Daily Archives: March 29, 2012

Notes on Adrienne Rich

Twenty-one Love Poems, by Adrienne Rich, was the first lesbian poetry book I read. A fellow cadet when I was at ROTC camp after my junior year of college in 1980 suggested I read it, knowing something about me before I knew it myself. I went on to read much of her other work but the one piece that affected me the most, that in many ways defined me as a young adult and fledging dyke, was Adrienne Rich’s Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying (1975). Adrienne Rich Reading her essay gave me clarity as I underwent the paradigm shifting experience of becoming a lesbian feminist from religious fundamentalist. Her words were simple and searching.

Women have to think, whether we want, in our relationships with each other, the kind of power that can be obtained through lying.

They provided me a foundation and essential structure for how my relationships could be defined and what my expectations of self and others might become.

In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or  person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even with our own lives.

This was very different from the concept of honor as learned from folklore and history, rife with men’s accomplishment through violence, revenge, and vigilantes.

In a March 2, 2011 interview with Kate Waldmen for the Paris Review, Adrienne Rich said “Nothing “obliges” us to behave as honorable human beings except each others’ possible examples of honesty and generosity and courage and lucidity, suggesting a greater social compact.” This quote reflects what she wrote in 1975 in her essay, “Truthfulness, honor, is not something which springs ablaze of itself; it has to be created between people.

Adrienne Rich gave me a blueprint for transformation. Reading her words changed and charted my life as regardless of its trajectory, I sought to fulfill the “truly womanly idea of honor in the making” she wrote about in her Women and Honor.

Not long ago, I wondered at the concept of women and honor and considered how her essay would update to now, the 21st century, almost 40 years from when it was published. Pulling a yellowed, dog-eared copy from the shelf I’d re-read it. In doing so I realized that there was no authentic call for a revised, updated version. Her words still rang true. In some sense, even more accurate as our society has become more violent, more fractured, more manipulative than the cultural context of the mid 1970s.

Imagine now, if women, if all of us, regardless of orientation, embraced the message of her essay.

Truthfulness, honor, is not something which springs ablaze of itself; it has to be created between people. This is true in political situations. The quality and depth of the politics evolving from a group depends in large part on their understanding of honor. Much of what is narrowly termed “politics” seems to rest on a longing for certainty even at the cost of honesty, for an analysis which, once given, need not be re-examined…It isn’t that to have an honorable relationship with you, I have to understand everything, or tell you everything at once, or that I can know, beforehand, everything I need to tell you. It means that most of the time I am eager, longing for the possibility of telling you. That these possibilities may seem frightening, but not destructive to me. That I feel strong enough to hear your tentative and groping words. That we both know we are trying, all the time, to extend the possibilities of truth between us.

March 27th, 2012, Adrienne Rich died at the age of 82. Her words from nearly 40 years ago, remain a touchstone for “The possibility of life between us.

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Chow Nominated for Global E-Book Award

Chow has been accepted into nomination for a Global E-book Award. The Global Ebook Awards honor and bring attention to the future of book publishing: Ebooks. Now in its second year, the Awards are in 72 specific categories. They are open to all publishers large and small so that a winner is the best in its category not just the best of small or regionally-published ebooks. Most ebooks are also available as printed books as well. The awards ceremony will be in gorgeous Santa Barbara on August 18, 2012.

Chow is an excerpt from Hudson’s unpublished collection of essays recounting her career of 32 years in the Army Reserves. An Army moves on its stomach but combat rations only go so far for so long and a Soldier has to find something else to eat. From mess halls to mess kits, Chow chronicles one Soldier’s inventiveness and adventure in food while deployed in wartime. A small snapshot into what many never think about – what’s to eat?

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Gems from the San Francisco Writers Conference 2012

Michael Larsen, co director of the San Francisco Writers Conference and Writing for Change Conference, is posting select handouts from this year’s sold out San Francisco Writers Conference on his blog site. This is a great way to see some of the useful and informative topics presented, especially if you’re wondering about attending for the first time. Postings include Feedback on the Page: How to Give Feedback in a Writing Group from my workshop with Tanya Egan Gibson, Penny Warner’s 7 Perfect Places to Write, Jeevan Sivasubramaniam’s 7 Questions for Preparing a Proposal and more.

For an interesting perspective on the panel discussion at this year’s conference “Being a Change Agent, Writing for a Better World” read this blog post by The Writer Magazine staff writer E. Abbe Can Books Change the World?

Want a taste of the conference presentations? Check out the San Francisco Writers Conference Teleseminar Series and listen to talks from Joan Gelfand, Alan Rinzler, Chris Soth, Kevin Smokler, Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomoda and others.

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