1981 Feminist Reading Group Description and Reading List

Photo: Adjua Gargi Nzinga Greaves, October 13, 2018

If we take seriously the idea that poets make excellent alternate record-keepers, that part of the work of poetry is to create a subversive archive of unofficial history and shared memory and mood, how then might poetry be uniquely suited to taking us back, to showing us not just the events of a year as laid out by narratives of power, but the inside of a year? Say, for example, the year 1981? In this reading group, instead of organizing our conversation around an individual author, we will focus on a time, and attempt to uncover what 1981 felt like / was like through the close reading of five crucial texts published that year. Resisting nostalgia, and with certain misgivings about the whole “linear time” framework, we will listen for voices that have been silenced and narratives that have been lost or mistold, we will reclaim what was left behind that we still need today, and we will see what we can learn about a different era from the perspective of our era, as well as what we can learn about our era from the perspective of another, all while keeping in mind our own responsibilities as alternate record-keepers, making an “archive of feelings,” in 2018.

But wait, why 1981? Join the reading group and find out!

Texts will include Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa anthology, This Bridge Called My Back, Eileen Myles’s Fresh Young Voice From The Plains, Diane Burns’s Riding the One-Eyed Ford (discussion led by the foremost Burns scholar, Nicole Wallace), Alice Notley’s Waltzing Matilda, and Lorenzo Thomas’s The Bathers (discussion led by acclaimed book sleuth Dave Morse). PDFs will be provided!

9/18: Brings Us Together Across Time and Space

Reading: This Bridge Called My Back Selections: Foreward, Toni Cade Bambara; Prace, Cherríe Moraga; This Bridge Poem, Donna Kate Rushin; Introduction, Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa; “When I Was Growing Up,” Nellie Wong; “on not bein,” mary hope lee; “He Saw,” Chrystos; “Wonder Woman,” Genny Lim; “I Walk in the History of My People,” Chrystos; “And When You Leave, Take Your Pictures With You,” Jo Carrillo; “Millicent Fredericks,” Gabrielle Daniels; “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House,” Audre Lorde; “billie lives! Billie lives!,” hattie gossett; “Lowriding Through the Women’s Movement,” Barbara Noda; “I Come with No Illusions,” Mirtha Quintanales; “Speaking In Tongues: A Letter To 3rd World Women Writers,” Gloria Anzaldúa; “Chicana’s Feminist Literature: A Re-Vision Through Malintzin/ or Malintzin: Putting Flesh Back on the Object,” Norma Alarcón; “Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading,” Chrystos; “Give Me Back,” Chrystos; “A Black Feminist Statement,” Combahee River Collective; “The Welder,” Cherríe Moraga

Optional: Brief History of Neoliberalism, Introduction, David Harvey. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, Introduction, Chandra Talpade Mohanty.

9/25: What New York Was Like / What Could Have Been Otherwise

Reading: Eileen Myles, Fresh Young Voice From the Plains and Sappho’s Boat and selections from A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos

Optional: Fear City: New York’s Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity Politics, Introduction and Conclusion, Kim Phillips-Fein and New York Times article published on July 3, 1981 “Rare Cancer Seen In 41 Homosexuals.”

10/2: Diane Burns

Reading: Riding the One-Eyed Ford, Diane Burns and “Sure You Can Ask Me A Personal Question” (poem, 1989)

Optional: Introduction, Sinister Wisdom: A Gathering of Spirit, North American Indian Women’s Issue (Issues 22/23, 1983) by Beth Brant (Degonwadonti)

Screening: “Alphabet City Serenade” performance by Diane Burns for Bob Holman’s Poetry Spots series and I’ll Remember You as You Were, Not as What You’ve Become (12 mins, 2016) by filmmaker Sky Hopinka (Ho-Chunk/Pechanga).

10/9: They Might Call It Personal / What Is Worth Saving

Reading: Waltzing Matilda, Alice Notley.

Optional: “My 1980s,” Wayne Koestenbaum. Sharing an Archive of Feelings: A Conversation between Tammy Rae Carland and Ann Cvetkovich.

10/16: Lorenzo Thomas

Reading: Selections from The Bathers, Lorenzo Thomas

Optional: “Lorenzo Thomas: A Private Public Space,” Alice Notley, Coming After, “Kindred: Origins of the Black Avant-Garde,” Lorenzo Thomas, “I Cudda Had a V-8: Poetry and the Vernacular,” Lorenzo Thomas, and “Experiments In Black: African-American Avant-Garde Poetics” by Aldon Lynn Nielsen

Laura Henriksen

Laura Henriksen‘s work can be found in The Brooklyn Rail, LitHub, No, Dear, and other places. She is the author of Agata (IMP, 2017) Fluid Arrangements, a collaborative chapbook with Beka Goedde, (Planthouse Gallery, 2018) and Canadian Girlfriends (THERETHEN, 2019). She works as the Director of Learning & Community Engagement at The Poetry Project.