Monday, March 31, 2008

Feminist Art

Yesterday, after seeing the PS 1 feminist show, I went to panel discussion "Beyond the Waves: Feminist Artists Talk Across the Generations." The talk included the fine artists and critics Carolee Schneenmann, Mira Shor, Brynna Tucker, Susan Bee, and Emma Bee Bernstein. I was looking for answers, but like any good thinking, the talk led me to more questions.

First, I want to note, among the topics discussed -- and they made a point of recognizing them -- were racism, gender, ageism, feminism, sexism, transgender, and so on. As usual, disability was the glaring absence. We have entered a culture where artists will speak about transgender BEFORE disability. I think the problem is not maniacal. I think that people tend to focus what is on their radar. I think people with disabilities (and their problems) are still very oppressed in our society -- so that even the most sensitive thinkers aren't aware. I find this to be a problem.

The question I asked was what makes the WACK show a feminist show a feminist show? I felt like there is no answer -- even the artist who attempted to address the question weren't sure. That brings me to my further question -- what is feminism and am I one?

My understanding is that feminism is about treating women equal and supporting their decisions. If this is true, why is there so much devision and oppression BY women going on? Let's pick on the suicide girls for a minute. I have read that they believe they are dispelling myths about feminine beauty. Oh really? After a short cruise through their photos I am pressed to find a black woman, a disabled woman, a woman with small boobs, a woman who weighs over 105 and a woman without an enormous amount of makeup on. I'd like to see a naked overweight black lady with one arm. Of course, then, they'd label it 'fetish.'

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wack at PS !

Yesterday Julia and I went over the bridge to see WACK!: Art and the Feminist Revolution. The first wonderful thing was seeing Thomas who runs the bookstore. I didn't know he had that job -- cool. The second thing was that we were surprised by how wonderful the show was. There was a fair amount of work that was tedious, including the pieces that said 'Angry Marilyn', 'Angry Jennifer' and so on. Okay, you're angry -- we get it. Others bored me a bit. Some were so powerful that they were painful to look at -- particularly collages of neato sparkling houses with war scenes out the window. For me, some of the highlights were the 'stone' painting, the woodcuts, the Aunt Jaminina with a gun. And a few artists I already new about -- Aliice Neel, Eva Hesse, and Francesca Woodman. I must note that we only saw the first floor.

But, as much as I liked the show, I have a few questions. More notably, what makes all of these pieces 'feminist'? If I think and think, I might be able to attribute some feminist qualities to each piece perhaps, although that is not necessarily how I would think of them. I found myself wondering what made this or that work feminist. The work struck me as coming from many different points of view: anti-racist, sublime, figurative, abstract, feminist, and anti-war. Some were just, well, art works by women.

Julia pointed out that they probably used 'feminist' as a marketing scheme to draw in the crowd. This has worked. An unnamed source tell us that this has been one of the most successful shows ever. But, I am very uncomfortable with using the term 'feminist' to market stuff -- if this is the intension. Isn't this going against feminist ideals -- we are ultimately 'marketing women' because of their gender. Our household feminist, JIM, argues that men have had their shows for years, and women have been excluded and he's right.

Here's my very radical feminist idea...why call it a feminist show or a women's show? Why not slap the men in the face and just call it a show? Isn't that what men have been doing for centuries?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I am resurfacing from two weeks in New Mexico. The readings went amazingly well! They were kind of like a whose who in New Mexican poetry with Nathaniel Tarn, Gary Brower, Joy Harjo, Dianne Edwards, VB Price, Miriam Sagan, David Melzlener (sp?) who is an amazing Los Alamos poet, Janet Rodney, Lee Bartlett, Miriam Sagan, and others. VB's and Miriam's books by UNM Press are amazing. It was nice to pull myself into a new reality. I have tendency to get so tied up in the 'New York Scene.' It's important to be reminded that poets all over are doing real work. It's my poetry wish that one day the two 'coasts' (and the middle) of poetry will be able to acknowledge and respect each other.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


If you're anywhere near a B & N in the coming week, my dear husband Jim Stewart has the cover story in the new Apex.

Time for vacation, ya'll.

There is a Santa Claus

This week, the NYT has redeemed it's failings. They mentioned my girl Jill Alexander Essbaum in the book review -- yes!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The NYT and 'Language' Poetry

I wrote a letter to the NYT last Sunday night in response to James Longenbach's review of Salter's latest book. Since the Times refuses to run the letter, I've decided to recount it here.

Letter #1
Dear Editor,

In regard to James Longenbach's review of Salter's work, anyone who believes that the so-called Language Poets are merely 'part of the niggling history of taste rather than the grand history of art' hasn't been reading many poets of the last 25 years. Further, this 'movement' of poetics was not exactly 'named after' the magazine which, by the way, was called L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, not 'Language.' Since Longenbach can't even get the name of the magazine correct, perhaps it would be better to suspend his opinion.

Letter #2 : Response from the Times. I do not have permission to 'show' their letter and I'm paranoid, so I'll paraphrase.
A 'staff' editor from the Times responded to my letter saying that Longenbach could not be 'taxed' as it is the Times editorial policy not to 'reproduce stylistic quirks in titles.'

Letter #3

First, I am flattered at your response.

With all due respect, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E is not a 'stylistic quirk.' That is the NAME of the journal and partial to that 'groups' poetics. This oversight, along with Longenbach's obvious jab at this group either shows a gross naivete of American poetics or a very narrow view that no 'good' poetry is written beyond the walls of Iowa University.

Letter #4

There was no letter #4.

My question: Did Longenbach actually KNOW the name of the journal? Did he write it correctly and the editor's changed it? Was it a 'jab'? Or just an honest miseducation of 20th century literature? Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Great, Happy News!

The first printing of Derivative of the Moving Image is nearly sold out! -- Only fifty more copies in the warehouse. If you're into first printings -- jump on it! Here are some great vendors:

Word, Brooklyn NY
St. Marks Bookstore, New York City
Powells, Portland, OR
UNM Press
Bookworks, Albq, NM
UNM Bookstore, Albq, NM
The Grolier, Cambridge, MA
Bluestockings, NYC

Thank you so much! And happy reading.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Same Sex Education

In this weekend's New York Times magazine, there is an article on the emerging system of same-sex education in US public schools. Elizabeth Weil describes Leonard Sax as the leader of this movement, which has particularly taken off in the South.

Sax explores different biological concerns of the genders: girls hear better than boys, are more visually adept, and so on. The other side of the coin is that some people examine the social differences, rather than biological of the two genders.

Some people (for example the ACLU) are highly offended by these ideas, and I can see their point. Michael Younger of Cambridge University called Sax's proposal 'sexist rubbish' saying that Sax 'might have well said boys should go out and have jobs, girls should stay home and have babies."

Should you read the article, you might, as I did, find some of Sax's ideas questionable. However, I totally agree with same-sex education and this is hardly the first time it's occured to me. A life-altering book for me was Raising Cain about the differences of boys. I have attempted to get my son in an all-boy school (the ones in NY are too far and/or expensive). If his local PS went single-sex, I'd be thrilled.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I would guess that those against same-sex ed. either have girls or no children. If one has a girl, parents must consider equality and upholding feminist standards. If one doesn't have kids, well, their knowledge can only be limited.

I wish opponents would see it from my side. I have a hyper-active 5 year old boy who is required to go to school and behave and learn in ways that are TRADITIONALLY feminine and completely against his nature. He is expected to sit in his seat, raise his hand, not push, not play, not talk in the hall, and have good penmanship. Of course, these are too strict standards, which should be less if he went to progressive school, but not wholly....and what about the boys who -- for whatever reason CAN'T go to progressive school.

People will probably attack me for not being 'feminist' but I believe school behaviors and expectations are geared toward the feminine. This doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of kids who don't cross the line. My nephew, for example, does very well in school. By people should be able to be themselves, not on Ritilain.