the feminine space of sexuality, surrealism,
and experimentation in literature
Edited and with an Introduction by
C. M. Chady
cover painting by Mina Loy
ISBN 978-1-959556-45-9 470 pages $30.00
Encomiums to this labor of love, a feminist extravaganza! And an entanglement of scrutiny and joy. A full-throated documentary project of fascinating and newly inspired inter-generational poetics has sprung full grown out of the Jack Kerouac School Archive at Naropa University. With transcriptions based on notes and oral teaching from guests such as Jane Augustine, Joanne Kyger, Michael Heller, Bernadette Mayer, and Erica Hunt as well as others from summer sessions, we encounter a host of generative surrealist women writers including Clarice Lispector, and modernists, Mina Loy, Gertrude Stein, Lorine Niedecker, as well as an elegant H.D. as seen through the eyes of Barbara Guest as encountered by Joanne Kyger. Did the woman have too much privilege? Is there such a thing as matriarchal language? Stamina and curiosity by the student-poets-scholars over 2 years of “Carrier Waves” (Zoom sessions) has led to this remarkable recovery, and intimate response. Look to the Archive was the prompt and the student collective cohort, spear-headed by the indomitable le Christina Chady burrowed in. We started the BA MFA and SWP programs of Writing & Poetics nearly 50 years ago with a founding vision that we could build an archive that would resonate across a trajectory of consciousness. Work on this book seemed a powerful antidote through slog and mystery of pandemic] time, of angst and loss, panic and sequester to some articulated agency around self-discovery, mysticism, dream, torqued language, identity, gender, race, class, sexual empowerment, queerness, disobedience, continuous present, whereby a struggling renascent poet feminism emerges. Brava to the students- poets- editors-scholars who grappled with disembodied voices. Head to heart to head to ear to oral nights to oculist witness, from reel to reel, reel to cassette, cassette to CD tracking, tracing dream and vortex, and wild mind dialects of head space and ludic place. Now we’re up to the future with its fierce continuing opaline determination to be heard embodied in these texts and psyches. This is a great shimmering and useful handbook for younger writers/thinker. As Diane Lizette Rodriquez remarks: ”The line of descent follows us.”
Embodied Unconscious is the most inspired book on poetry lineage ever to appear in North America. Doesn’t it seem obvious now? That writers of the Jack Kerouac School should unearth voices from the trove of archives, write down what they hear their ancestors say, and respond with their own careful, cool gazes into the future? Almost every speaker here a woman—from Stein, Loy, Niedecker, their generation—to women who are changing poetry right now. Three generations of figures who pass the lamp of courage forward. As I read this collection, what echoes are Plato’s words to artists: when the mode of the music changes, the laws of the state change too.
Jack Kerouac School, author of Tracks Along the left Coast
Notoriously, American feminism in the 1970s trained its eye on the literary canon, rediscovering a body of work by female writers and fashioning a female ideal reader who resisted the “immasculation of women by men,” as Judith Fetterly wrote in 1978. Yet, these correctives have just as notoriously needed correction as they threatened to reestablish the universal writer and reader—woman this time. The French theorists’ psychoanalysis unsettled this universal (yet notably American) reader and writer by emphasizing bisexuality, desire, plurality, and diffuseness. In her talk “Gender and Language,” included in this anthology, Erica Hunt articulates two additional correctives from queer theorists and Black feminists: to consider “Gender as a set of signs which we tend to forget are arbitrary” and to “look at how race…informs our language.” I see this anthology as an ongoing practice of restitution, recuperation, and revision. But more significantly and uniquely, this anthology, and the outrider lineage from which it comes, is a practice of refusal, a refusal of closure and reification that pushes language to its limits, as Jane Augustine says in her talk on Clarice Lispector. One of my favorite pieces in the anthology is a conversation (experimental women’s writing is multivocal and participatory). Jane Augustine discusses H.D.’s mysticism, but Diane DiPrima and Anne Waldman occasionally interject so that I feel I am witnessing a convening straight out of H.D.’s mysticism—are these the three fates, a palimpsest of voices, the incarnations of Mary? Yes, probably.
C. M. Chady holds her BA in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis and her MFA Creative Writing and Poetics from Naropa University’s Jack Kerouac School where she was the Anne Waldman Fellow. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the experimental literary magazine Tiny Spoon, in addition to serving as a member of Wisdom Body Collective, who recently published More Revolutionary Letters: A Tribute to Diane di Prima. Formerly, she was the Editor-in-Chief of *apo-press, Editor-in-Chief of Bombay Gin, and Managing Editor of River Styx. Her work spans multiple genres, including poetry, fiction, and hybrid forms. She has been published nationally and internationally in literary journals. More of her publications and work can be found on her website cmchady.com.