30 April 2006

Mother Poetry Contest finalist - Claire J. Baker

Remember! - there are only two weeks until Mother's Day on 14 May.

On Sunday 26 March, we were thrilled to announce Zara Raab as winner of our Mother Poetry Contest, for her poem, My Daughter Drives. Please read Zara's poem here.

Today, we are delighted to welcome the work of Claire J. Baker to Woman-Stirred. Claire was one of the contest's finalists with her poem, A Protest Against the Passing of the Great Ship.

Claire tells us that the poem "was written in the course of my mother's failing health, her passing, the family wake and home-party celebration of her life (she would want us cheerful, not weeping)." A Protest Against the Passing of the Great Ship first appeared in Claire's self-published book, Dear Mother, a collection on the above theme.

A Protest Against the Passing of the Great Ship

The great ship is going down.
I admit barnacles, warped deck,
rusted hinges, tarnished brass,
plain wooden rails collapsing.

I would make my hands a half-mile long,
would push away the ocean's mouth;
with heart tugging, would tow her to port:

would rebuild and refurbish my mother ship;
have little-known dwarves and celebrated
statesmen patch the bow, have woodsmen from
the Black Forest firm the keel, replace the deck,
have children and poets polish the brass.
Eskimos would carve magnificent railings,
Persians lay rugs in every room.

The wine cellar would be stocked
by Benedictine Monks; Hummel figures
would arrive in gnarled fingers
of alpine peasants, Navajos would weave
baskets for hanging plants.

For ropes to the sky mast, boy scouts
would tie from dawn to moonlight.
None would tire, all would be kind.

When she had been made new again,
I would berth her on a tropical island,
anchor her so lightly she could pull
her own anchor, could circle the coral reef
for miles around, telling white beaches,
ferns, papayas, palm trees, trade winds
      how it feels to be in paradise.

© Claire J. Baker

Claire J. BakerClaire J. Baker has been active in poetry as an editor, reader, organizer, and primary promoter of poetry landmarks in Northern California. She has nine self-published poetry books, the last one co-authored with Mary Rudge and titled Poems From Street Spirit: "homeless blues and social justice news". Claire has had over 2400 poems published and won over 400 awards. She is now a senior and lives north of Berkeley, CA. which is her birthplace.

More poems by Claire can be found at the Street Spirit website.

Mother Poetry Contest submission guidelines and prize details
Read more about the international history of Mother's Days
Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation 1870

26 April 2006

Jan Steckel, MD on Woman-Stirred Radio

Merry Gangemi asks you to please join her this Thursday, April 27th, for a conversation with Pushcart-nominated writer and Woman-Stirred member, Jan Steckel, MD, a Harvard- and Yale-educated and trained (former) pediatrician, and bisexual activist.

Woman-Stirred Radio airs every Thursday on WGDR. It is a collaborative production of Woman-Stirred and Quiddities. The show begins 4:00pm EST, with guest interviews from 4:30pm.

About Jan
Jan served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic and cared for Spanish-speaking families in California at a county hospital and at a large HMO. In 2001, she left the practice of medicine to write full-time, and her chapbook, The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press) was released in April 2006.

Poems from The Underwater Hospital first appeared in: The Pedestal Magazine, Ink Pot, Lit Pot, Writers Monthly, Street Spirit, Coffy Time Blues Erotica Zine, and the HarpersSF anthology, WomanPrayers. Her poems, short stories and nonfiction pieces have also appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Margin, and Lodestar Quarterly.

Jan lives in Oakland, California with Hew Wolff.

Merry Gangemi's Review of The Underwater Hospital:

To read The Underwater Hospital is to enter a world that many in America choose not to acknowledge, let alone read about. But for those who do want to know, The Underwater Hospital is an important addition to the landscape of outrage and protest against current American public policy.

The poems bear witness to the brutal consequences of every single administration since that B-movie cowboy Reagan slid into the White House. Jan's work challenges the hypocrisy and evil of "compassionate conservatism," an idiomatic smoke screen for greed, indifference, and cruelty.

In "Three Little Sisters", the physician-poet struggles against the nightmare:

The three little Salazar sisters from Salinas
come crestfallen into my bedroom some nights,
all crying with rotten teeth and gum abscesses.
The younger two are California-born.
I give them antibiotics and send them to a Medicaid dentist
so the infections won't spread to their jaw or brain.
For the eldest, eight years old, I can do nothing,
because she was born in Mexico
so doesn't qualify for Medicaid.
I prescribe extra medicine,
knowing the mother will split it
between all three little girls.
I send them out crying.
Night after night, I curse and ask,
what kind of country
denies an eight-year-old girl
relief from pain like that
because she was born
on the wrong side of the border
from her sisters?

In "Dios le bendiga", the narrator evokes the desperation of the mother's guilt and self-loathing because:

I pretended to be sick
and stayed home from church....
My uncle came by drunk from a lost cockfight.
He raped me in the kitchen
where I had made cactus candy with my mother and sisters.

A mother whose child was born with syphilis. A mother who is damned by Catholicism and its embedded misogyny. But a mother grateful for the care that at least cured her baby of syphilis. Woman to woman, doctor to patient, equals in the desperation of social and cultural systems that perpetuate pain.

And another poem, "Daddy's Little Girl", translates a similar system of patronization and paternalism that, as a woman, a professional, and a doctor, the narrator cannot escape her mad participation in the charade:

I was
deeply moved by his acceptance of me,
for which I was more hungry than for sex,
even with such a dish as his daughter.
I stepped easily into the role of
prospective son-in-law....
My performance was satisfactory:
my lack of love went unremarked by all,
by her, by him, and not the least by me.

Jan Steckel's exquisite honesty is what engages her soul in the task of poetry. Her ability to not only remember and imagine, but to see and to hear her past, her family's history and its rich and fecund characteristics. In "The Maiden Aunts", Steckel brings them to life:

My grandmother was alive again,
the one who said to me on her deathbed,
"You must write!" and
"Don't waste your life cooking, honey,
it's all over in ten minutes."

Her family is the bridge Steckel travels across to find the strong, colorful threads woven from her life to theirs. Through the memory of her grandmother, Jan meets those maiden aunts:

...who visited her in the squalor
of the Lower East Side.
Dressed in black, the maiden aunts
bent and kissed her eight-year-old head
saying, "Never forget, Selma,
you are one of the heher menschen."
you're one of the higher people,
a gentlewoman....What they meant was,
you come from a long line of ten chief rabbis
of the city of Riga.
Your grandfather wrote a treatise on Maimonides
that is in the Library of Congress.
Your family, the Widow Romm and Sons,
is the largest publisher of Yiddish books
in Eastern Europe....
She dreamed of the last Rabbi of Riga,
turning from the door of the gas chamber,
as he shepherded his congregation in.
Beyond him, her two old-maid aunts
clutched each others hands
and stared past the Rabbi's shoulder,
whispering "Never forget, Selma...."

Clearly, Steckel has never forgotten and will never forget:

...the elderly female patient with dementia
whose nephew had raped her
though we refused to recognize it.
...Carmen with her box of chocolates
inviting me onto her bed to watch
Puerto Rican girls mud-wrestling
on late night black-and-white hospital TV.
...Old women with rose petals strewn
around their hospital beds die alone.
Whores giggle and crack babies keen.
A woman kisses her baby
to show me how much she loves him
after she has broken all his limbs...
If I open this door, the dead will rush in
like a thousand tons of water, filling me up,
and I will never be able to shut that hatch again.

Maybe not, Jan Steckel, but that is why this book is so imperative: because you remember and you feel and you tell the truth about what it was you saw, and heard, and know.

The Underwater Hospital by Jan Steckel may be purchased from the author within the USA. Soon to be available world-wide from the Zeitgeist Press website.

Review reproduced here courtesy of Merry Gangemi.

Read about the other fantastic guests appearing on Woman-Stirred Radio.

15 April 2006

Call from Victoria Brownworth to support Tee Corinne

Dear Woman-Stirred Readers, we wanted to share this update from Victoria Brownworth. All of the quintet is sending good energy to Tee at this time.

Lesbian Artist Needs Help
Tee Corinne is one of my oldest and dearest friends. She is also a lesbian legend. The word "iconic" has become almost a cliche, but Tee truly is an icon. Her gloriously sensual photographs of lesbians and her books on lesbian erotica helped to shape and expand lesbian images and lesbian sexuality over the past 30 years.
An artist, photographer, art historian, writer and eroticist, she designed the first ten years of Naiad Press's covers, she created the global sensation, The Cunt Coloring Book, she got into a fight with NEA back when it was banning sexual imagery from American art, has worked tirelessly with the Women's Caucus uncovering a host of lesbian artists and photographers about whom she has written extensively and her photographic portraits of lesbian writers and artists are everywhere.
When my book about the lesbian cancer epidemic, Coming Out of Cancer, was published in 2000, I included Tee's story "Vibrator Party," about a woman reintegrating herself into the sexual world after a mastectomy. It was a groundbreaking story in a groundbreaking book about the struggles of lesbians and cancer.
In the years since Coming Out of Cancer was published, the epidemic has not receded. Last year it claimed Tee's partner of 17 years, Beverly Brown. And now Tee herself has been diagnosed with cancer of the bile ducts which has produced a 5.5 cm tumor in her liver.
Like many lesbians, Tee has limited health insurance and no savings. Artist Jean Sirius is currently caring for Tee at her home in the Oregon woods, but Tee needs more than the help of close and caring friends.
She needs money. Please send whatever you can--no amount is too small or insignificant.
Even if you aren't familiar with her work, you have benefited from Tee's artistry and iconoclasm over the years. Now the woman who fought so hard to put lesbian images on the map for us to find is in a fight for her life.
Please send checks made out to:
Tee A. Corinne, PO Box 278, Wolf Creek, OR 97497.

A website and blog have been set up to share information about her condition at http://jeansirius.com/TeeACorinne/tee_update.html.

9 April 2006

Mother Poetry Contest finalist - Charles Fishman

Remember! - there are only five weeks until Mother's Day on 14 May.

On Sunday 26 March, we were thrilled to announce Zara Raab as winner of our Mother Poetry Contest, for her poem, My Daughter Drives. Please read Zara's poem here.

Today, we are equally excited and proud to feature the work of Charles Fishman, one of the contest's finalists. Poems were voted for blinded by the Woman-Stirred judges and two poems entered by Charles were among our favourites. What It Was to Be Stone receives its debut publication here at Woman-Stirred.

War Story: 1942

I was too young to remember
the year of your heroic fall,
Mama, the strength of purpose
that possessed you when you lost
your footing on the stair but lifted
me above your head, a bundled flag
you would keep from the enemy's hands,
a live bomblet that might explode
upon contact with the planet.
The way you tell it, it took you
all morning to fall, as if you
had stumbled near the top of a glacier
—had slowly toppled, caught in a fugue
of gravity.
                                Later, you wept.
Your legs had taken the full weight
of your patriot's body: beautiful
Janet Gaynor legs, Lillian Russell
legs. Now you could count your losses:
what motherhood, what marriage had cost
you. Even now, in Florida, as you waltz
with my white-haired father, supported
by his sun-bathed arms, by the charm
of the dance and the music, you feel
the pain of that moment when you knew
I was safe and you could claim
your wounds.

© Charles Fishman

"War Story: 1942" first appeared in Laurel Review and was reprinted in Fishman's book The Firewalkers (Avisson Press, 1996), a limited edition collection that was in print for only a couple of months (but will be published in a new version by Time Being Books at some point between 2008 & 2010).

What It Was to Be Stone

Your mother wanted you to be
like her   and nearly obtained that:
tight   bitter   vengeful   empty,
she trained you to close up
to be fearful   wary   unmoved
                still: stone

Only by being still and silent
by encasing yourself in stone
could you keep safe. Her words—
poisoned arrows that sought
to dispatch you— fractured against
your coldest thoughts, against the ice
                of your resistance

Your mother wanted you dead,
so you could be hers completely
and snipped and cut to achieve that:
you would be her perfect child
her deceased and obedient daughter
with no will but her own— but
                  you were stone

You were stone and retained
your splendor. A universe opened
to receive you, and dreams burned
through strata of hardened snow
through the frozen undercrust
                of your spirit

Her anger   her acid rage   her cruel
attempts to demolish   could not
breach you, for you had escaped
into stone: you had become stone.
You had fallen into a cold sleep
                and awakened.

© Charles Fishman

Charles FishmanCharles Fishman created the Visiting Writers Program at the State University of New York at Farmingdale in 1979 and served as director until 1997. He also co-founded the Long Island Poetry Collective (1973) and was a founding editor of Xanadu magazine and Pleasure Dome Press (1975). Currently (since 1995), he is a poetry consultant to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, Poetry Editor of New Works Review, and Director of the Distinguished Speakers Program at Farmingdale State.

Charles Fishman’s poems, essays, reviews, and translations have appeared in more than 300 journals. A 52-page retrospective of his work is currently online at www.threecandles.org, as is a 22-poem selection of his poems on the Holocaust at www.thehypertexts.com. Charles has given more than 350 readings throughout the United States and in Israel. His many awards include a fellowship in poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA, 1995) and, most recently, the Long Island School of Poetry Award from the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association (2006). Charles lives with his wife, Ellen, near the Great South Bay, on Long Island.

His sixth booklength collection, Chopin’s Piano, was published by Time Being Books in February 2006. He is currently editing the revised second edition of Blood to Remember, which will be released by Time Being Books in 2007. To find out more, please visit www.charlesfishman.com.

Mother Poetry Contest submission guidelines and prize details
Read more about the international history of Mother's Days
Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation 1870

5 April 2006

Song for the Women Poets

I read and read Milton in college and graduate school, until I finally realized that somehow, I wasn't there, in Milton. I told this to my professor at Columbia, as we walked across the campus in the dusky evening. He stopped and faced me and waved his hands around my body (like a woman's shape) and said, "But your theory is so tentative, so weak."

As a young woman poet, I had been to a place that I couldn't find in the literary canon. A.E. Stallings shows me in her Song for Women Poets that she understands. She goes very far in this poem, and she comes back whole, with her hands full of goodness. Thank you, Alicia.

~ Mary

Song for the Women Poets appears in A.E. Stalling's new book, Hapax (Triquarterly, 2006), and is reproduced here with the poet's permission.

Song for the Women Poets

Sing, sing, because you can.
Descend in murk and pitch.
Double-talk the ferryman
And three-throated bitch.

Sing before the king and queen,
Make the grave to grieve,
Till Persephone weeps kerosene
And wipes it on her sleeve.

And she will grant you your one wish:
To fetch across a river
Black and sticky as licorice
The one you lost forever.

"Don't look back." But no one heeds.
You glance down in the water.
The image drowning in the weeds
Could be your phantom daughter.

And part of you leaves Tartarus,
But part stays there to dwell--
You who are both Orpheus
And She he left in Hell.

© A.E. Stallings

A.E. StallingsA. (Alicia) E. Stallings was born in 1968. She grew up in Decatur, GA, and studied classics at the University of Georgia and Oxford University. Her poetry has appeared in The Best American Poetry series (1994 & 2000) and has received numerous awards. Her first poetry collection, Archaic Smile, was awarded the 1999 Richard Wilbur Award. She composed the Latin lyrics for the opening music of the Paramount film, Sum of All Fears, and is completing work on a verse translation of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura for Penguin Classics.

A.E. Stallings resides in Athens, Greece with her husband, John Psaropoulos, editor of the Athens News, and their toddler Jason.

Merry in the Springtime

It really is almost spring in Vermont. The snow that fell earlier this week is melting and the Alice the c-a-t has that look in her eye, as if to say: get me OUTside now!

And spring is looking very good for Woman-Stirred Radio! Today, I interview Catie Curtis, the Boston-based folksinger and songwriter who really has something to say about life on this planet. Please set your browser to www.wgdr.org April 6th at 4:30 pm for a conversation with Catie Curtis. And as Julie R. Enszer points out, I will be playing Catie's music so tune in early.

Woman-Stirred Radio airs every Thursday, from 4 until 6 pm, on www.wgdr.org community radio for Vermont... and the rest of the world.

1 April 2006

Check out this list of the 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Novels

Agree? Disagree? Additions?

Triangle List of 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Novels

The Publishing Triangle's list of 100 best lesbian and gay novels were selected with the help of lesbian and gay writers Dorothy Allison, David Bergman, Christopher Bram, Michael Bronski, Samuel Delany, Lillian Faderman, Anthony Heilbut, M.E. Kerr, Jenifer Levin, John Loughery, Jaime Manrique, Mariana Romo-Carmona, Sarah Schulman, and Barbara Smith.

1. Mann, Thomas. Death in Venice
2. Baldwin, James. Giovanni's Room
3. Genet, Jean. Our Lady of the Flowers
4. Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past
5. Gide, Andre. The Immoralist
6. Woolf, Virginia. Orlando
7. Hall, Radclyffe. The Well of Loneliness
8. Puig, Manuel. Kiss of the Spider Woman
9. Yourcenar, Marguerite. The Memoirs of Hadrian
10. Lorde, Audre. Zami
11. Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray
12. Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood
13. Melville, Herman. Billy Budd
14. White, Edmund. A Boy's Own Story
15. Holleran, Andrew. Dancer from the Dance
16. Forster, E. M.. Maurice
17. Vidal, Gore. The City and the Pillar
18. Brown, Rita Mae. Rubyfruit Jungle
19. Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited
20. Mishima, Yukio. Confessions of a Mask
21. McCullers, Carson. The Member of the Wedding
22. Rechy, John. City of Night
23. Vidal, Gore. Myra Breckinridge
24. Miller, Isabel. Patience and Sarah
25. Stein, Gertrude. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
26. Capote, Truman. Other Voices, Other Rooms
27. James, Henry. The Bostonians
28. Bowles, Jane. Two Serious Ladies
29. Allison, Dorothy. Bastard Out of Carolina
30. McCullers, Carson. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
31. Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway
32. Renault, Mary. The Persian Boy
33. Isherwood, Christopher. A Single Man
34. Hollinghurst, Alan. The Swimming Pool Library
35. Bussy, Dorothy. Olivia
36. Highsmith, Patricia. The Price of Salt (Carol)
37. Anshaw, Carol. Aquamarine
38. Baldwin, James. Another Country
39. Colette. Cheri
40. James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw
41. Walker, Alice. The Color Purple
42. Lawrence, D. H.. Women in Love
43. Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women
44. Renault, Mary. The Friendly Young Ladies (The Middle Mist)
45. Musil, Robert. Young Torless
46. Purdy, James Purdy. Eustace Chisholm and the Works
47. Andrews, Terry. The Story of Harold
48. Burns, John Horne. The Gallery
49. Arnold, June. Sister Gin
50. Bartlett, Neil. Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall
51. Bram, Christopher. Father of Frankenstein
52. Burroughs, William. Naked Lunch
53. Isherwood, Christopher. The Berlin Stories
54. Tyler, Charles Henri Ford and Parker. The Young and Evil
55. Winterson, Jeanette. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
56. Kenan, Randall. A Visitation of Spirits
57. Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives
58. Firbank, Ronald. Concerning the Eccentricities of Cardinal Pirelli
59. Schulman, Sarah. Rat Bohemia
60. Nabokov, Vladimir. Pale Fire
61. Gide, Andr . The Counterfeiters
62. Winterson, Jeanette. The Passion
63. Harris, Bertha. Lover
64. Melville, Herman. Moby Dick
65. Leduc, Violette. La Batarde
66. Cather, Willa. Death Comes for the Archbishop
67. Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird
68. Petronious. The Satyricon
69. Durrell, Lawrence. The Alexandria Quartet
70. Peyrefitte, Roger. Special Friendships
71. Sinclair, Jo. The Changelings
72. Lima, Jose Lezama. Paradiso
73. Rosenthal, Irving. Sheeper
74. Wittig, Monique. Les Guerilleres
75. Winsloe, Christa. The Child Manuela (Madchen in Uniform)
76. Merlis, Mark. An Arrow's Flight
77. Talsman, William. The Gaudy Image
78. Chester, Alfred. The Exquisite Corpse
79. Rymen, Geoff. Was
80. Leduc, Violette. Therese and Isabelle
81. Tournier, Michel. Gemini
82. White, Edmund. The Beautiful Room Is Empty
83. Brown, Rebecca. The Children's Crusade
84. Toibin, Colm. The Story of the Night
85. Cocteau, Jean. The Holy Terrors (Les Enfants Terribles)
86. Donoso, Jos . Hell Has No Limits
87. Nachman, Elana (Dykewomon). Riverfinger Women
88. Spanbauer, Tom. The Man Who Fell in Love with the Moon
89. Cooper, Dennis. Closer
90. Balzac, Honore de. Lost Illusions
91. Jolley, Elizabeth. Miss Peabody's Inheritance
92. Pinera, Virgilio. Rene's Flesh
93. Selvadurai, Shyam. Funny Boy
94. Sinclair, Jo. Wasteland
95. Sarton, May. Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing
96. Russell, Paul. Sea of Tranquillity
97. Woodson, Jacqueline. Autobiography of a Family Photo
98. DeLynn, Jane. In Thrall
99. Russ, Joanna. On Strike Against God
100. Millett, Kate. Sita