NOT BY THE BOOK

Women’s Studies


Vol.57 Issue 04

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A plurality that cannot be integrated into unity is chaos; unity unrelated to plurality is tyranny.
Blaise Pascal

 

EDITOR’S NOTE
Minna Proctor

Women’s Studies when I was in college was a fairly straightforward, interdepartmental major that, at my school, emphasized continental literary theory and its blunter-edged cousin, identity politics, as well as (interestingly enough) health care from a social-historical perspective. Other colleges, like the one I briefly wanted to transfer to in sophomore year, folded women’s studies into the cultural theory departments—like film crit and pop culture. Across town in one direction, Mary Daly was teaching feminist theology—a radicalized approach that seemed to rely a great deal on genderizing the Godhead. A couple of miles north, Carol Gilligan was studying psychological development and reconceptionalizing the idea of gender inequality into theories of difference. It was a brilliant moment in academia. Naomi Wolf was thinking about Barbie and the Beauty Myth, Jean Kilbourne’s documentary Killing Us Softly was showing us the shackles in the mascara ads. My stepmother, a musicologist, was giving papers on the sonata as a feminine form. And linguists at Berkeley were running speech pattern analyses to demonstrate that women had submissive behavior built into their syntax—you know, that inability to just assert something without intimating a need for approval, or seconding? Everything women said ended with a real or implied question mark, didn’t it.

It was in so many respects a thrilling time for feminism—brainy, creative, political, well funded, totally engaged. Second-wave was giving way to third-wave and post-structural feminism. People were debating language and action, history and policy. Camille Paglia, the Joan Rivers of feminist theory, filled to capacity our 500-seat theater in Alumnae Hall. And we were feverish with excitement. We cheered her for talking sense about shoulder pads and lipstick and booed when she was glib and dismissive about problematics we had dedicated entire semesters to analyzing. Everyone walked away with a debatable opinion. She might have been half wrong about almost everything, but she said it loudly enough so that everyone heard her. It was ballsy; she made celebrity into a feminist issue. Really, once you allowed that gender dynamics permeated everything, you could argue, interpret, and justifiably study anything. I, for example, incorporated all of my women’s studies into a frame-by-frame analysis of Michelangelo Antonioni’s films—the ones with Monica Vitti.

Over the last few years, feminism has taken another shift—or rather, churned itself forward into new arenas. There is a great deal of community building facilitated by social media, which seems like a low-commitment, high-yield strategy for action, and to some lesser extent, maybe it’s an action itself. There is a new polemic around the word “rape.” There is a sea change in the world of gender identity, lines being blurred and/or politicized in a way that was embryonic only a generation ago—and this momentum is introducing fascinating new variables and nuances into all brands of equality theory. And lastly, there is a formidable new force for clarity and change in the unsexy field of statistics.

Later in her career, the groundbreaking feminist Betty Freidan somewhat controversially turned her attentions toward building institutional support. Her advocacy turned extremely practicable, and she became interested in day care and family flextime. These battles must have seemed so mundane after having won the war against the housewife’s suicidal contagion, “the problem that has no name.” And yet she was prescient. According to the American Association of University Women, the most tangible demonstration of residual gender inequity (in the US) lies in a statistical gender wage gap that grows prominently during the years that women have babies and parent small children. Notably, the Wellesley Centers for Women take pains to include full-time fathers in their research on work-family balance in labor law. When I heard that last point brought up in a presentation last spring, I realized the remarkable capacity that hard data has to introduce nuance into a sledge-hammer issue.

Data was in fact the inspiration behind pulling together a themed issue on women’s studies. For years it hasn’t seemed interesting or pertinent to think about feminism broadly. Everything, to me, has seemed too resolved, too quirky, or too much about personal agency—not a movement—fallow ground. But data forced the subject up through the soil. From spreadsheet surveys of women’s presence in literary magazines to new research on breast cancer prevention: statistics, hard data, gorgeous immutable information. Information that determines ideas, rather than vice versa. What would those ideas be? Anything like what we used to think? I’m no good with numbers, but I did suddenly want to know what women’s studies might be about now that twenty years have passed since its heyday. And that is the theme this issue meditates on. This was an agenda-less issue. The work included here is entirely exploratory, wildly diverse, gleefully inconclusive. Think of it as a straw poll.

Nuance is typically the province of literature. But I’ve come to understand, in thinking about where feminism was and where it is, that numbers are encroaching on the exclusive claim to subtlety.

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

FICTION
Kelly Cherry
Famousness

Valerie Sayers
The Last Days of Peace and Love

Karen Wunsch
The Super’s Son

Christine Rice
Exacting Revenge

Katherine Hill
Scarlett

Paula Bomer
A Private Revolution

 

POETRY
Priscilla Becker
the smell of the future
dr hegy’s magic table
one day in winter

Claudia Keelan
In the Primer of Primary Things
In the Primer of Sorrowful Things

Anna Swir
Night Watch
Forgot About His Mother
Only Sand Survived
A Girl Scout’s Dream
Translated from Polish by Piotr Florczyk

Sophie Summertown Grimes
Manmade Shapes
Describing the Texture of Dreams to You
I Am Not a Photographer

Brenda Shaughnessy
But I’m the Only One

Kelly Forsythe
Espresso

Rusty Morrison
Throw Fallacy

Alejandra Pizarnik
The Only Wound
Exile
Only a Love
I Am . . .
Immobile Dance
Translated from Spanish by Yvette Siegert

Lisa Hiton
Reaction Wood

Natalie Shapero
Monster
Beauty School

Jillian Weise
Cathedral by Raymond Carver

Paisley Rekdal
Once
William Farquhar’s Natural History Paintings: 
Malay Peninsula, 1803–1818

Matthew Cooperman
Bouquet

Nickole Brown
Crisco

Kathleen Jesme
[If the rain is everywhere]
[Down the street there is no]

Katy Lederer
Love
Mortalism

 

ESSAY
Anzhelina Polonskaya
Sylvia Plath’s Room
Translated from Russian by Andrew Wachtel

Justin Mundhenk
River Get Down

Jonathan Cohen
Introducing Waldeen’s Neruda

Diane Mehta
Remember You Must Die

 

INTERVIEW
Morgan Parker
Interview with Eileen Myles

 

BOOKS
Darcey Steinke
Sister Golden Hair
Reviewed by Jena Salon

 

CONTRIBUTORS

Priscilla Becker’s personal and poetic style are indistinguishable—spare & abstract, non-linear, unsentimental, like a lonesome antelope.
[spare: poetic—few words, no adjectives
spare: personal—few accessories, no decoration
abstract: poetic—independent of concrete reference
abstract: personal—independent of visual reference
non-linear: poetic—no story
non-linear: personal—color coherence but incoherent patterns—as though the torso & lower body have parted ways
unsentimental: poetic—emotionally non-manipulative
unsentimental: personal—proportionate & critical]

(Priscilla Becker is a previous contributor to TLR: The Rat’s Nest.)

Paula Bomer is the author of Inside Madeleine, Nine Months, and Baby and Other Stories. Her novella, Inside Madeleine first appeared in The Long Issue (TLR, Fall 2012). We also featured her story Breasts online.

Nickole Brown was the editorial assistant for the late Hunter S. Thompson. Her first collection is Sister, and Fanny Says is forthcoming from BOA. Currently, she teaches at University of Arkansas–Little Rock and is the editor for the Marie Alexander Series in Prose Poetry.

Kelly Cherry is the author of twenty-two full-length books, nine chapbooks, and two translations of classical drama. Her most recent title is A Kind of Dream, a collection of linked stories, selected as a Best Indie book. A Kelly Cherry Reader is forthcoming. She is a frequent contributor to TLR in Manifest Destiny, The Rat’s Nest, and How To Read Music.

Jonathan Cohen’s latest book is his edition of William Carlos Williams’s translations, By Word of Mouth: Poems from the Spanish, 1916–1959. He is the author of the first and only major biography of poet-feminist Muna Lee, A Pan-American Life.

Matthew Cooperman is author of the text and image collaboration Imago for the Fallen World (with Marius Lehene), Still: of the Earth as the Ark which Does Not Move, DaZE, and A Sacrificial Zinc—winner of the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize—as well as three chapbooks. A founding editor of Quarter After Eight and co-poetry editor of Colorado Review, he teaches in the creative writing program at Colorado State University. He lives in Fort Collins with his wife, the poet Aby Kaupang, and their two children.

Piotr Florczyk is a poet, essayist, and translator of six volumes of Polish poetry, including The World Shared: Poems by Dariusz Sośnicki (co-translated with Boris Dralyuk) and The Day He’s Gone: Poems 1990–2013 by Paweł Marcinkiewicz. He lives in Santa Monica.

Kelly Forsythe is currently living and writing in Washington, DC. Her poetry has appeared in American Poet, Columbia Poetry Review, the Minnesota Review, and elsewhere. Her book reviews have appeared in The Huffington Post and the LA Review. She is the director of publicity for Copper Canyon Press and teaches at the University of Maryland.

Sophie Summertown Grimes has had poems published in Spoon River Poetry Review and AGNI Online. Author of the chapbook City Structures, she lives and works in Oberlin, Ohio, and writes poetry reviews for Publishers Weekly.

Katherine Hill is the author of The Violet Hour, a novel. Her fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in Bookforum, Colorado Review, the Guardian, and n+1, among others. She teaches fiction in the MFA program at Arcadia University and is an assistant editor at Barrelhouse.

Lisa Hiton’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Linebreak, THRUSH Journal, and the Cortland Review, among others. She has received the Esther B. Kahn Scholarship from 24Pearl Street at the Fine Arts Work Center and is a Pushcart nominee.

Kathleen Jesme’s latest collection of poems is Albedo. She is the author of four other collections of poems, including Meridian and The Plum-Stone Game.

Claudia Keelan’s sixth book of poems O, Heart, was published this year. A book of translations, Truth of My Songs: Poems of the Trobairitz, is forthcoming in spring 2015 from Omnidawn.

Katy Lederer is the author of the poetry collections Winter Sex and The Heaven-Sent Leaf, as well as of the family memoir Poker Face: A Girlhood Among Gamblers. “Love” and “Mortalism” are from a new collection titled The Engineers.

Diane Mehta’s poems, essays, interviews, and articles have appeared in Slate, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, The Believer, BOMB, and many other publications. She lives with her son in Brooklyn and is writing a novel about mixed-race parents in 1946 Indiana.

Rusty Morrison’s new letterpress, limited edition chapbook from speCt! is Reclamation Project. Her books include Beyond the Chainlink, Book of the Given, After Urgency (which won the Dorset Prize), the true keeps calm biding its story (which won the Sawtooth Prize, the Academy of American Poet’s James Laughlin Award, the Northern California Book Award, and the DiCastagnola Award from Poetry Society of America), and Whethering (which won the Colorado Prize for Poetry). She is the co-publisher of Omnidawn.

Justin Mundhenk lives in Ohio with his wife. His fiction has appeared online with Granta. He is at work on a novel.

Pablo Neruda (1904–1973), widely considered one of the greatest Latin American poets of the twentieth century, received the 1971 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Morgan Parker is the author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night, selected by Eileen Myles for the 2013 Gatewood Prize, and There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé. A Cave Canem fellow and poetry editor for Coconut Magazine, she lives in Brooklyn.

Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972) was a leading voice in twentieth-century Latin American poetry. Born in Argentina to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Pizarnik studied at the University of Buenos Aires and the Sorbonne. Known primarily as a poet, Pizarnik also published reviews, translations, theatre, and short works of experimental prose, and left behind a literary diary that reflects her debt to Kafka, Artaud, and Michaux. She died of an apparent drug overdose at the age of thirty-six.

Anzhelina Polonskaya has been a member of the Moscow Union of Writers and the Russian PEN-centre. She has published translations in World Literature Today, Descant, Modern Poetry in Translation, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, New England Review, and The Kenyon Review, among many others. In 2013, Paul Klee’s Boat, a bilingual edition of her latest poems, was shortlisted for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award and for the 2014 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. Polonskaya continues to live and work in Malakhovka as a poetry editor for Russian Switzerland magazine.

Paisley Rekdal is the author of a book of essays, The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee;  a photo-text memoir that combines poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and photography entitled Intimate; and four books of poetry: A Crash of Rhinos, Six Girls Without Pants, The Invention of the Kaleidoscope, and Animal Eye, which won the UNT Rilke Prize. Her work has received the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a NEA Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, a Fulbright Fellowship, and various state arts council awards.

Christine Rice’s novel, Swarm Theory, was shortlisted in the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. Her stories have appeared in Rusted Radishes, Bird’s Thumb, the Chicago Tribune, Detroit’s Metro Times, and The Good Men Project, and her radio essays have been produced by WBEZ Chicago. She’s a ChicagoNow blogger, the managing editor of Hypertext Magazine, and director of Chicago’s HYPERTEXT Studio writing collaborative.

Jena Salon is the senior editor of The Literary Review and outreach and communications coordinator at Domestic Violence Services Network.

Valerie Sayers is the author of six novels, including The Powers. Her many stories, essays, and reviews are published widely. She is professor of English at Notre Dame.

Natalie Shapero is the author of No Object, and her writing has appeared in The Believer, New Republic, The New Yorker, POETRY, The Progressive, and elsewhere. She lives in Columbus, Ohio and works as associate editor of the Kenyon Review.

Brenda Shaughnessy is the author of three collections: Our Andromeda, Human Dark with Sugar, and Interior with Sudden Joy. Her poems appeared in Best American Poetry, Harpers, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. A 2013 Guggenheim Fellow, she teaches at Rutgers University–Newark and lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Yvette Siegert’s poetry and translations have appeared in Circumference, Guernica, Chelsea, Stonecutter, and Aufgabe. She has edited for The New Yorker and the United Nations, and taught at Columbia University and Baruch College of the City University of New York. She received a PEN Heim/NYSCA Grant and a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for her translations of the collected works of Alejandra Pizarnik.

Born in 1909 in Warsaw, Poland, Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska) is widely considered one of Poland’s most distinguished poets. Profoundly marked by World War II, especially the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, during which she volunteered as a nurse, Swir explores in her poems the joys and horrors of human nature and the female body. She died in Kraków in 1984.

Andrew Wachtel is president of the American University of Central Asia in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Previously he was dean of the graduate school and director of the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies at Northwestern University. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, his interests range from Russian literature and culture to East European and Balkan culture, history and politics to contemporary Central Asia. His most recent published books are The Balkans in World History, Russian Literature (with Ilya Vinitsky), and Remaining Relevant After Communism: The Role of the Writer in Eastern Europe. He has translated poetry and prose from Russian, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Bulgarian, and Slovenian. Currently he is working on a project relating to cultural nationalism in Central Asia, particularly Kyrgyzstan.

Waldeen’s previously published Neruda translations appear in his Let the Rail Splitter Awake and Other Poems.

Jillian Weise is the author of The Amputee’s Guide to Sex, The Colony, and The Book of Goodbyes, which won the 2013 Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets. She teaches at Clemson University.

Karen Wunsch’s stories and essays have appeared in the Beloit Fiction Journal, Hotel Amerika, Epoch, Ascent, Confrontation, Willow Springs, and many other publications. A recent essay was selected as a Notable Essay of the Year in Best American Essays 2014.

 

IN MEMORIUM

We regret that Lane Dunlop, a TLR advisory editor for close to three decades, died on August 31, 2014 in New York at the age of 76. His specialty was translating Japanese fiction, contributing a number of stories to this magazine between 1980 and 2002. He also served as guest editor of the Winter 1996 issue (Vol. 39:2) devoted to English versions of Japanese writing.

Lane’s translation of A Late Chrysanthemum won the Japan-United States Friendship Award for Literary Translation. In 1997 the American Academy of Arts and Letters presented him with an Academy Award in Literature, praising the “assertive mastery that is evident not only in his fluent translations but also in his choices of texts.”  Other books include The Paper Door and Other Stories, Palm of the Hand Stories, Autumn Wind, the novellas During the Rains and Flowers in the Shade, and the novel Floating Clouds.

After his graduation from Yale in 1957, Lane began his literary career as a translator of works in French, then studied Japanese and turned to concentrating on pre-1960’s Japanese literature. We considered that time period suited to his sensibility because his contributions arrived on pages from a manual typewriter and our exchanges were always by post because he did not have email.

We are thankful for Lane’s long association with TLR and for his ability to make important Japanese writing available to English readers.

-Walter Cummins