Welcome Surrealists!

It’s been a while and a while before that. So, I thought I would introduce myself to newcomers making their way here from the BBC3 interview that aired today, “I Arrive Without Leaving–A Discussion on Women Surrealist Poetry.”

I am a writer, a lit nerd, music and art lover. I studied Art History in college with an emphasis on Poe and French Symbolism, Dadaism and Surrealism. This is when I first began my studies of the women surrealists, but I had fallen in love with Mina Loy at the end of high school, which I shudder to think was about 22 years ago.

I get bored easily, so I am enthusiastic about a lot of different things. I think that is reflected in my eclectic career in publishing over the past 18 years. But for the sake of algorithms, let’s say I’m a Weird Surrealist Grrl who likes to write about women’s history and lost history in general.

My work has been translated in France, Spain, Brazil, and Turkey, and has been published in the U.K. and Australia. It has been nominated for the Pushcart, Colorado Book Award, Best of the Net, the Hugo Award, and World Fantasy award (twice). Recent bylines include Literary Hub, Beautiful Bizarre Magazine, The Debutante: Women Surrealists Art Journal, and BBC3.

My recent works/projects are:

Calls for Submission, my weird historical fiction collection from Pelekinisis, which you can buy here.

33 1/3: Babes in Toyland’s Fontanelle, out January 2023, and available for pre-order here.

The Lillith Assimilations: An Exkphrastic Appreciation,” will be appearing in modern surrealist painter Carrie Ann Baade’s forthcoming book, Carrie Ann Baade: Scissors and Tears.

Most of my writing on surrealism is internalized within my fiction, which you can find in the above mentioned short story collection. In the BBC3 discussion, I discuss my need for a Women Surrealist Survival Kit. This was for an essay/listicle turned manifesto that was publish on Literary Hub in 2017. My other writings in this vein include a meditation on Leonora Carrington and Brexit for the amazing feminist surrealist arts journal, The Debutante.

I am not terribly active online. The best way to keep up with me is either by subscribing or dropping a comment on this blog, subscribing to my Substack, or following me on Twitter where I check DMs @BasBleuZombie.

Thanks for visiting!

Appearances: I Arrive Without Leaving–The Story of Women Surrealist Poets (BBC3)

Today is a little unusual. I will be on BBC3 at 18.45BST (1:45EST) as part of their Sunday feature: “I Arrive Without Leaving–The Story of Women Surrealist Poets.” I will be talking about Mina Loy, Claude Cahun, and my mini-manifesto about building my own Surrealist Survival Kit that was published at Literary Hub in 2017.

Here’s the run down:

“Drawing on rare recordings including an interview with Leonora Carrington as well as readings of poems by Méret Oppenheim, Joyce Mansour, Gisèle Prassinos, Claud Cahun and Suzanne Césaire, Alexandra examines how these women writers’ confronted issues of gender identity, the erotic, colonialism and power structures using the tools of surrealism to reimagine the world.

With contributions from contemporary surrealist poets and writers Penelope Rosemont, Beatriz Hausner, Rikki Ducornet, Selena Chambers, Aja Monet and Professor Robin DG Kelley.”

I want to thank the episode’s producer Sarah Cuddon for having me on this illustrious panel and I hope the episode inspires many more people to build their own women surrealist’s survival kit!

Reading Notes: More recommendations for the Women Surrealist Survival Kit

Wow. What a day! The response to “The Women Surrealists Helping Me Through Our New Political Reality” received a great response! I have spent the day nerding out about Women Surrealists, and finding out many other people have been dealing with similar feelings about how to creatively approach the nonce insanity. Thank you so much to everyone who read, commented, tweeted, retweeted, and shared on FB!

As a thanks, I’m posting a little bonus addendum to the piece. First, if you’d like to read more about Leonora Carrington’s quote about the Surrealist Survival Kit, it was part of a series of conversations Penelope Rosemont had with Carrington towards the end of her life. Published as “A Revolution in the Way We Think and Feel—Conversations with Leonora Carrington,” you can find it in Ron Sakolsky’s Surrealist Subversions: Rants, Writings and Images by the Surrealist Movement in the United States.

While I recommended 3 books in the article, my original draft had 5. I cut two of them for length, but still find them essential writings for my kit.

Insel, Mina Loy, Melville House, 2014

LoyAn interesting aspect about Women’s Surrealism is that many members evaded the Feminist label. Not Mina Loy. She made it her mission to polish the flaws she saw in its ideology not only writing blatantly about enjoying sex, but also by observing, documenting, and subverting the various roles of womanhood. You could say that she set down the intellectual premise all women surrealists would follow in her “Feminist Manifesto,”: “Leave off looking to men to find out what you are not —seek within yourselves to find out what you are.”

Insel is a feminist response to Breton’s Nadja, and the male Surrealist concept of amour fou and the femme enfant applied to the Surrealist Woman. In Insel, these dynamics are flipped. The narrator Mrs Jones is not a woman-child, but a widow in her fifties, dependent on her children, firmly established in her career, and creatively bored. The one thing she has is an established reputation and far-reaching influence, which attracts a young, German junky mystic, Aaron Insel. While he then, becomes the homme enfant, he is physically repulsive. It is Insel’s unhinged perspective that appeals to Jones, and eventually she begins supporting him. It doesn’t end well, of course, but what is important is that throughout the novel, Mrs. Jones holds all the cards—she has all the money, she has the career, connections, and experience Insel most covets.

That isn’t why I have this in the kit, though. While this is something of an anti-romance, Loy uses the notion of mad love to show its true delusion. Mrs. Jones uses her relationship with Insel to distract and confront her aging, as well as how society and art movements dismissed women of a certain age.

The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait, Abrams, 2005

KahloYou won’t find any gossip here. Reproduced in full-color facsimile and in translation, Khalo’s diary is a full testament to internal fulfillment. It has no concern for dates or time and is a straight connection to her creative mind. On the page you can see her exploring and meshing Greek mythology with Meso-American folklore, lists of associations and puns, days described only in nouns, and poignant spatial mediations like that on the loss of her leg.

While it’s part of legend that Kahlo used her art as therapy to cope with lifelong health complications and mobility limitations, in this diary you see the messy and raw work that went into the final finessed products. You also get to see all of the doubts and anxieties that echo our own creative worries. Towards the end of her life, after having only seven operations on her back in one year, she reprimands herself for not doing enough, or being relevant enough: “Above all I want to transform it [her work] into something useful for the Communist revolutionary movement, since up to now I have only painted the earnest portray of myself, but I’m very far from work that could serve the Party.” And yet…and yet! Those earnest portrayals that analyzed her most intimate tragedies while upcycling Mexican folklore and remixing post-colonial history, have served, nourished, and inspired within more than one political ideation. It achieved a new universality, and that universality was feminine.

 

Publishing Notes: Literary Hub and my Women Surrealist Survival Kit

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An essay I wrote about my “Surrealist Survival Kit” for Literary Hub.

I’m doing a mini-Guest Blog tour for Calls for Submission, and my first stop is at the incomparable Literary Hub! I am very pleased to share that “The Women Surrealists Helping Me Through Our New Political Reality” is now live.

My original intention, and pitch, for this piece was to be a discussion about the last ten years effort at a Women Surrealist Revival. An effort I believe is at its apex, what with the Leonora Carrington centennial, a first ever monograph of Eileen Agar, and the two new Claude Cahun books coming out this summer, including Exist Otherwise, the first English biography of the gender-bending photographer.

But as I started drafting, the essay took a different and much more personal route. I’d been re-acquainting myself with these artists since the election, and fully realized in the writing of this piece how they were helping me reassess and reaffirm what I believe the potential of art truly can be.  Something I had been struggling with all year, and as a result lead to a lot of dead ins and head-wall banging.

But as I started to look at what and who I had been dipping back into–Carrington, Cahun, Césaire, Kahlo, and Mina Loy–all women who commented on the political by drawing upon the personal, I realized I had to step up and go there myself. The Revival turned into Survival.

So, here then, is an achievement of a few things. First, it is the first finished thing I’ve produced since the election; Second, it is both a celebration of the internal resistance of the past, and advocation of its exploration in the future; three, it’s on LITHUB!

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to check it out, and if you liked it, please share it widely with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!