11 September 2006


Sometimes I lose heart.

The seemingly endless chase to be the bought and sold novel—that inherited product—the form dictated it seems now exclusively by economy and some weird
literary . . . “show.”

I still believe art may function to challenge the state, and not act in the service of it.

It is a choice.

To liberate art, over and over again.

To speak a body.

Sacred song.

What may be the worth of women writers, were they to choose it.

To speak a body untethered from the so-called aims of narrative and economy.

Narratives authenticated and legitimized by consumerism—its shapes not mine.

It’s plot, trajectories ever thrusting forward, not mine.

Its leaving unsaid unwritten unseen the story of humanity and ordinary corporeal experience in favor of the story of the privileged; its entertainment value. Its wholesale price. Its distribution.

It’s inability to account for space, interval, gesture, touch, sound, retinal flash.

To speak a body.

To speak the true saga of desire—not the action driven capture of an object one—rather, the relentless and perpetual story of all creativity and being. Timeless and dark and spatial and repetitive as waves.

The what if story were repetition.

The what if story were fragments strung together as a life.

With all the chaos housed there.

Resisting narrative cohesion.

With all the disintegrations and dissolutions.

Resisting narrative telos.

Without a hero, but fully bodied, nonetheless.

The silence before.

Corporeal text enunciation.

Open your mouth.

Close your eyes.

Keep your hands loose and open and pointed palm side up.

The what if of a story dipping in and out of myth, epic, identity, spatiality.


The what if story were a series of gestures, or color, or light.

Why not.

Why let the novel stick in this static and dead-end shiny product.

Consumer culture’s throw-away lover.

Easy, yes.

Thoughtless, yes.

No one needs to fight or resist or do anything but buy and watch and go to sleep well satiated with bon bons.

Why do this to language, to bodies, to stories.

I understand, we get tired. Our lives are fundamentally driven by speed and doing.

If we are writers, we want to be legitimized, even by illegitimate sources.

If we are publishers, we want our “businesses” to “profit” – isn’t that good for writers?

If we are teachers, we want to be either loved or revered.

But could we not forgive ourselves?


Imagine different things to do with our money?

Our desire, our psychic want?

Remember a body and its lifeline to matter?

I put my palm on the bark of a redwood tree outside of my ordinary house and I close my eyes and breath and the amplification of my own heartbeat and my imagination’s half archeological half geological drive down into the ground where earthen rootedness overtakes television buzz and freeway hum remembers me.

It is ludicrously simple, a gesture like this.

Or this: I am in a bath, just a woman taking a bath, and suddenly my cunt is more than the object of a culture’s obsession, my aging is wisdom rather than depreciation, I am not a property losing value, I am no longer a voice moving toward the silence of not being published, I am a delicious gathering of mounds and tits and caves and corporeal reality, gushing and pulsing and without edges. My blood and my piss and my cum and my tears all remembering me. My imagination let loose again, back to her breathable blue past.

Why is that?

Why is it a woman in a bath can shoot herself to her origins, and a woman in the world is a slave? Yes the forms have changed, but still we chase inherited forms: wife, mother, writer.

Why do we take that?

Where’s the story which will liberate us from ourselves?

What moves us makes us.

It bothers me less and less that I cannot achieve legitimacy from illegitimate sources.

I want to read a story which remakes me away from this death of a life.

I want to face-off with a painting—its colors and composition and textures and gestures--more passionately than any lovers I’ve had.

I want my head to lose its thinking—spinning wheel—inside the language of music—its patterns and rhythms and dissonances and improvizations.

I want to be undone by art, remade in its image, for my world and its articulations, beautiful as they have been, have left me as yet unnamed.

I want to turn away from my so-called legitimized meaning-making forms: medicine, law, religion, government, philosophy, economy—and turn toward making itself, which is my own body—a metaphor for all of experience.

Where are the Whitmans? The Steins?

What has happened that we are blind and deaf and dumb, only able to score the fancy jobs or out-publish our sisters or eat dinner out in place of cooking and cleaning or shout at the television or stand in the street with some impotent hand-painted sign, our babies in expensive contraptions securing them to our chests, or in high-powered rugged-wheeled mountain bike strollers the price of a month’s rent?

What is it that drives us to purchase shoes and drink lattes and worry about the years writing their story across the flesh of our bodies, so much so we join health clubs or buy exercise videos and compliment one another when we see the pounds of flesh leaving? Why do we let go of the power of that story—skin story—heartbeat—what we think in deeper spaces—what we feel without telling—how we love in spite of its stolen and rotten definitions?

I know a woman artist in Lithuania who fed her children on dirt and roots and potatoes and weeds and the milk from a cow and rain water for four years.

Still they grew.

There is no story of this woman.

There is no “news.”

History writes itself on the small backs of children.

Women carry.

The woman is a painter. All of her canvasses carry images of children, women, men needing care.

They do not “sell” on the art market, so to speak. But we—those who have chanced to know her—buy them. Tell everyone we know. Visit her. Bring her the domestic things that make a home generative. Write stories which carry her.

They keep her alive.

She keeps me alive.

This is my prayer for women’s writing, that it untethers itself and surrenders to the free-floating possibility of making. Timeless. Repetitive. Corporeal.

I do not mean to sound “womanly.” Or feminist. Lately these categories have been co-opted, quite slyly and sadly. I mean only to insist on the body as a metaphor for experience, generative of new forms, for everyone, but perhaps most urgently accessed by women writers, were they to choose it.

Generative of a new economy—one in the service of living and loving and making.

Intellectually stunning.

Without apology.

Calling All Women

An advertisement has come my way from Nava Renek at Spuyten Duyvil Books:

Wanted: Women writers using language, subject matter, and narrative form in new and exciting ways. Editors for an anthology featuring experimental women writers writing in the 21st century seek submissions of previously unpublished prose up to 15 pages. We are looking for serious work that attempts to reveal new truths and/or impressions about the world we live in. Submissions must be sent as WORD attachments to womenwriters@spuytenduyvil.net. Deadline: November 15.

Nava Renek
Program Coordinator
Brooklyn College Women's Center