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

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 7.51.40 AM
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!

March Appearances: #RESIST & The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird

I haven’t had many reasons to leave the house, lately. Too many deadlines and not enough time. However, when it comes to these two events, I wouldn’t miss them for all the pennies per word in the world.

17097702_829911597150100_5535620892274335620_o

On Thursday, March 9th, starting at 7 pm at the Phyllis Straus Gallery in Tallahassee, FL, I will be joining poet Luis Eduardo and others at his event #RESIST.

Quoting from the Facebook Event page:

Join us on a night of resistance and unification as we all welcome the artistry of The Lessers (singer/guitarist Olivier Millour), Mariah J. RománMax EpsteinSelena ChambersMenika LueSawyer CampbellLuis EduardoElton BurgestEric McNeil, and Sawyer Vanderwerff.

[Resist] indicates unification and resistance, the sense of being together with all while also going against any disturbance to said unity. Has to do with current events, with the people against xenophobia, against homo- and trans-phobia, against bigotry and against diving opposing sides in any country, whether it be here in the States or in Great Britain. RESIST can mean many things; hence, resistance includes resisting from society, from pressure, or from the very resisting occurring in society. Unification, in turn, can be the unification of ideas that go against the very idea of unity, therefore, distractions to proper utopias. The two conflict and coerce themselves, like yin and yang. Both are necessary for the development of good and evil found in society.

Just as an aside, I agree with this mission statement 100%. Since November, I have heard testimonies from many people lost in the sea of possibility of resistance: What’s the right way? What’s the best way? Why is it this way? And resistance can come in many forms, and I believe that it is up to the artists, writers, musicians, and creators to explore and illustrate those forms in ways that aren’t necessarily done effectively on the front lines. So, I am very glad to be standing and reading with this great group of artists. Thank you, Luis!

ODS

On Saturday, March 25th, I will be in Atlanta as a guest participant in the first annual The Outer Dark Symposium of the Greater Weird.

The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird will be an immersive one-day event featuring eight hours of panels, readings and signings centered around Weird and speculative fiction. Admission will be limited to 50 attendees, but all programming will be featured on The Outer Dark weekly podcast which airs on This Is Horror, reaching thousands of listeners who are readers of Weird and speculative fiction.

Since this is its first year, they are running an Indiegogo campaign with amazing perks from some of the best weird writers and vendors in the biz. To quote co-founder Scott Nicolay, host of The Outer Dark weekly podcast:

A key goal is to keep the symposium affordable ($25) for readers and writers, with everyone attending all programming and sharing breakfast and lunch together. We also will be providing an opportunity to continue the conversation at an after-party in the evening. We’ve crunched every figure and cut corners as far as we possibly can, but to rent a great space for an entire day, fly in some out-of-town guests, provide food services, and print a collectible program chapbook still takes money. In other words, to accomplish ALL this at this crazy price point, we ask humbly for your help.

That’s why we created this Indiegogo campaign through which you can purchase:

  • Supporting Membership ($20, includes program chapbook, limited to 100 copies & signed by all 17 program participants)

  • Basic Attending Membership ($25 for day event including meals)

  • Deluxe Membership ($50 for day event & evening party)

  • VIP Membership ($100, includes exclusive brunch with author guests & more)

With 4 days left, they have almost reached 50% of their goal (which is just under $3k). If you are coming to the Outer Dark, why not consider buying your membership along with some of the great perks? If you are a fan of Frankenstein or Poe, you may be interested in two of the below options that involve my WANDERING SPIRITS: TRAVELING MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN limited edition chapbook from Tallhat Press.

Wandering Weird–$10 USD  + Shipping
 
1 signed & personalized copy of Selena Chambers’ WANDERING SPIRITS; TRAVELING MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN (illustrated by Yves Tourigny) & your name thanked in program chapbook & on podcast.
 
Dreadful Poe Pack–$45 USD + Shipping
 
The Dreadful Ape Tiki Mug is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE & finely crafted by Horror in Clay. To make it even more Poe-fect, it comes with a signed copy & personalized copy of WANDERING SPIRITS: TRAVELING MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN by Poe expert Selena Chambers. Plus your name thanked in program chapbook & on podcast.

There are plenty of other options, from simply getting the basic membership for $25, or a special VIP Deluxe Attending Membership for $100, which gets you to “The Outer Dark Symposium, VIP party (8-11 pm, location TBA), farewell Sun. brunch with guests (up to $25 incl tip) & special surprise Weird book/gift. Plus your name listed as VIPDeluxe attending member in program chapbook & on podcast.”

You can explore all the perk options and find more details at The Outer Dark Symposium on the Greater Weird’s Indiegogo page or Facebook event page. Many thanks to Scott and Anya Martin for having me along for the ride.