of "democracy" is neither about mass culture democracy in which "candidates" grandstand to get votes (and to control issues) with the rest of us looking on to cast ballots; nor is it about everybody taking turns in some kind of formulaic manner. It's about a public space that honors engaged discussion among the diversity of its participants.
The collectivity has a responsibility, I think, to make sure that those who have something to say are heard just as we, who because of our acculturation encounter difficulties speaking up, have a responsibility to the collectivity to voice our ideas, our critiques, our challenges. If I did not feel this obligation, I would almost never attempt to speak in public. Throughout the history of feminism and modern progressive movements, this form of discussion has been practiced and (to further state the obvious) women have often been the leaders and instigators of pubic discussions and political actions on all sorts of public issues. I'm curious about this gap between intellectual discussion (which often seems to be about gate-keeping in the context of the contemporary literary culture we are engaged with) and this other side-by-side history.
In the meantime, I personally feel enormous hesitation to speak in these public contexts-more than I ever have. I have attributed this to 1) the sense that whatever I say will be mistaken and 2) a great reticence to focus only on one point. Both of these issues could be unpacked at some length. For the time being, I just want to point out that I would like to have a better handle on the relationship of feminism and its powerful histories of effective public debate and political actions to this kind of abjection of public discourse in the recent conference you refer to in "editors notes &." Is there something not thought through about the relationship of feminism to entrenched political and academic norms of public discussion? I do think there is a relationship between the common thread of the articles in the first issue mentioned above and my own anxieties about public discussion.
I am quite grateful that you have provided this beautifully organized space for publication and discussion. I have never had the slightest desire to enter the list serve discussions, but your on-line journal is a whole other story. I love that you have used the medium so well, such that there are substantial articles, works and thoughts in progress, poetry and art, quotes and commentary.
5/10/99, Marcella Durand--from St. Mark's Poetry Project to the Barnard College conference
Hi Jo Ann,
What a thrill to go all the way from downtown St. Mark's to uptown Barnard. Ah, legitimacy! I didn't feel so much subversive, as practical. I wanted to get into actual happenings, techniques, venues--solid matter--I wanted to fire up the audience (a mix of students, poets, & publishers) to publish. And not just publish, but be published. We addressed the continuing problem of women releasing their work to be read, edited, spoken. I felt satisfied that together as a panel we raised urgent and pertinent questions about poetic action: communities, institutions, reading series, publications. It was great to see male faces in both panels and audience, actively engaged, concerned. The entire event had an energizing air of internationalism and urbanity. Out of the ghetto into the polis.
4/27/99 Response to a reader enquiry regarding our policy on "excerpting"
HOW2 is not "against" publishing the complete text of anything, on principle... It's just becoming more and more evident that most people have a limited tolerance for screen reading time and while they can print out any single text, many don't have the home facilities to do that. So it seems to me that often there are one or several sections of a talk/essay that pertain more particularly to what HOW2 is focusing on...the excerpts, thusfar, have been selected in this way. We can always include a "link" or reference to where the complete text can be found, if it does exist in another location. Also the author can simply say "No" to excerpting. We always check out any excerpting proposal with her first. But as to a single prescribed (correct?) way of doing things, this is exactly what we are trying to undermine-by inviting all sorts of "readings" and, in fact, constructing various places in HOW2 where shorter and longer/formal & less formal speculations, reflections, partial findings can unfold.
If readers will read the descriptions at the beginning of each discrete section, they will find this out.