Anne Lesley Selcer Wins 2014 Poetry Chapbook Contest

Gazing Grain Press is pleased to announce that judge Dawn Lundy Martin has selected Anne Lesley Selcer as the winner of our 2014 feminist chapbook contest for poetry/hybrid manuscripts!  Her chapbook from A Book of Poems on Beauty will be published in September. We’ll have a launch and celebratory reading during Fall for the Book on Saturday, September 13.

We are also happy to announce that Dawn Lundy Martin has named Kevin McLellan’s manuscript Before the Door as runner-up. We will publish excerpts from Before the Door as a miniature this year.

Dawn Lundy Martin’s comments on Anne Lesley Selcer’s from A Book of Poems on Beauty:

“A Book of Poems on Beauty by Anne Lesley Selcer challenges the notion that beauty and the feminine have no place in postmodern art as much as it reinvents these notions for contemporary readers. It tells us that “beauty is a particular unit of duration / … each hour a room / is a form of sadness.” These poems are fresh in their negotiations of the aesthetic realm; in it, beauty is not monument, and neither does the female body laze absently on the chaise. Instead, the hot energy of this language pulls us from everything we thought we know about beauty and the feminine, and casts us into journeying investigation in which nothing is reconciled. Selcer’s are the kinds of poems we need to survive this century, to be encouraged to think and enact something new.”

Anne Lesley Selcer is a poet and art writer, most recently serving as a columnist for SFMoma’s Open Space. She has one book, Banlieusard, commissioned by Artspeak gallery, plus a chapbook from Dusie Kollecktiv (also from A Book of Poems on Beauty), and another forthcoming from supersuperette press. from A Book of Poems on Beauty is an ongoing, research based project which has produced poems, essays and video. Anne Lesley’s work has been anthologized in It’s night in San Francisco, but it’s sunny in Oakland, The Feeling is Mutual: A list of our fucking demands, NW Edge III: the end of reality, and The Physics of Context. Poems are forthcoming in Fence and have recently appeared in Dusie, Where Eagles Dare, and The Clackamus Review. Essays have been commissioned by galleries Centre A, the Or and the Helen Pitt, as well as by artists Aurel Schmidt and Abass Ackhavan. More art writing can be found in Fillip, Arcade, and Doppelganger magazines. In San Francisco, she was a member of the now defunct Nonsite Collective, and in Vancouver, she created and curated the Chroma Reading Series for artists, poets and researchers.

McLellan1Kevin McLellan is the author of the chapbooks Shoes on a wire (Split Oak, forthcoming) runner-up for the 2012 Stephen Dunn Prize in Poetry and Round Trip (Seven Kitchens, 2010), a collaborative series of poems with numerous women poets. He has recent poems in journals including: American Letters & Commentary, Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Kenyon Review Online, Western Humanities Review, wicked alice, Witness, and numerous others. Kevin lives in Cambridge MA, and sometimes teaches poetry workshops at URI.

We are also pleased to recognize the following outstanding manuscripts:

Finalists

Kristin Abraham, Swallow Your Archetype
Erin M. Bertram, from The Vanishing of Camille Claudel
Emma Bolden, A Portrait of the Female Body in Dead Metaphors
Jill Darling, Hannah Ensor, & Laura Wetherington, you are Travolta tight pants tight
Sara Renee Marshall, If I Pull Marigold Apart From a Flower
Billie R. Tadros, inter: burial places
Carolyn Williams-Noren, Small Animals

Semi-finalists

Sharon Charde, Incendiary
Colleen Coyne, Meryl DePasquale, Opal C McCarthy, & Molly Sutton Kiefer, Kept Ghosts: A Choral Aubade
j divina erickson, DSMonsters: A Field Guide
Declan Gould, Creating a Chain Reacting and Dis-figuring
Tanya Paperny, Short-Shorts
Becca Shaw Glaser, Fragile Selves Baking a Cake as Big as the Empire State Building
Naomi Tarle, Letters and Songs from a City

Feminism, Culture, and Poetry with Luna Luna Editor, Lisa Marie Basile

Sarah Marcus: You are the editor-in-chief at Luna Luna Magazine, which is self described as “a diary of ideas and a place for dialogue.” From your website, it seems as though that this publication encourages a wide range of views and opinions. Although you “do not tolerate sexism, misandry, homophobia, ageism, racism, sizeism, religism, classism or transphobia in comments or in our published work,” you do allow articles from authors and comments from people who openly disagree and may have controversial stances on a variety of issues. How was Luna Luna Magazine founded, and how do you view its role and importance within the greater feminist and literary community?

Lisa Marie Basile: When I started Luna Luna I wanted to create a conversation. We are almost entirely run by women, and that is something I’m very proud of and want to continue. We of course allow voices from everyone, but I have never published anything I consider problematic or hateful.

I allow a very specific level of autonomy with regard to our contributors and staff writers; our disclaimer very clearly says that while we may not all agree with one another, we allow conversation and opinion. I want people to be able to discuss race, society, gender, sexuality and lifestyle in an open way. I will say, though, that I’ve never, ever published anyone who I felt was harmful to the public dialogue. We do publish comments to our articles that may be in opposition to our ideas (unless they’re blatantly rude or disgusting) and even then, sometimes (rarely), comment moderation slips through the cracks.

We do this because it gives our readers a chance to discuss the issue and it gives our writers the opportunity to provide a teaching moment. If I feel that there is ever a exploitative comment or if a commenter gets out of hand I’ll certainly discuss with the author and editors. I firmly believe in the discussion of differing opinions for the health of all – to an extent. We want to provide a platform for idea, and even confession of flawed idea, but I would not allow hate speech. We haven’t even come close, and if we had, our editorial staff would have had a very detailed discussion about it.

As far as feminism is concerned, our feminism is innate. We provide feminism in action. We are written by (mostly) women. We feature, spotlight and promote women. We actively seek diverse opinions on feminist issues, and we actively take a stance against everyday sexism. No opinion or delivery will be perfect for everyone, but we certainly try to at least get people talking about issues that affect them. We’ve had a lot of interaction with (either through content share or cross-promotion) other feminist organizations and magazines, and we’re really proud of that.

I’m not comfortable with labels but I will say our writers are gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, asexual, religious, atheist, parents, soon-to-be parents and those who don’t want children. We have writers of almost every race, socioeconomic background, and size and we’re determined to welcome people from every path of life.

In the end, we want to offer opinion of lifestyle, culture and the arts – and we welcome writing in those areas through a variety of lenses.

SM: You are also a co-editor & co-curator at DIORAMA: Poetry/Shape/Sound, the NYC editor of The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, and the editor at Patasola Press. Can you please tell us a little bit about each of these projects and about the experience of being an editor for so many different, interesting projects?

LMB: I am inundated, but luckily these projects don’t all come to life at once. Patasola Press is a small press. I publish a handful of chapbooks or books per year and have found it very difficult to do any more than a few.  My goal here is to publish beautiful words, because I love the authors I work with.

I curate content from writers in the NY area for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, which is on break right now. I also teach a class for their workshops. DIORAMA is a poetry and performance event that incorporates the idea of musicality in poetry and live music into one intimate, vulnerable event where the reader and the audience isn’t separated by podium and harsh light. We’re very interested evocation and reading style and sound – how sound affects the listener’s experience. We host this event (myself and co-curate Alyssa Morhart-Goldstein, who runs SOUND Lit Mag, the associated journal of contemporary musico-poetics) every few months. We’re like a live action lit-journal; we select poets and their poems for the event. We also pair them with musicians who set their poems to music. It’s amazing.

I love to support writers and do beautiful things. I’m probably stretched too thin (no, I am), but I work best when busy. I am just lucky to be around the best people.

SM: I am so excited that your first full-length book, APOCRYPHAL, is due out this summer from Noctuary Press. Can you give us a synopsis of this work and tell us what inspired you to write these poems?

LMB: Thank you!!! I am so excited, too. It’s a weird, almost anti-climactic feeling; sort of like a death and a birth at once. I am already well-past the experience of those poems and I moved through a lot when writing it. Now it feels like a world I vaguely remember in a dream, but it’s still a world I know as home.

APOCRYPHAL is sort of set in three parts: a genesis, a world of secrets (apocrypha) and a paradise. For me, these “parts” are fluid; they’re from dreams and realities and half-remembered memories and secrets. Sometimes I don’t know which are which, but I use form and lineation to explore this. The book examines the woman’s relationship to sex and desire and being desired, but I think I try to subvert what we’ve been taught to “be” and “perform” and “look like.” I wanted to create a world that was as superficial and dramatic and broken as I felt and was taught when I was younger, insecure, and frightened. A lot of it deals with my father, who left when I was young and has always been a figure of relative mythology to me: how we talk about fathers, how we let them influence us, how we let them “define” men  – these are all topics I encounter. It’s written from not only my perspective but a sort of omnipotent camera. It pulls from my life as an Italian-American in a religious family, and from life on the beach and in cars and from the younger me who connected sex with validation. It’s my way of consoling my younger, more sunless self.

SM: What are you working on next?

LMB: I’m working on a book of fiction-it details the extreme side of friendship: obsession, co-dependence, ownership, lust and manipulation. I’m frightened of how natural it feels. But I’m excited for it to exist.

lmbLisa Marie Basile in a NYC-based poet. She is also the author of the chapbooks Andalucia (The Poetry Society of NY) and triste (Dancing Girl Press) and the forthcoming full-length APOCRYPHAL. She is the founding editor of Luna Luna, a diary of art, sex and culture, curator for the musicopoetics performance salon, Diorama and the NY editor and a writing instructor for The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review. A graduate of The New School’s MFA program, she has been named a top contemporary NYC poet to read by several publications. She tweets at @lisamariebasile and works as a writer.

 

Conversation with Meg Day

This year, we released our second chapbook, Meg Day’s We Can’t Read This. Judge Cathy Park Hong called the book “a how-to on re-imagining the body and language when one is denied the instruments of voice and hearing.” Meg generously agreed to speak with us about her book, feminism, and poetics.

1. How would you define your view of feminism?

I’m so glad you started with the easy question—ha! I just finished teaching a condensed summer section of Gender & Social Change at the University of Utah. I wasn’t so much surprised that the course marked many students’ first encounter with feminism; instead, I was floored that so many of them had such rich and, truthfully, strange preconceptions about what feminism includes (we started at the hairy lesbian stereotype, moved quickly to bestiality, and didn’t stop for a long, long while, even at liberal CIA offshoots infiltrating daycares in the Midwest). What I’m witnessing more and more in my classroom is that capital-f Feminism—the popularized (mis)understanding of “equal opportunity,” really—is regarded with the deepest and most sincere, absolute fear. I thought for a long time that folks were uninterested in engaging with feminism because it required a forfeit of power. I certainly still believe that to be the case, but I am also beginning to understand the newer generation of young folks—whether they live on a coast or not, whether they arrive in a college classroom or not—to be just really, genuinely afraid of what happens if their world gets turned upside down the way (even very essentializing, “safe,” mild versions of) feminism demands it must. I’ve personally struggled with calling myself a feminist for plenty of years because of its lack of intersectionality—if feminism doesn’t include all women (cis-women, trans*-women, every woman) or, really, all people; if it doesn’t prioritize the power inequalities among communities of color, folks with different ambulatory or accessibility needs, or individuals who don’t fit some hegemonic body norm; and if feminism doesn’t take a long, collective look at the way, historically, (white, socio-economically stable) feminism has actually participated in the further oppression of many, many groups of people (but especially women), then I’m completely uninterested. This push-pull dynamic of Yes, I’m a feminist, but only if… is really difficult to walk through with students who are used to an all-or-nothing agenda of extremes. I don’t believe feminism should be a movement that pushes for equality of women and men unless it is only interested in upholding hegemonic and violent standards rooted in cis-sexism. That kind of movement would (and, admittedly, does) only contribute to maintaining the gender binary and further oppressing every single person who does not fall into cis-sexist, racist, classist, ableist standard put forth in support of state-sanctioned violence and industrial complexes. All of that is to say that teaching constantly defines and redefines my personal feminism, and that feminism is constantly failing, again and again, in increasingly complex ways.

2. What makes a piece of writing “feminist?”

This feels a lot like it should be one of those you know it when you see it kind of things, but I don’t think it necessarily is. I can remember really clearly a conversation with a writing professor during my undergrad and it was easily some of the best advice anyone ever gave me concerning identity and writing. At the time, I was in an experimental writing class—which also coincided with my coming as queer—and I had become really earnestly invested in public art. My professor said, very simply, that I didn’t have to set out to create “something feminist”—that by nature of engaging with feminism and questioning feminism, my feminism was infused in the choices I made while writing. She saved me from a lot of really unnecessarily embarrassing and over-the-top, cliché poems early on. I stopped worrying about broadcasting my politics and got back to dissecting, digesting, and using them in my creative work. She gave me this really necessary kind of permission that I didn’t know I needed, yes, but it also changed the way I read everything from then on. I wasn’t merely looking to see if the main character was female or if a film passed the Bechdel test; instead, I learned to examine the narrative and syntactical choices—the way a particular arc depended on a sexist trope—and discovered how to interrogate the inherent ableism in every plotline in which there is a problem that needs “fixing.” I think making a piece of writing that is truly feminist requires a lot more work than any of us want to admit or, perhaps, invest the necessary time in. It involves a lot of mental gymnastics, I think, and a peaceful, perhaps even resigned dexterity around the very matter-of-fact racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, trans*phobic, and ableist systems we live in and unwittingly enable day in and day out. I don’t know that I achieve that ever, much less on a regular basis. I’m under no illusion that my feminism has somehow “arrived,” so to speak; I know it hasn’t and I think that’s a part of what keeps me writing, too.

3. Who are some of your feminist precursors? Which feminist writers do you admire?

Angela Davis, bell hooks, Laura Hershey, Anne Bradstreet, Audre Lorde, Luce Irigaray, Virginia Woolf, Donna Haraway, Coretta Scott King, Grace Paley, Leila Ahmed, Marina Tsvetaeva, Carson McCullers, May Swenson, Myung Mi Kim, Anna Akhmatova, and Gloria Anzaldua. These are all folks I’m reading frequently, teaching consistently, and learning from again and again.

4. What is the relationship, as you see it, between gender, ability, and feminism? How does poetry fit into this relationship?

This is another really difficult question, mostly because gender, ability, and feminism are so deeply intertwined not only with one another, but also with other intersections of race and class. Because of the medical industrial complex and how we have designed our infrastructure in this country to really maximize inaccessibility, we can’t really talk about ability without also talking about access via class and socioeconomic status—race is not far behind that, nor are the implications of gender. Poetry is the wildcard here and I think perhaps it’s a site of possibility and brainstorming. Because bending rules or breaking them is a part of poetics—and because poetry is a place in which the imagination can really feast on the potential of the blank page or the unspoken word—there is an anticipation, I think, of stumbling into unexpected access points, or solutions, or more accurate representations. How one’s own restrictions play with poetry’s restrictions really exploits creativity in exciting ways. Poetry can illuminate the crack-dwelling quality of so many of our identities that don’t adhere to hegemonic standards, yes, but it also can perform great feats in terms of understanding (and celebrating!) the unpredictability of the body. As many poets and theorists have suggested, the body of the poem is analogous to the body of a person. If we understand that to be true, poetry magnifies access and the prospect of play regarding difference. I don’t think feminism is interested in removing difference, but I do think it’s invested in reconfiguring the power dynamic therein. I could go on for a long time about poetry and power, but that seems like a tangent we don’t have time for.

Continue reading

Feminist Resource Spotlight: Lavender Review

by Mary Meriam

Out of my love for lesbian poetry and art, and wish to know more about it, on Gay Pride Day 2010, I launched Lavender Review. For me, the past four years have been an astounding education, international in scope, as I researched and presented the best lesbian poetry and art that I could find (including some poetry and art by non-lesbians that might appeal to a lesbian readership). Every June and December, I release a new issue of my e-zine, free and open to everyone.  

In 2012, I launched a Kickstarter campaign, made a movie, and enlisted an army of friends to make videos saying, in their own creative way, “I Love Lavender Review.” It was loads of fun, and you can watch some of their smart and funny and sexy videos on the Friends page. I interviewed two friends about LR on Ms. Blog and was highly inspired by Eloise Stonborough’s words:

Any art from a marginalized group is first dismissed as necessarily trivial or lesser because it doesn’t value the same ideals as the mainstream. It is only through iteration and resilience that the markers used to keep us out become the elements for which we are prized. That’s why a journal devoted to lesbian poetry and art is vital: it rejects tokenism; it makes visible the common themes between otherwise dissimilar writers and artists; and, most importantly, it shows the range and prowess of those who would otherwise be limited to one feature of their work. 

Yes, I can do iteration and resilience, keep trying and bouncing back. LR is my attempt to give lesbian poetry and art its fair share of attention and devotion.

With this June’s release of Issue 9, I decided, for the time being, to drop my practice of assigning themes to issues, and to let “common themes” emerge naturally. To tap into the lesbian collective unconscious of a group of my most-loved poets and artists, I invited them to contribute a poem or artwork of their choice. Would the poetry and art cohere into a unified issue? Would the poems speak to each other? Would the artworks speak to each other? Would the poetry speak to the art, and the art speak to the poetry? 

The gorgeous, brilliant work in Issue 9 includes new poems by Colleen McKee, Eleanor Lerman, Janice Gould, Judy Grahn, kathryn l. pringle, Nicole Brossard, Risa Denenberg, Rita Mae Reese, Robin Becker, and Suzanne Gardinier; and art by Anne Bentley, Diane Tanchak, Hannah Barrett, Jane Lewis, Jen P. Harris, Jessica Burke, Mady Marie Bourdages, Maura McGurk, Patricia Cronin, and Laura Gilpin.

I’m deeply honored to include a poem by, and selected by, Naomi Replansky, who was born in 1918 and lives in New York (age 96!!!!!!). Replansky has garnered some well-deserved recognition. Her Collected Poems (Godine/Black Sparrow, 2012) won the William Carlos Williams award of the Poetry Society of America and was a finalist for the Poets’ Prize.

In every issue, I publish a page of historial poems by women who loved women. Issue 9 includes poems by Natalie Clifford Barney, Sara Teasdale, Elinor Wylie, Sophie Jewett, and Christina Rossetti. If you would like some context for these poems, read Lillian Faderman’s books about lesbian history and literature.

For her lifelong attention and devotion to lesbian poetry, and her own wonderful poems, Issue 9 is dedicated with love and thanks to Eloise Klein Healy. Here’s an excerpt from her poem “Working Towards Sappho”:

Whatever emerges, a poem
written by a lesbian poet
has a heritage of flame,
and no matter what Sappho was,
any woman who “comes out”
springs from a burned life
as a poem.

There. You just read some lesbian poetry. Read it again. It was made for you.

 

Mary Meriam is the author of Conjuring My Leafy Muse and Girlie Calendar, both from Headmistress Press, a company she co-founded.

Adrienne Celt Talks About Her First Novel, Comics, and Feminism

Sarah Marcus: As you are aware, I am an avid follower of your comics blog, loveamongthelampreys.com, where animals have very rich inner lives and thoughts about the world. Of course, one of my all time favorite posts is bear related. How do you come up with the dialogue for your comics? What’s your “process?” (I know, sorry to ask that.) What do you hope that hybrid forms might argue or accomplish?

Adrienne Celt: I’m delighted you picked that particular doleful polar bear – he’s one of my favorites, too. And I think that “process” questions are fair, with the caveat that semi-vague “process” answers will result. (Insert evil laughter.) Though actually, it’s a bit easier for me to speak in concrete terms about the comic than it is about fiction, because my comic is deadline-driven, and so I’m more aware of how it comes together on a day-to-day basis. Let me give this a try:

In a perfect world, the images and the dialogue are all part of the same idea, arrived at organically. I think the comics work best that way – and the polar bear is a good example of this – because the words & images tend to put more pressure on one another, adding a layer of visual irony or thematic resonance or even slapstick that might not exist if, say, I just pick an animal at random. Though I do it that way too. The dialogue itself comes from many sources, including (but not limited to): lines I had to cut from a piece of fiction, ideas born while walking my dog or making bad jokes at breakfast, an image that came to me while listening to a podcast, or something from a really bad (or good!) dream. Then I pick an animal (or use the animal I pre-picked) and start sketching until I hit on a visual layout that satisfies me. Often this has to do with my mood: sometimes I choose to do, say, an underwater scene because I’m feeling dark and want to while away a few hours hand-inking a nearly full-black panel.

I don’t know that I have an argument related to hybrid forms, except that I believe they can accomplish emotion and depth in the same way that single-genre work does. I’m not a trained visual artist, and the existence of my comic is totally urge-based; it just exercises a different part of my brain and – if this doesn’t sound too cheesy – my heart than fiction does. Writing is very consuming process to me, but it’s also very non-physical (or rather, the physical elements of it all occur in the brain, and by tapping keyboard keys), and when that makes me feel stuck or itchy, it helps to have an avenue of expression that uses my hands and my eyes and my sense of spatial reasoning in a different way. (The ideas that I get to exercise through comics are differently shaped as well, in a manner quite obviously informed by the space I have to work in.)

SM: I am SO excited that your debut novel, RUSALKA, will be published by Norton/Liveright in summer 2015! Please tell us all of the things about this project.

AC: Thank you so much for this question & for your excitement! I’m over the moon myself.

RUSALKA (if that’s the title we stick with!) is my first novel. It follows Lulu, an operatic soprano who lives in Chicago and has just given birth to her first child. Lulu was raised by her grandmother to believe in a series of Polish myths: most importantly, that a woman in their family made a deal with the devil that would turn each new woman born into their line progressively more beautiful and more musically talented. Though of course (it being a deal with the devil) each woman would lose something, too.

I’m particularly interested in how stories that are passed down from person to person in a family are both transformed – and transformative. My own grandparents (I have a lot of Polish heritage, if you couldn’t guess) lived (and live) rather fascinating lives, and though I didn’t bring any of their actual stories into the book, the sensibility of them is very much at work there. The way they stretch and flex, in particular. For example, my maternal grandmother (who was quite Catholic) once told me a story about how she fell in love with a Jewish boy in China (the way she ended up there is a long, immigration-related story in its own right), and was going to live with him in sin, until he went on vacation with his family and died in a tsunami. And no one in his family told her. They left her to just feel abandoned, until some mutual friend invited her to the funeral.

That’s tragic, and strange – it really sticks with you – though when I told my dad about it, he expressed a suspicion that it may have been exaggerated. Very possible. But then, really, who cares? The story is malleable enough to contain the truth of my grandmother’s experience and the truth of telling, both; the pleasure of a good tale and how it connected my grandmother and I together. All of which is, in its own way, real. And anyway, whenever I think I’m exaggerating stories about my paternal grandparents’ lives during World War II (paratrooping for the Polish government in exile; pretending to be a Hungarian priest with laryngitis to mask a lack of Hungarian language skills; being hit by a bomb while crossing a bridge and floating, back broken, down a river) it turns out that the truth is, if anything, more spectacular. When I talk about sensibility, that’s a lot of what I mean.

So there you go. It’s a book about the intersection of history and story; about music; about how women (in particular) form one other within a family. And of course, about the rusalka, a particularly interesting water demon who also happened to inspire an opera by Dvořák.

SM: This will be our third year working for VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts together! We began as Counters and have embarked on our second year as Count Coordinators. What role do you see VIDA playing in our literary community this year? How do feel VIDA has become more inclusive? What does being an inclusive feminist mean to you?

AC: Yes, it’s so strange for me to think that if it wasn’t for VIDA, we wouldn’t even know one another! Nor the great and formidable Jen Fitzgerald. So that’s one quick answer to your question about the importance of VIDA (to me, and to the literary world): it’s a nexus for voices spread out all over the country. VIDA has connected me to a community of writers who are full of intelligence, bravery, and spitfire, and I truly believe that (in addition to the vital work the Count does in displaying the ongoing and often unintentional biases of the publishing world) it is this show of communal strength and fellowship that is a real gift to women in the wider literary world. To that point, our member network is really picking up steam. Join us! We want to know you all!

On another level, I think VIDA will continue to play the role of mirror-holder and rabble-rouser that it has played since the first VIDA Count was released. In the past several years, a number of venues have made strides toward sustained gender parity (notable examples being Tin House, of course, and the Paris Review), and others – like The New Republic – have at least shown themselves to be more interested in the conversation. I think that the openness is almost (almost!) as vital as the change in numbers, because it allows us all to progress a little away from party lines and on to a more interesting, complex dialogue. After all, how often can editors say “It’s the slush pile!” and have us respond “Systemic and subconscious prejudice! Try harder!” (though I fully expect we will all say those things again this year) before we get sick of saying the same lines?

This year is also exciting because we are making strides towards inclusivity. Writers of color can fairly claim frustration with VIDA in the past few Counts for making them repeat the same old lines about “Where is the Writers of Color Count?” It’s more complicated than just doing it or not doing it – beyond the question of work-hours (we’re an all-volunteer organization, as you know!), there’s the issue of how writers identify themselves, and whether or not they want to be identified, & etc. But I think the point has been made that people feel the need for a Writers of Color Count in the same way that women felt the need for the original VIDA Count, and we have been talking seriously about how to make that happen.

The last part of your question – the meaning of inclusive feminism – is really interesting to me, and I don’t want to lose sight of it. Simply put, I see it as the widening of our personal definitions to make space for the needs of others. It always makes me sad when I hear about women saying they don’t view themselves as feminists because that term has somehow left them feeling ostracized – especially since, to me, all feminism really is is the belief that women and men are equals, and that women deserve equal rights and opportunities. So simple! It’s for everyone! It’s even for men!

But to be truly inclusive (to *trans men & women, to women of color, to people who have, as I say, felt themselves pushed outside of what they view as the feminist sphere) I do think we need to spend time listening to how people feel, and absorbing some of the genuine frustrations and fears that people have related to feminism. I don’t mean that we need to back down, or change/lessen our commitment to broad equality, but perhaps just approach conversations with less cynicism about our interlocutors. (And believe me, this is an ongoing challenge to myself as much as to anyone.)

SM: What question do you want to be asked?

AC: One great and extremely simple question is: “Why do you write?” I’m sure I’ll get sick of answering this eventually, but what I find as I anticipate the publication of my first novel is that I’m newly excited by the prospect of connecting with readers. Being a writer has two distinct and equally important pleasures for me: the immersion in a new world, and the intimacy it offers between minds. Immersion I can do on my own, but intimacy requires other people.

As so many writers did, I grew up with a book in my hand, and so I learned early on that there is real pleasure to be found in losing yourself in another person’s experience – you go deeper into your own mind by letting it converse with the deepest stuff of someone else’s. Publishing a novel, then, feels like coming full circle: I’ve built a world of my own, and I get to offer it to readers. I get to share from the other side. I’m immensely grateful and rather humbled to be standing on the precipice of that new conversation.


a celt small headshot

Adrienne Celt is a writer and a comic artist living in Tucson, AZ. Her debut novel is forthcoming from Liveright Publishing (summer 2015), and her short fiction appears (or is forthcoming) in Esquire, The Kenyon Review, The Southeast Review, Blackbird, Carve Magazine, Gargoyle, and other places. Her comics, essays, and translations have appeared in The Rumpus, The Toast, Lemon Hound, Cerise Press, Hobart, and elsewhere. She publishes a weekly webcomic at loveamongthelampreys.com.
 

You’re Invited! (if you’re in New York)

We are absolutely delighted that Gazing Grain Press (and co-founder Alyse Knorr) will be in New York this week to participate in the 22nd Annual Poets House Poetry Publication Showcase, which runs from June 27th through August 16th. Poets House will have new books of poetry from more than 650 presses on display during this free exhibit. Not only does this sound like browsing heaven, but it also means that we have the chance to show off the winner of last year’s GGP Chapbook Contest, Meg Day’s We Can’t Read This.

The opening reception will be held on Thursday evening, June 26th, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm, and will feature readings by Meena Alexander, Jennifer Michael Hecht, and David Lehman. Stop by to say hi to Alyse and check out Meg’s beautiful chap! We’re honored to be in such excellent company.

 

Event Details:

Who: Meg Day’s We Can’t Read This and GGP!

What: The 22nd Annual Poets House Poetry Publication Showcase

When: Opening Reception: June 26, 5:30-7:00 pm

Exhibit Open: June 27-August 16

Where: Poets House (directions), NYC

How much does it cost: FREE

More event information is available at the Poets House website, which also provides information about their wonderful programming.

When I think of inclusivity and compassion, I think of Kirsten Clodfelter…

Read Kirsten Clodfelter’s brave and poignant essay, “Because Misogyny,” for As It Ought To Be where she is an Associate Editor.

Sarah Marcus: Why is feminism and inclusivity important to you? What does it mean to you to be considered an inclusive feminist?

Kirsten Clodfelter: Feminism is important to me because I’m a human being and I exist in this world with other people. Inclusivity is important to me because I’m a human being and I exist in this world with other people. These values are inextricably linked, though I understand (so sadly) that this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone else – that this isn’t simply a given. Still, it’s fundamental to recognize that my own experiences aren’t representative of the experiences of others. Inclusivity is a call to find the balance between, first, raising up our voices, by which we help to provide a platform for others who might not have one, and, second, in knowing when to be quiet, in sitting down and listening as a means of giving other people (in particular WOC, queer women, and trans women), a space to be heard instead of speaking for them or over them. I think it’s important that we continue to recognize – as women, as feminists, as writers – that someone else’s experiences don’t discount our own, so no one EVER needs to be silenced for having specific issues that might diverge from some greater feminist platform.

This is part of the reason why it’s so frustrating and disheartening when someone like Mary Miller, an extremely talented writer whom I very much admire, writes a piece arguing that her individual experience as a woman in the literary world indicates to her that something as necessary and useful as the VIDA Count is problematic, that it makes her “uncomfortable.” Truthfully, it’s both shockingly unaware and also pretty irresponsible for Miller to look around and see that “there are times when I’m still the only female fiction contributor in a literary journal…” and then, especially, to say, “fiction is still largely a man’s game… Am I proud to be the sole female published in a magazine’s issue? Perhaps,” without then thinking about what this must mean, systemically.

Many of us experience a certain degree of privilege – male, white, straight, cis, middle-class, educated, access to resources, industry connections, wealth, etc. These don’t negate our experiences or our individual vulnerabilities, but I think it’s mandatory that we remain vigilant in our awareness of the ways in which our experiences intersect with our privileges and what that means for people who don’t share the same privileges we do. There’s not much greater harm we can do than to be oblivious.

SM: Your chapbook, Casualties, was published in 2013 by RopeWalk Press and again as an ebook in 2014 and has received much well-deserved praise. As an advocate for non-violence, can you talk about your intentions with this project and what you hope this work might accomplish?

KC: Thank you for saying such kind things about Casualties. More than anything, my hope for this project was to break down the idea of “other” as something so separate and far removed from “self.” I occasionally hear my otherwise lovely Liberal friends and colleagues say disgraceful things about servicemen and women, and it wounds me. I get it – I’m anti-war as much as the next progressive – but bad people exist everywhere. Does that mean some of them made it into the military and are abusing their powers in ways that should be called out and punished? Of course. But it seems very dangerous and also extremely limited to label anyone in uniform a bloodthirsty nationalist. It’s also just patently not true.

The other thing I hoped to do with this small collection was highlight how far-reaching the consequences of war stretch. The impact crosses oceans, spans generations, and hurts people – on both sides – for a long time after the troops have been withdrawn. We’re seeing some of that right now as Mosul and Tikrit fall to ISIS and in the backlash since Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was brought home. I’m a bit of a PC-stereotype in this way, I guess, but my general feeling is that people are never as sensitive and empathetic regarding the struggles of others as they should be. To extend that type of understanding is a real kindness, and it takes incredible effort. We could all be better at it, and we should all be working harder to get there.

SM: As a teacher, mother, editor, and supporter of projects like VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts, what do you think our responsibility should be in terms of supporting and encouraging other feminists? Do you see any solutions to the “numbers” problem within our literary community?

KC: I think this falls back to the discussion of inclusivity above. My feeling is that part of my responsibility as a feminist means applying my ideals for both gender equality and empathy across the board. It means never making fun of how Michele Bachmann is dressed no matter how much I disagree with nearly every word that’s ever come out of her mouth. It means calling out someone who laughs and says Ann Coulter is a tr*nny no matter how much I absolutely despise Ann Coulter. It means really being mindful that there are other women who have far less agency and access to a supportive community and necessary resources than I do, and that their struggle needs to be my struggle also. It means championing for fair inclusion, for really staying aware of who and what I’m publishing in my role as an editor in order to ensure that there’s room at the table for more than just straight white men. It means being willing to have discussions with other feminists when it seems like their own practices aren’t inclusive, while still acknowledging the fact that feminism is going to look different and mean different things to every woman-identified person when it’s filtered through the lens and impact of her own experiences. As she gets older, it means my partner and I having many conversations about all of these things with our daughter and, should we ever have one, our son.

At AWP earlier this year, I was fortunate to hear Rob Spillman, editor of Tin House, discuss the issue of gender inequality in publishing. He mentioned the refrain used by some of his colleagues that “good work rises,” as if the problem is as cut and dry as that. It’s true, good work does rise. But what if the only work available to do the rising is from a single demographic? I have the benefit of having worked in various capacities over the last several years as both a writer and as a journal/press editor. It is not difficult to spend some time looking at your own organization’s publishing record. It is not difficult to solicit work from a more rich and comprehensive sample of writers. Does this mean the numbers will change overnight? Certainly not. But it does mean that there will be movement toward a more honest and deserved representation within the literary community. I can’t imagine how a single person who champions good writing would ever be opposed to that.

SM: Is there a question that you wish people would ask you?

KC: I’m not sure I can come up with an additional question for addressing anything beyond what I’ve already quite thankfully had space here to discuss, but I’d love an opportunity to share this topical Angela Davis quote:

“Feminism involves so much more than gender equality and it involves so much more than gender. Feminism must involve consciousness of capitalism (I mean the feminism that I relate to, and there are multiple feminisms, right). So it has to involve a consciousness of capitalism and racism and colonialism and post-colonialities, and ability and more genders than we can even imagine and more sexualities than we ever thought we could name.”
— Angela Davis, “Feminism and Abolition: Theories and Practices for the 21st Century

Clodfelter_GazingGrainAuthorPicKirsten Clodfelter holds an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. Her work has been published in The Iowa Review, Brevity, Narrative Magazine, Green Mountains Review, and storySouth, among others. Her chapbook of war-impact stories, Casualties, was published in 2013 by RopeWalk Press. An editor of New American Press and MAYDAY Magazine, Clodfelter also serves an Associate Editor of As It Ought to Be, where she writes about women and gender issues in popular culture in addition to managing At the Margins, a review series for small-press and underrepresented books. @MommaOfMimo, KirstenClodfelter.com.