31 December 2006

New Year by MK Chavez

In my dream, birds fly
while bricks are being flung
into the air.
I hold out my hand
and a bird lands
on my fingertips.
I swoon
with the glorious feeling
of being seen.

But now, I’m awake.
Outside the gray sky
is cleaning the dirty street.
Rain drops are hitting
the steel metal
of a garbage can,
another year begins.
Eight AM and awake.
The storm is calming.
No hang over, a clean start.

MK Chavez writes and performs poetry in the San Francisco Bay Area. She writes about strippers, love, love’s aftermath, the beauty that can be found in ugliness, the mystery of feeling bad about feeling good, situs inversus, and other conundrums. "New Year" was first published in What I Want from You from RAW ArT PRESS. For a copy, e-mail Trena Machado, the owner of RAW ArT PRESS at Trena@rawartpress.com.

The Melon-Carts Have Overturned: A Collection of Chinese Wu Songs by Linda Zeiser

A second book from RAW ArT PRESS has been sitting on my night stand. The Melon-Carts Have Overturned by Linda Zeiser is a collection of Chinese Wu Songs. Wu Songs are a form of writing from China in four lines. They consist of long songs, work songs, and folk songs. Linda Zeiser has written over 300 of them in total and she has gathered 100 of them in this book, The Melon-Carts Have Overturned.

What is exciting about the book is the way that the Wu Songs work with the ten photographs that unfold in the book. The photographs themselves tell a story of the impact of Chinese food, design, and culture. Reproduced extremely well in black and white, the photographs both illuminate and expand the Wu Songs. In addition to visual images, this book employs a dialogue between Zeiser as the author of the Wu Songs and Trena Machado, another writer and friend, who contributes eighteen commentary pieces to the collection. Each of the commentaries are in response to a particular Wu Song. While they begin with the words and experiences that Zeiser evokes in the Wu Songs, they are in and of themselves prose poems interpreting and expanding the Wu Songs themselves. For instance, Zeiser writes this Wu Song:

Before the dawn, the shadow came
and offered me eternity.
I slipped between the Milky Way
this kiss, my final destiny.

And Machado in part writes of it, “Out of this crystalline amnesia at the base of our souls, we can make a choice to be born, take our steps and create the world. But. . .we have to break free, a thiefly/tricksterly act of spontaneity releasing ourselves from eternity’s sleep to be fully here in the world.” The dialogue between the two writers in the collaboration is intriguing and important. For me, the greatest gift is to have someone reading and responding closely to the work and Machado is doing that with Zeiser’s Wu Songs.

Of the Wu Songs themselves, Zeiser indicates in the introduction that she wrote them at a time when she and a partner were separating “after a long marriage and these songs were my solace.” I was drawn to the Wu Songs that directly addressed this narrative including this one:

My sole contentment was in you,
my fire, my rain were in your hands.
Small pewter frame still holds your face,
past life and death and reckless loves.

There are 98 other Wu Songs in The Melon-Carts Have Overturned. Besides the poems themselves working with the form of the Wu Song, the book is lovely interaction between the verbal and the visual and an important dialogue between writers. Spending some time with the book is gratifying and worthwhile.


The Melon-Carts Have Overturned by Linda Zeiser is published by RAW ArT PRESS. To order a copy, e-mail Trena Machado, the owner of RAW ArT PRESS at Trena@rawartpress.com. The book sells for $10.

30 December 2006

New Anthology of Lesbian Poets

I just completed a semester of graduate school. One of my commitments in school is to use the opportunities for writing and scholarship to do things that move forward analysis and documentation of lesbian writing. I spent a lot of time this semester with two ovular texts of lesbian writing, Amazon Poetry and Lesbian Poetry. Both of those anthologies are now out of print, so if you see one, buy it, for yourself or for me - just email me and I’ll reimburse you the cost of the book and the postage to ship it to me. Amazon Poetry was published in 1975 and is the first anthology of lesbian poetry as a part of the second wave of feminism. Lesbian Poetry, published six years later, was greatly expanded, weighing in at more than three hundred pages and including more poets and more poems. I adore both of these books and love thinking about what it was like for women to find these books and hold them in their hands when they were first published. I remember my own excitement, years later, the first time I read lesbian poetry. These projects sustain us.

After the work of my semester, I was thrilled to receive in the mail from Jan Steckel, my Woman-Stirred colleague, the new anthology, What I Want from You. This anthology, subtitled Voices of East Bay Lesbian Poets and edited by Linda Zeiser and Trena Machado, is like a contemporary volume of Lesbian Poetry. We need it in the same ways. We need to find our voices and our lives on the pages of books. We need our lesbian beings to be found in poetry. We need books that gather together the lesbian writers working today so that we can appreciate their work and find their work in other places.

What I Want from You contains the work of over forty poets living and working in the East Bay area of northern California. The first poem is by beloved lesbian poet Judy Grahn, who I learned has a new collection titled “love belongs to those who do the feeling” which is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. If you are like me, your hands are already itching to hold Grahn’s new book.

Elana Dykewomon provides the foreword to What I Want from You. She writes,

Wild women thrive in your hometowns, wanting. Oh, do they ever. Driven mad by lust, turned sane by necessity, lesbians who managed to survive childhood abuse, teenage rape, bad marriages, cancer, suicide attempts, broken hearts, academia and social services gather in their exuberance with fistfuls of language. But surviving was only our first political act. Now we are creators and we want you to listen.

There are many great poems to read and listen to in this collection. I won’t tell you my favorites because I want you to discover your own favorites, but please do. Please pick up this book and delight in our contemporary poetry. Our lesbian words matter.


Want to get your hands on a copy of What I Want from You? The book is published by RAW ArT PRESS and according to Jan, the best way to get a copy is to e-mail Trena Machado, the owner of RAW ArT PRESS at Trena@rawartpress.com. The book sells for $14. Order a copy. You’ll be supporting a small press committed to publishing lesbian writing and you’ll get a great collection of poetry. Isn’t it great when two cool things like that happen simultaneously?

6 December 2006

Alison Bechdel is Woman-Stirred!!


Please join Woman-Stirred Radio this Thursday, December 7th for a live interview with Alison Bechdel, the creator of Dykes to Watch Out For.

Bechdel's new book, Fun Home (Houghton Mifflin), is an intricate memoir of her childhood in rural Beech Creek, Pennsylvania. Fun Home is a narrative layered with observation, insight, and humor.

So join Merry Gangemi on Woman-Stirred Radio, this Thursday, December 7th for a conversation with Alison Bechdel. Interview begins at 4:30 (EST). Tune in to WGDR 91.1 fm or listen online WGDR.

5 December 2006

Women-Stirred: Sharing Our Lives

When Julie first suggested that the women of Woman-Stirred post photos of ourselves with partners, there was some discussion around the words we use to describe the loved ones who share our lives. Of course, we may use very different words in private and in public (don't worry, everybody - I'm not about to give too much away here!)

Language doesn't always express the significance of a relationship when introducing a partner in public, so thank goodness language invites reinvention, and also leaves space for each of us to embrace individual interpretations. We love our commonalities and our differences within Woman-Stirred, and we like to celebrate them. This is why the partner photo gallery has been split between two posts.

It may be because we're British. There could be any number of reasons. But Andrea and I knew we would never feel comfortable identifying each other as a beloved. Two women of Woman-Stirred and their beloveds can be found in an earlier post, and all four are totally cute. However, I'm a bit more rough-and-ready about this naming of relationships (in public, at least), so ...

Here's me - Nicki - with my partner, Andrea

Nicki & Andrea
click on the photo for a different view

And good enough to join me, so that we weren't all alone ...

Here's Merry with her partner, Elizabeth

Merry & Elizabeth
click on the photo for a different view

My Beloved Billy

Beloved lost life
Beloved lost sister
Beloved lost puppy
Beloved found Billy
brought me back to life.

Mary and Billy in Massachusetts in 1985

2 December 2006

First Class Comment Courtesy of Julie R. Enszer

Woman-Stirred is totally proud of our very own Julie R. Enszer for hitting the big time as a fully on-the-button, highly articulate political commentator. Terrific, she is! This was certainly our considered opinion on Julie's performance following her radio interview with C. S Soong of Against the Grain on KPFA 94.1fm (22 November 2006). Replay the interview as an mp3 file here.

Julie was speaking about her article, The end of marriage? which had appeared in the Washington Blade earlier in the month. This was also picked up by AlterNet.

Taking this even further, Julie thrilled us all with an op-ed in the Baltimore Sun yesterday, entitled Gay couples hope holidays bring gift of marriage rights.

Go Julie! Your ability to mix personal anecdote with intelligently presented fact is first class. You are truly advancing the cause of equal rights. Thank you from all at Woman-Stirred.

Queer Journals Coming and Going

All of the women at Woman-Stirred were sad to learn that Lodestar Quarterly has suspended publication. Here is the email from the editor:

Lodestar Quarterly has decided to stop publishing for the time being -- an indefinite hiatus as a result of much personal and financial turmoil in the last year.
We are saddened, of course, but we do hope to publish again, though we simply cannot give any accurate timetable for our return. When we do, we hope to be better than ever, and we hope, too, that you will submit your work to us again.
Thank you so much for reading. It's been a wonderful five years.
Patrick Ryan

As one journal suspends its publication, another debuts. Subterraneans: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Writing published their first issue online. Published by veteran Angela Brown, this journal promises to be another important venue for queer writers. Brown writes in her letter in the first issue:

Welcome to Subterraneans: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Writing. I started this site because there are far too few places for us to publish—nonfiction, fiction, poetry, you name it—these days, and I wanted to change that. Well, turns out the people who have contributed to this first issue have changed me. After all my years in gay and lesbian publishing, honestly, I didn’t expect that.

We all look forward to watching as Subterraneans develops. Read the debut issue today and look for my article, “The Queer Blogosphere,” in the next issue scheduled for February 2007.