VIDA: Women in Literary Arts — One Year Later

Dear Friend,

It’s quite strange to realize it was only a year ago I sat hunkered down in my sweaty apartment writing an e-mail that seemed to blast right out of my head.

If you received this missive, you’ll know I’d spent the evening folding a LOT of laundry – an endless chore made worse by the fact I was not only folding my laundry, but also that of my 8 month old daughter (any parent will attest that the act of sorting a mountain of brightly patterned shirts, socks and pajamas is in itself a certain hell). After projecting myself into the mindset of the narrator of Tillie Olsen’s seminal short story “I Stand Here Ironing,” I allowed myself a couple glasses of wine. This, I believe, was a key factor in my committing the most grievous of email sins.

For not only did I send my email to numerous people— worse, I concluded my missive with a most lamentable statement: “Feel free to forward this to anyone and everyone you think might be interested.”

This email, titled: “As I Stood Folding Laundry: Women’s Writing Now,” (*you can read it here on was spurred by my disgruntlement over the fact an AWP proposal I’d submitted–addressing a rhetorical means of dissent in contemporary American women’s poetry–had been rejected. In my email I worried aloud about whether this panel had been dismissed because of its distinctly feminist overtones, while also noting certain trends I’d observed in the literary world: specifically how male literary achievements are so often deemed more important than those of women with regard to publication, criticism, reviews, awards, etc.

While this disparity had long seemed obvious to me, I’d never before had the nerve to speak to it openly.

My e-mail went on to describe my fantasy of creating an association that would serve to unite women writers, across genres, aesthetics, ethnicities and generations. Indeed, in the simple act of conceiving such an organization’s potential, I got so fired up that evening it seemed to me perfectly reasonable that I send my thoughts to every female writer I knew. Continue reading


Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan

~ For the first time in U. S. history there will be three women Supreme Court Justices. It will be official tomorrow, August 10, with the swearing-in ceremony.

tangled cemetery
i show you where
the wild roses are

Frances Angela
Presence #34 2008

an altar of sorts

the teakwood desk where i sometimes write has a hinged panel at the back that expands the overall depth when it’s flipped open. closed, it sits upright at the back of the desk, like a piano, providing a smaller more intimate writing space, revealing variously shaped cubby holes which i like to think of as amused portals safekeeping the overheard whispers and ideas when talking with myself all these years.

i began to put certain items on top, one by one. emblems of some deepest pleasure, turned over and over by imagination: a sculpted tortoise the size of my palm; a baltic seashell; tiny pine cones; goldfinch feathers; a buddha of crocodile wood from bali; postcards sent and unsent; pins; bottle caps; photographs; dust … each thing, over time, becoming a stepping stone, a pebble

the snail, beginning its ascent, in a haiga by poet Marilyn Johnston. her words beside it, “Climb Mt. Fuji, slowly … .” just a fleeting slip of sumi–e ink and bamboo brush on paper, that blooms into a reverie of Alan Watts walking into a shop in kyoto for a certain perfumed bar of blackest ink; of his reply recorded in a book somewhere when asked what is taoism­—“the tao. it’s simply inconceivable.”

there’s Turtle Island, a book of poems by Gary Snyder, poet of the dao, the way, of the wild, in which he records his finding that “The path is whatever crosses.” the wild. in other words, the opposite of our static black and white notion of a nature either domesticated into convenience and comfort from fear or otherwise attacked as hostile to our kind, as if it were an angry father–god to placate.

no. instead, the wild. an open system with integrity and its own rules. as in poet vincent tripi’s words “all change is wild”; in sculptor Bettina Viereck’s hand-rolled steel “sanctuary”; in Andy Goldsworthy’s earth works, Werner Herzog’s films, my haiku offering

fish  clouds  birds
in a stream
how it goes on

through the self leaving the self behind. “being fearless is dying to the self.” that’s poet carpenter Charlie Mehrhoff’s voice. i think of the tradition of Japanese Zen poets who write their death poems, oftentimes in mid life. here is mine

moving my head
the grasses
spring back
Donna Fleischer
Presence #34 2008

~ haiku published independently in bottle rockets and KO, respectively

bare branch
a crow side steps into
some sun

Donna Fleischer
August 2010

La Castenada Photography Exhibition, Mexico City

a photographic handout of La Castenada Mental Hospital, Mexico City

~ a patient of the La Castaneda mental hospital in Mexico City, founded in 1910, where lived poor, rich, addict, criminal, epileptic and even normal patients who paid to be there. The Photography File Museum of the Mexican capital will show an exhibition called La Castaneda, 83 photographs of the Madness One Hundred Years After . ~

La Castenada at

Joan Baez / Te Recurdo Amanda