Thursday, September 23, 2010

Embracing (or not) that feminist audience...

Caffeine is a drug. I forgot that. I've been maintaining myself at the level of drinking only one or two cups of drip coffee when I rise for so long that I forgot what drinking two lattes (around noon) can do to me. Several hours later, my pulse is still racing, my nerves vibrating, my head pounding; and I certainly don't want to know what my blood pressure is. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the effects will wear off by midnight. Without question, if I had a valium, I'd take one.

Browsing the current issue of Rain Taxi, I came across Steve Healye's interview with Diane Wakoski. I was bemused by this bit:
DW: The one group I had a chance to be part of, I resisted, and that was the feminists. I resisted because I had a falsely pure idea about my poetry, and a desire for it to appeal to readers of serious artistic writing. I did have a huge following as a result of the feminist movement in the late '60s and early '70s, but I felt like it was making me political, which I wasn't, and that I was writing poems as if I had a point of view for the whole community rather than just for myself, that I was saying things they wanted to hear. In retrospect, I think they were perceiving me that way, but now I don't see anything wrong with it. In the long run, what I may have given up is being as famous a poet as Adrienne Rich, who is only a few years older than me. I think I could just as easily have had a huge reputation as she did if I had just embraced that feminist audience. Although, we can neer really know what would've happened if we'd done X or Y. (37-38)
I had several-- serial-- reactions as I read this. But who knows. Maybe all of them were just the coffee talking.




6 comments:

Josh said...

I too had many reactions to two lattes, in my midafternoon class on Wednesday. I hope the students were far enough away not to hear them. Honestly, this was one of the situations where one fears one'll start whooshing across the room by jet-propulsion.

Nancy Jane Moore said...

I'm sitting here speculating on your reactions (coffee-induced or otherwise), because I'm having my own. For one thing, I wonder if the fact that she had feminist fans typed her as political (and therefore not doing "serious artistic writing") even if she didn't "embrace" them. I don't recall any of Wakoski's poems offhand, but I do have the impression that her poetry addresses feminist concerns.

Eleanor said...

I figure she is explaining to herself why she isn't as famous as she want to be. I liked her poetry lot at one time, but it seemed to repeat. Rich is more complex and varied.

mouseworks said...

I knew Wakoski as a teacher at St. Mark's Poetry Project. She was supportive of her female students, which was feminism enough for me at that stage of my writing life. When I met her again a few years later in California, we had a discussion about whether looking up children put up for adoption was sensible (she was strongly opposed). She had a difficult life in early 1960s New York, had something like three children with LaMonte Young (Yoko Ono was one of his lovers, too), all put up for adoption.

Some of her work was very important to me (single mother of one who put her child up for adoption)in ways that more gently raised and less brutalized women poets weren't (have never cared for Rich or Blau, just not from my social work at all). Wakoski might have been a better poet in the long run if she'd integrated her experience with the on-going feminist narrative, but I can read her, and I can't read the women from more privileged backgrounds. It's like seeing Brideshead Revisited -- okay, his life would have been better if he'd embraced being queer, but gee, that's a lot of privilege and I have a bit of trouble identifying with it.

Eleanor said...

My comment may be unfair. I defer to mouseworks, who seems to remember Wakowski's work better than I do.

Liz Henry said...

My god. It's like she regrets the missed opportunity of not developing a political consciousness and integrating it with her art. It's never too late Diane! Feminist sisterhood is still here for you!