05 October 2011
Small Press Traffic hosted an intimate celebration of the foundational feminist guerrilla poetry mailer HOW(ever) this past Sunday at Artist Television Access, featuring Kathleen Fraser, Beverly Dahlen, Susan Gevirtz and contributions from the audience by the likes of Robin Tremblay-McGaw, Camille Roy, Yedda Morrison, and Norma Cole (thanks to Camille for sharing the pictures above). It was fascinating to hear Bev and Kathleen discuss the genesis of the project: their early meetings with Frances Jaffer (who was certainly present in spirit (Kathleen saved her a chair!)), how they settled on a name for the project, the way the magazine morphed over time, etc. And great, too, to hear Susan Gevirtz talk about getting in touch with Bev and Kathleen as a graduate student at UCSC in the early eighties, searching for a cohort using the words "feminist" and "poetics" in the same sentence (as she had it); finding out later that her advisor, Donna Haraway was already a subscriber! And to hear Kathleen address her own changing consciousness in the early eighties: "I wasn't a feminist, I was a poet!"
I didn't get a chance to ask the many questions I'd stored up in anticipation of the event, mostly because folks were super tired by the time we made it to the Q & A; however, I was hoping the panel would specifically address the intimacy of production and distribution: how this particular model led to further collaboration and direct action and community building. I asked at the very end of the evening if they made the magazines together, in person, which seems crucial to the project (they did!). I was also interested in how anxiety positively factored into the inception of this project: Kathleen spoke at length about the different anxieties that served as an impetus to start the journal, including anxieties about being heard, about "legitimacy," about women "performing" inside and outside of the academy. In some ways HOW(ever) is a direct product of this deeply-felt anxiety, and the editors deserve endless appreciation for filling the enervating void with so much energy and vibrancy and LOVE (in Zukofsky's sense: "the desire to project the mind's peace," but in a tragic sense; that is, love as tragic hero, suffering a passion that is often not reciprocated).
I am infintely grateful to the editors for their service to the community, and my thanks, as always, to Samantha Giles and SPT for making this event happen!