Thursday, January 27, 2011

Feb 4: Walking Poem Against Censorship in DC

SAYING IT: A Walking Poem Against Censorship
Friday, Feb 4th from 4 to 6pm in DC

JOIN US for a march & speak-out
against the silencing of voices that want & need to be heard
and a celebration of voices, of our voices, of your voices.

4PM GATHER outside Marriott Wardman Park Hotel,
meet on corner of Connecticut Ave/Woodley Road NW.
Bring signs, texts, images, costumes!

MARCH on Connecticut Ave
to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Monument at M Street NW for
SPEAK-OUT, reading, breaking of silences.

Belladonna* Collaborative
for more info contact:
or visit Belladonna* at Table X, AWP bookfair

Explanation As Composition: Collaborative Social Writing Event

, PART 3

30 January 2011 | 1-4 p.m.
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE)
6522 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA

Come see live writers writing live! Explanation as Composition, an experiment in narrative, begins with a collaborative social writing event in which fifteen writers will use materials in and around LACE to create texts for audio tours of the LACE exhibition space. Explanation as Composition is a project by U.N.F.O. (Unauthorized Narrative Freedom Organization), an unofficial and temporary coalition of five writers, including Amanda Ackerman, Harold Abramowitz, Kate Durbin, Sarah Shun-lien Bynum and Teresa Carmody. Event writer collaborators: Aimee Bender, Allison Carter, Mark Z. Danielewski, Carribean Fragoza, Veronica Gonzalez, Janice Lee, Harryette Mullen, Janet Sarbanes, Anna Joy Springer, and Stephen Van Dyck.

Harold Abramowitz is a writer and editor from Los Angeles. His recent publications include Not Blessed (Les Figues Press), House on a Hill, Part 3 (Slash Pine Press), and House on a Hill, Part 1 (Insert Press, Parrot Series #2). Harold co-edits the short-form literary press eohippus labs. He also writes and edits as part of the collaborative projects SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMSUNFO. and

Amanda Ackerman lives in Los Angeles where she writes and teaches. She is co-editor of the press eohippus labs. She is also a member of UNFO (The Unauthorized Narrative Freedom Organization) and writes as part of SAM OR SAMANTHA YAMS. Her publications include three chapbooks: Sin is to Celebration (co-author, House Press), the recently-released The Seasons Cemented (Hex Presse), and the forthcoming I Fell in Love with a Monster Truck (Insert Press). Her work can also be found in the current edition of Little Red Leaves and The Encyclopedia Project: Volume F-K.

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum is the author of two novels, Ms. Hempel Chronicles, a finalist for the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award, and Madeleine Is Sleeping, a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award and winner of the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize. Her fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including the New Yorker, Tin House, the Georgia Review, and the Best American Short Stories 2004 and 2009. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and an NEA Fellowship, she directs the MFA program in writing at the University of California, San Diego. She lives in Los Angeles and was recently named one of “20 Under 40” fiction writers by the New Yorker.

Teresa Carmody is a writer and co-founding director of Les Figues Press. Her works include Requiem (Les Figues), Eye Hole Adore (PS Books) and Your Spiritual Suit of Armor by Katherine Anne (Woodland Editions). The chapbook I Can Feel is forthcoming (Insert Press). Her work appeared in the 2009 &Now Awards: Best of Innovative Writing, and in several literary journals, including: Mandorla, Bombay Gin, Drunken Boat, Luvina, emohippus greeting cards 1-4 and more. She was one of the organizers of the original Ladyfest in Olympia, Washington, and co-organizer of Feminaissance, a colloquium on women, experiments and writing at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

Kate Durbin is a Los Angeles-based writer and performance artist. She is the author of the poetry collections The Ravenous Audience (Akashic Books) and, with Amaranth Borsuk, Excess Exhibit, forthcoming from ZG Press. She has written several chapbooks including Fragments Found in a 1937 Aviator’s Boot (Dancing Girl Press), FASHIONWHORE (Legacy Pictures), The Polished You, as part of Vanessa Place’s Factory Series (oodpress, 2010), and Kept Women, forthcoming from Insert Press. She is founding editor of the journal Gaga Stigmata: Critical Writings and Art About Lady Gaga. Her fashion / text project, Prices Upon Request, can be viewed at ZG Press‘s website. She writes about celebrity style for


Aimee Bender is the author of four books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, An Invisible Sign of My Own, Willful Creatures, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which recently won the SCIBA award for best fiction. She teaches creative writing at USC.

Allison Carter is the author of a book, A Fixed, Formal Arrangement, and two chapbooks: Shadows Are Weather and All Bodies Are The Same and They Have The Same Reactions.

Mark Z. Danielewski is the author of four books: House of Leaves, The Whalestoe Letters, The Fifty Year Sword, and Only Revolutions, which was a 2006 National Book Award finalist.

Carribean Fragoza is an interdisciplinary writer and visual artist living and working in Los Angeles and in her hometown, South El Monte. She is a graduate of UCLA and CalArts’ MFA Writing Program. She is currently working on several book projects, is founder of El Monte Arts Collective (aka, the El Monte Art Posse) and teaches writing at CalState University, Long Beach. She has published her work in publications such as Palabra Literary Magazine and Emohippus.

Veronica Gonzalez is the coeditor of Juncture: 25 Very Good Stories and 12 Excellent Drawings and the founder of rockypoint Press, a series of artist-writer collaborations, including books, prints, postcards and a reading series. twin time, her first novel, won her the 2007 Premio Aztlán Literary Prize and was voted best novel of 2007 by Eileen Myles in The Believer book awards

Janice Lee is a writer, artist, editor, and curator. She is the author of KEROTAKIS, a multidisciplinary exploration of cyborgs, brains, and the stakes of consciousness. Her second book, Daughter, is forthcoming in 2011.

Harryette Mullen is the author of Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, Muse & Drudge, Blues Baby, Sleeping with the Dictionary and Recyclopedia. She teaches American poetry, African-American literature and creative writing at UCLA.

Janet Sarbanes is the author of the story collection Army of One and is currently completing a novel titled This Land: The Adventures of the President’s Daughter. She teaches fiction and narrative in the MFA Writing Program at CalArts, and cultural studies in the School of Critical Studies.

Anna Joy Springer is author of the illustrated novella The Birdwisher, and two forthcoming works: The Vicious Red Relic, Love, a fabulist memoir, and In An Egg, a graphic narrative. Formerly a singer in the Bay Area bands, Blatz, The Gr’ups, and Cypher in the Snow, she currently teaches creative writing at UCSD.

Stephen van Dyck is a writer and curator. He is currently complete his first book, People I’ve Met from the Internet, a conceptual writing project, coming out story and field study in the form of a very long annotated list.

Not Content Part 3, as part of Les Figues’ residency at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Feminaissance Blog Project: Tisa Byrant

A Light to See By: A Credibly Rough Response to Wanda Coleman’s “Striving to Be a Man: Gender-Altering Forces in Post-Feminist America”
Tisa Bryant

After reading Wanda Coleman’s essay, “Striving to Be a Man,” in Feminaissance, my initial response was, “Samo, samo.” Then I felt like I had to “do” something about my response, otherwise, what could I say? What could be said? The main point of Wanda Coleman’s essay is that in forty years, nothing of her life on earth as a professional writer, mother, worker, woman, has fundamentally changed because of feminism; in fact, her reception as a valuable and viable human being in a world of white power, especially that wielded by self-proclaimed feminists, is worse now that she’s an older Black woman than when she was a young one.

Yet I want, I need to see some other truth, to peek into the twenty-year interstices between Ms. Coleman and myself. Perhaps that’s the still-lingering arrogance of youth. Somehow my generation must be different, that we’ve done something with our cultural inheritance of civil rights and all kinds of feminism, so that when I am Ms. Coleman’s age, it will be impossible to say that my life has not fundamentally been changed by feminism. Such an outcome depends on my doggedly seeing myself as different from Ms. Coleman, not the same: the depths of our common denominators as black women writers who will age, will have to be overlooked. I’ll have to stick to surfaces and wear the mask of change. It’s a rebellious, daughterly impulse, in this feminist genealogy, to tell Mama that she’s wrong, that things have changed, everything is different now. It is just plain denial, really, because I agreed with Ms. Coleman immediately, and something else, responsibility, rage, that she is right. (Did some woman do for me what she would not do for someone else like Ms Coleman? Why?)

Wanda Coleman’s essay chronicles the failure of feminism to change Black women’s lives, and that failure occurred in my lifetime, from my birth to this present moment. I once wrote a line about younger generations “riding the whip of the ones up front,” I can see where I’m headed because I can see the generations in front of me, still navigating around or maybe managing to retire (and live well, with healthcare and food) from inequitable pay for equal work, inequitable access to jobs, advancement, tenure, adventures of the intellect, of the spirit, for equal capability. Black women in the Academy who live past age sixty-five a rarity, eaten up by various cancers. Progress. Of course, I could make lists of Black women in prominent positions in our society, with a focus on those who are not writers, actresses or singers, but that list would be less evidence of feminism’s success in changing Black women’s lives than it would be conclusive evidence of American exceptionalism. Let the right one in…but make sure it’s only one. Don’t bring no friends. In 2011, Black women are still living in a time of “firsts,” followed by a lifetime of isolation in being “the only.” We are spread out all over the country, not among friends or allies, should we succeed in fields where few Black women have gone before. Quota approaches to hiring make it impossible for there to be more than one Black woman in any prominent aspect of a field at any one time. One at a time is the rule, which means one per generation, if that. It’s hard to have a sense of critical mass, of mutual cooperation, shared goals for equality. We are always starting over. I talked to a friend, Patricia Spears Jones, about the difficulties I was having, am still having, writing and thinking through this piece. She directed me back to the future, in the form of Adrienne Rich’s “Disloyal to Civilization: Feminism, Racism and Gynophobia,” which begins with a series of quotes from various women on the question of women, race and gender.

“As a lesbian/feminist, my nerves and my flesh as well as my intellect tell me that the connections between and among women are the most feared, the most problematic, and the most potentially transforming force on the planet. I conceive this paper as one strand in a meditation and colloquy among black and white feminists, an intercourse just beginning, and charged with a history that touches our nerve ends even though we are mostly ignorant of it.”

Adrienne Rich, “Disloyal to Civilization: Feminism, Racism and Gynophobia”

Re-reading Adrienne Rich’s essay made me want to gather other voices around me, hear them in concert, bridging the gap of twenty odd years between myself and the women in front of me, gearing up to pass the torch.

“In her opinion, prerogative was not the unique preserve of men. She adopted certain male behaviours, without bothering about whether they were suitable for a woman. She neither disdained nor rejected what she could learn from them.”

France Théoret, Laurence

“I’ve read reviews of [Michelle Wallace’s] Black Macho and [Ntozake] Shange’s For Colored Girls, heard each and both discussed on campuses, in prisons, in beauty parlors, in the food co-op, at conferences, on buses, you name it. I’ve heard one or both called “dirty feminists” and heard feminism equated with ball-busting anger, with mental derangement, with treason. I’ve also heard equally passionate discussion of each or both together that have led to intense inquiries into the dynamics of sexism, misogyny and gynophobia, and the theory and practice of systematically or individually underdeveloping women based on the premise that women are inferior, are not worthy of equity and respect, are dangerous. I’ve been part of discussions about either or both that have led many sisters and brothers to the conclusion that it is not enough to take a stand against sexism; we must push each other to take a stand for feminism, for systematically and individually encouraging and equipping our women to develop power in all realms.

Of course, if Faint Heart can reduce Shange and Wallace—I hate lumping them together; I see so little resemblance—to a stereotype—evil ole black bitches—why then Faint Heart is exempt from having to deal with the alarm one’s sounding, with the complexity one’s depicting, with the challenge, the demand to change. Faint Heart attempts to stereotype for the same reason any other faint hearts stereotype—it relieves one from the burden of thinking, of wrestling with the vibrancy of real, live women, real live observers, who have put their fingers on real, live problems. The anger, dismay, disappointment, or just sheer bewilderment that many women experience as a way of life in regard to the man-woman setup is something we’re all going to have to get used to airing. Women are not going to shut up. We care too much, I think, about the development of our selves and our brothers, fathers, lovers, sons, to negotiate a bogus peace.”

Toni Cade Bambara, Black Women Writers at Work

“In my view, feminist power is not the kind of power that can be achieved for oneself alone but also for the greater good and freedom of all.

Get on with this. Don’t make the same mistake some women of my generation so often made, namely, confusing television appearances or publishing contracts with real power, then fighting amongst yourselves for that tiny bit of public attention. What matters is that you gain more and more control of the institutions that serve us all so poorly.

Heroism is our only feminist alternative.”

Phyllis Chesler, Letter to a Young Feminist

“If I were writing Ar’n’t I a Woman? today I would still use that discredited speech as theoretical grounding, but I would also use the significant body of new work on difference and black female consciousness. In 1985 the empirical record made it relatively easy to discern the difference between male and female slavery and black and white women. Conceptualizing the difference was considerably more difficult. What did it mean for black women to share some identity and disability of both black men and white women and yet be very different from both? Today, a stronger light shines on my subject. I would never write that the ‘slave woman’s condition was just an extreme case of what women as a group experienced in America.” I would not say that “the powerlessness and exploitation of black women was an extreme form of what wall women experienced because of racism, although just as pervasive as sexism, was more virulent.” Nor would I argue that “the contour, if not the content” of the lives of all American women was “paradoxically similar.”

Deborah Gray White, Ar’n’t I a Woman?

“Many individual white women found in the women’s movement a liberatory solution to personal dilemmas. Having directly benefited from the movement, they are less inclined to criticize it or to engage in rigorous examination of its structure than those who feel it has not had a revolutionary impact on their lives or the lives of masses of women in our society. Nonwhite women who feel affirmed within the current structure of feminist movement (even though they may form autonomous groups), seem to also feel that their definitions of the party line, whether on the issue of black feminism or on other issues, is the only legitimate discourse. Rather than encourage a diversity of voices, critical dialogue, and controversy, they, like some white women, seek to stifle dissent.”

bell hooks, “Black Women: Shaping Feminist Theory”

“Afro-Americans, having survived by word of mouth—and made of that process a high art—remain at the mercy of literature and writing; often, these have betrayed us. I loved history as a child, until some clear-eyed young Negro pointed out, quite rightly, that there was no place in the American past I could go and be free. I now know that slavery eliminated neither heroism nor love; it provided occasions for their expressions.”

Sherley A. Williams, Dessa Rose

“Dear White Queers and Feminists:

The next time you feel an urge to vomit 1990s nostalgia all over the place as if everyone feels or felt equally in tune with being a punk or whatever, can we have a little consent check in? Some of us were wearing neon, listening to jazz and feeling hella alienated by your total lack of race analysis. ...Then. And. Now.”

Naima Lowe, Facebook

“It is as though the social movements that helped shape my youth took place in an isolation booth with only a limited volume of the discourse reaching the society beyond,” Ms. Coleman says. The Civil Rights movement, then, was only for Black people, dark people, in the United States, and appropriated by white gays and lesbians, whose solidarity movement split, in part, over the question of solidarity with Black Power movements. Gay white men were out for self, and lesbians, well…let’s just say that a fissure won’t stop cracking until it meets a barrier greater than itself. Recently, a queer writer regarded as quite radical talked of young non-white feminists outside the US. “They were listening to Sleater-Kinney (or whatever). I couldn’t believe they were just getting to the Second Wave.” Wow. Lots of white lesbians take “anti-racist” as a given of lesbian identity without actually doing the work, like the general white feminist population. Lesbians who are truly committed to anti-racism are a minority in my world. Meanwhile, white people, straight people, in “the society beyond,” could and do just sit the whole thing out vis-à-vis getting in the way. Resistance. Resentment. Tolerance. Denial. Or, for people of color, striving for oppressor status. Writer Robin Coste Lewis says, “If you don’t have a memory, you don’t have a community.” All that is “forgotten,” i.e., elided, omitted, denied, resisted, ignored, avoided or abandoned of the struggle for full citizenship in this country, distances bodies from other bodies, leaving one in a rugged, individual darkness, in which one perpetuates that which one is also prey to. Communities made from forgetting are false and dangerous to themselves and everyone else. Each time a white woman calls herself a feminist and “forgets” that white women are not the only women in the world, feminism fails. Each time a white woman hurts or offends a woman of color and is called to task, and, instead of dealing with the situation, the white woman begins to cry, inspiring everyone to run to her aid and conveniently forget about the source of the situation, the white woman’s offense and the of-color woman’s pain, feminism fails. Each time acknowledgement of this failure is accompanied by guilt, feminism’s hope of success becomes all the more distant.

This “forgetting” extends as much to pedagogy as it does to feminism, and serves to connect the two. Sherley Anne Williams wrote about literacy as a betrayal of black people, more briefly, but with much the same intensity as Wanda Coleman’s essay on feminism’s lack of impact on black women’s lives. Literacy, like feminism, was supposed to close the gap between black people and the white power structure, was to be a means to access to services, to economic agency, was supposed to be a giant step toward equality and quality of life, and a means to eradicating racism, miraculously, with nary a change to curriculum, pedagogy, text books for all. But who gets read, taught, by whom, when? Tokenism is still all the rage, tokenism and fetishistic approaches to women writers of color. Name the same one all the time. The same one. Invite her everywhere. Let her stand in for everyone, and don’t look beyond her until she is either wore out, dead, or both. Why bother reading those whom she reads, exploring the foundation she stands on, the terrain she’s explored. Just take her, not her context. Just take her, not her friends, not her men, her women, her young, her old, her ancestors. Don’t bother reading or speaking the names of all them people. That’s just too much work, too much knowledge to hold.

Or maybe I’m just projecting feminism onto all these people who are just regular women (because feminists are special), who aren’t claiming feminism at all. Maybe I just think they are, or that they should be feminists. They’re simply claiming jobs and power, and not tripping on issues of gender uplift. And here it is: white women inclined to help at all help each other, and non-white women do the same. There is a place where these circles intersect, and I am grateful for them, and the critical inventiveness that results. And yet, Ms. Coleman calls out the areas of persistent ageism and abandoned affective labor, like the dearth of older women represented in film and television, and the boom industry of assisted living complexes and nursing homes, overpopulated by aging women. Is this what “post-feminist” looks like?

Wanda Coleman speaks of gender-altering forces. What are these? Soundwaves from a mother’s mouth. A brother’s mouth. A lover’s mouth. Whispers from the continuum. Arn’t I a woman? Sojourner Truth worked as hard and as long, better even, than a man, was proud of the fact, and repeated the question, “Arn’t I a woman,” so that the reality of both her capability and her womanhood were never separated, so that her personhood could come first. So as not to be considered a goat or an ape or a mule, but a human being, a mother, an orator and activist, somebody’s someone, loved. Wanda Coleman evokes Sojourner Truth, righteously, fittingly, to illustrate, quick and deft, the continuum from which her life (my life, your life) emerges and plays out in this “post” landscape of unfinished business. Reconstruction. Equal rights. Civil and human rights. Yet Coleman, in answering Sojourner Truth’s rhetorical question, answers , “No—in this situation, sex preference aside—I am striving to be (as capable as) a man.”

Ms. Coleman doesn’t say, “striving to be (seen as capable as) a man.” So this is not about perceptions but about harnessing the forces that alter perceptions into incontrovertible facts. Black women’s gender has been historically altered by force, and continues to be so. The ball-breaking head of household, the mouthy take-no-mess sister, the wanton public-funds-mooching breeder, the neutered (but take-no-mess) mammy. Whose fertility must be controlled. Whose children must be taken. Who can’t keep a man. Whose tennis game is bestial. Whose biceps must be hidden. Whose shows of strength is a threat to anyone anywhere. Who is too loud, too angry, too tall, too dark-skinned, too strident, too confrontational. Who must be broken. Paid less. Hundreds of years of gender-altering forces; this litany is equal opportunity. You can have it. It’s yours. But who would want this “womanhood”? So we change behavior, tactics, ideologies. We’ve already been trained in misogyny, racism, classism, homophobia. Put it to work, at school, in the office, on the street. Get that manpower. And yet. Your capabilities are not on par, even if they are on par. What is striven for demonizes. All the Women Are White, All the Men Are Black, but Some of Us Are Brave. The title itself is prescient, writing on the wall, circa 1982 and informed by every prior decade, of how warped by racism and sexism the feminist movement already was, and how entrenched this condition would become.

The value of women. The livable life of joy and possibility, of risk and success, for women. Gender-altering forces gain strength from the frustrations of striving. Gender altering forces intensify when all the mirrors are taken away. Pretending to be different, to be changed, to be other. Or really feeling it. Illusion or reality?

And so it must be said, that while I empathize with Wanda Coleman, and can see that feminism has failed to serve her and countless others because feminism continually fails to make it across the gulf of racism, ageism (wave by wave) and classism, I am a feminist, and I feel my efforts behalf of women, as editor, publisher, teacher, friend and ally, are appreciated and often returned in-kind. It’s gratifying, but I know it to be an endgame. If feminism only works within select circles of reciprocity, then it’s not working at all, unless we can accept it being traded like a commodity. This isn’t what feminism in a true democracy looks like. Is it?

TISA BRYANT'S books include Unexplained Presence (Leon Works, 2007), a collection of hybrid essays on black presences in film, literature and visual art; the cross-referenced journal of narrative possibility, The Encyclopedia Project, War Diaries, an anthology on black gay men’s desire and survival, published in 2010 by AIDS Project Los Angeles, co-edited with Ernest Hardy. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the journals 1913, Mandorla, Animal Shelter, and has been featured in the solo exhibits of visual artists Laylah Ali, Jaime Cortez, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, and filmmaker/installation artist Cauleen Smith. She teaches fiction, hybrid forms and ethnic innovative literature at the California Institute of the Arts.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Feminaissance Blog Project: Amy King


Amy King

“…that baggy creature of unknown dimensions…”– Susan McCabe

In some countries, they eat dog
but not the cute ones for entertainment appeal.
Dance for me, darling.
Bring back the distilled syntax of the 20s to 2000s. I too have a handle
on the romantic glam of long drags off thin cigarette stems
and wartime starvation.
Do your own damn darning.
How the female is a hole no one wants to fall into. Land mime.

Afghanistan? Iraq Iran Pakistan?
Get lost or get with it. (This is a contemporary footnote.)
I’m remote on the sequestered continent,
walking, with pulleys, puppet soaked ground immune to warming icepoles.
Wet to the bone.

“Stein … began again and again.” –S.M.

She stands here ironing finally reaches
with distended knuckles
to agitate the violence of naming, a cauldron of flutters...

Cream on the counter distills, goes sour to a lake
of bacterial basics.
How does the breast destroy
the sex of food, how does a breast bring life to the fore?

Counter cream, this grammar tastes good, a serious scent akin to teeming.
That is the beginning: bloody sac on the verge of split into leakage.

No more raw yellow, only honeybees now, a baby,
furry mute amber with legs that join the pistol to winter’s sugar,
filaments to antlers, a scream into low dull want & wail.

“In other words… need not be a totalizing movement.” –S.M.

I lost track of the crepe before me, café dissolving
its sweet body full of brie tomato basil
halfway between stomach sack, mastication, jejunum, corpse suspension, animation.

In some places, a code for how to beat your wife
is tweaked and refined, debated via television:
no burns nor black bottle eyes if the withdrawal of sex.
She must fuck or harbor well-placed bruises
in the hues of Van Gogh. Splotched dark blues, bluing yellow purples.
Begins an amputation, the art of excision, the carving moon.

There are codes for arm and leg motion, Nylon words,
A sheerness to the way being overlooks the flesh of progress, and costs.
Your name here.

“It’s not about substitution. Can’t stand in the same river twice.” – S.M.

Crime hides on Spain’s rooftops. In the train stations I rarely occur.
If a body births from my body,
are the flesh the skull the tiny lips me?
How can I hold the present? With saliva and skin? Body rockets and ingestion sockets?

They have definition but shapes are indefinite.
In sexual integrity we lie
back against the thick and think
about tying our shoes, our arms burning brittle as we reach to watch
for someone to finish the laces.
I can’t split the intellect from sex, emotion from earthly enactment.
Dress name here.

“…with the sensuous—fig trees, the ocean, fish, almonds, sun, but also in the distance, a German ship.” –S.M.

The rain again, then love for sun at her 4 o’clock slant,
Then how we make love against the crust of us,
elbow skin and eating pie
that falls from tableau to floor, not our own
but the one we brush with iron and bristles.

Chap chap chap
work, chapter verse hands, chaps against legs that burn

With lesbian smile, the smile of that odor that
makes a senate floor wish more could be boxed
and stored with the unknown housed
leagues below Fort Knox ground. Simple excision for everyone
covets but untouches to become.

“We are not all gay in the same way.” – S.M.

There is such a thing as pie, fat filling
fruits exposed, sweet
Fingers dipping, laying at rest and decaying less than
the rate of taste, sweat, incest through table flies and Speedos or nightgowns.
Wormy apples in the background, the way she pounds her claim out desire is him.

Why the point of so many windows open
Laughter from the back through to women tabled
a moment, a figment of this is who we are while the rest of us are not them.

I am a bone in liquid chains, a link in the land we fight.
A very small pen.
I hold my lapis from the knees up,
the sex again, the sequence of up goes down in up on down
the hold, the heart, the pound, the sex of sequence
a whole less than then
Not going home, not knowing home, not knowing
Less than equals everything else, the absence of being
in a class with others present, position’s possession, amber suspension, a milking resident.

“Recently, I was at a dinner party; everyone was laughing and arguing.” – S.M.

What passes rooftops into Madrid’s large bowels
that I do not see from an American café,
a me and a you and the them
traverse, expunge, become the less-than equal-to not-us glued, the gaily whole.
The world erasing its own legs, us riding upsweep, the dust.

Under the stone bridge in the distance, everything
about me blurs fact with fiction,
a human camouflage that resembles any other

Bird with real wax bodice and snake-hair wings, which also has surely just passed
above a soft sound-bed
of honking horns, car alarms, and emergency sirens
amid lips sponging paper coffee cup rims.

Our eyes dart around this mini city
in the passage of a miniature horse, so small
he doesn’t know anything but
his hooves tromping on, where the next barrel of water will stand,
who reaches out, holds his name, handles his circle of shadow and shade.

Main street overlaps
the dimension of whispers we see the past through
photographs, 40 years, a hundred ago, whichever matters not.
Sitting atop a sliver of silver
from the vantage of the 20s refurbished stands
a blossoming tree, women's hats, an avenue of bonnets mistressed at first glance.
These imprints pour into us gently,
trombones and trumpets of the sight canal to funnel the soul’s central nervousness.

Your first assumption is something gone. Time escaped, beyond us.
Jazz to look around.
Maybe careful history, a row of spectators, the vantage of vintage,
is thought. The apparitional lesbian, the what else
am I not. The endless walk of the dog,
one foot in front of the other, the biting onslaught of a hetero-fuck.
She plays claim to do the next guy around, her very next dud-in-the-making.
She’s a public declaration of available, a power predictor, laying claim with her potential
as holy-graphic partner. So goes the verdict, the court jester.

“The feeling of exhaustion.” --S.M.

Girl in girl the way French never sounds
Real except painted air on concrete ceilings, a thong
heavy with cream purrs
You to merge with any old disembodied
voice, tired out moon panties
radical not on the streets alone
stilettos with him
about this family of relations habitual, walking and then down
those stairs, that part of conversation
that lingers after, passes over
front to back, teeth touching lightly the woman’s steps in color.

When I say conventional, man
must bring them to sense, blocked air lung
in the throat-choke song
that breathes phantasms woe
over Beauty’s stilettos who will no longer beat without
exhaustion. Time bears time out
in torrents of masks’ painted-over fortune. A lip line up
her nylon hose.
Where is that ebullient oyster,
the illegible sarcophagus that scrawls out
lines, the remaining corpus with painted-on nails, the hair-lip in veil.

She resists bursting forth, death
on the fore, the burning deal
thighs a-part and the parts ink swollen with
an abyss biting back. Open ready now.

“…as she disappears and comes to life in the shadow…” –S.M.

By the way, what is an impulse. Word razor,
scythe of thought? Knot on a collarbone,
the heartbreak necklace of hours cast about her throat?

How can a person be if violence leaves
her halved and conscious? Where is the person
in the bloom of the wound?

I once saw the death of a person beginning
with the face split open.
Living wake of the scimitars,
not by seeing but through the hole as entering exits.

Like someone carved a palm tree into the glass of the window,
grass on the tree of a portal, the leaf of protection through
varietal veins, varietal views to grow on.

Have you come this far? Are you following time’s nether regions
and gathered random aboriginal parts?
Female haunches and aborted desire?
Are you saying games just to appear positive next?
“Then, what is the question?”

The antiquated lesbian began
exhumed and stitched from the land mines of war crimes off season.
We’re here again, and hear how stomped and aching
we boycott protest a decadent scoff of the species
off the dropped hat’s brim, put on again:

The way she walks,
the way a man hugs a room, I am not
I because my little dog knows me
yes, for I breathe it in, breathe in it,
this lone penchant, for real, the bones, the sag and tugging.
I love a piece of coffee, single breed of success pinned
in motion to the sleeve
of an instructing costume, I in my Lady Day pipe post-abeyance,
the strange fruit of Audre Djuna Virginia Gertrude and scrolls of other islands
adrift in moonshine, buried with nightingale alchemy,
I reach in you, adrift for you, mothered love, love-makers harvest.

AMY KING's most recent books are Slaves to Do These Things and I Want to Make You Safe (Litmus Press), forthcoming 2011. King teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College and is currently preparing a book of interviews with the poet, Ron Padgett. She also co-edits Poets for Living Waters with Heidi Lynn Staples and Esque Magazine with Ana Bozicevic. Visit her current site @

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Feminaissance Blog Project: Claire Donato

Whilst straddling a speaker who has ‘located her voice’
Claire Donato

For the past two years, I’ve been reading and analyzing Cosmopolitan Magazine’s online Sex Tips and Tricks from Guys. For those of you not in the know, ST&T is devoted to “guys [revealing] secret sex tips guaranteed to drive them wild”—which is to say, in this vortex, boys reminisce about their kinkiest sexual encounters and declare things like a girl who looks virginal but is really a sex kitten is every man’s dream.

To probe (urm...) the vocabulary and syntax of ST&T, and the arrangements of words and phrases that make up these tips (ha!), I’ve begun to compose a series of poems, two of which are here. For my tiny revolt, I’ve revisited the land of ST&T and combined syntax and choice phrases from The Boys with (Very Spliced Up) commentary appropriated from male-authored reviews of women’s writing. I’ve tried to retain as much original syntax from ST&T where possible.

(Note: I’m largely uninterested in binary distinctions of gender—everything is better in triplicate+++—but since Cosmo is so utterly and conventionally gendered, I must succumb to words like man and woman to revolt. How second wave! For a more fluid engagement with gender, check out this collaboration with Leslie Patron in OCHO 25.

Enjoy, and read Feminaissance!

Whilst straddling a speaker who has ‘located her voice’

Sex dash love.

Everything here hurts.

Lean over.

In one sense, bear light

Whilst straddling a speaker

Who has

Located her voice.

Place your hands against the tar.

Place your hands atop this

Fine little book.

Place your hands over the


Of pillows, a record of

Loss it does not shy away

It is a textual haunting.

On horseback, the speaker maintains

Her material shape, grotesquely

Sublime, galloping

Across the fluid

Eddies of your mind, demanding this

Run-on sentence.

O, read

How she is twofold,


The past from the head of your

Penis with

Interminable wit, & her



Endlessly, endlessly


Over your gift

Of iconic restraint.

(This external link may also succeed

In erasing her surrogate name.)

And thus one week later, her breasts

Are two stories.

Brunette, her adjectives come,

A new word each time.

Is her willingness to collapse

Into the illumination of a body

A search for hands

That force their

Critique on you

And weigh you

Down? O, time

Bogged down in


Tells us,

Confront her

As author, question

Her lack of


On the surface, & strip


From rare books; lie back

And—raising her arms, breasts, and

Thighs—Madly, mawkishly

She interrupts.

She interrupts

To say what?

CLAIRE DONATO lives in Brooklyn, NY. Recent poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Gulf Coast, Denver Quarterly, and Octopus. She holds an MFA from Brown University, where she received the John Hawkes Prize in Fiction. She is a member of the Electronic Literature Organization and currently teaches at The New School. Her hometown is Pittsburgh, PA.