Jocelyn Saidenberg on Beverly Dahlen

For Beverly Dahlen
December 13, 2008
Small Press Traffic Tribute
In response to A Reading 8

what is homelike becomes unhomelike in a reversal of fortune. she is our mother grown old.

the moon winked, she rides for us, her red-rimmed eyes. blind truth, it is ‘mediated, female, probably mad.’ the matter of Britain, the matter of Troy. a city lost. a woman on the ramparts. she, she was its downfall, by her treachery, her betrayal. she, Guinevere, or Helen, outside the law, that dangerous radical, the beautiful woman.


because a woman said no. in the beginning a woman said no. no father, no son. I am not that she. bound she came. still she is coiled there, in that leap.

Her Reading bids me solace, a deep pleasure in reading this work aloud, experiencing this reading gives me pleasure in all my senses, the movements from word to word, feeling intelligence in my mouth as it forms the thought, the attention, how it proceeds, makes meaning, finds no meaning, that intensity. The words invite and allow access to this writer’s attention, we move in tandem at times, as she relates to figures, reading as re-interpreting, rummaging through, sorting in literature’s history. She introduces me to the woman who says no, the aversive feminist, a kindred ally, the radical negative, her stubborn immobility, silent potent center, an obstinate death, the women whose no disrupts the law, disrobes speech, interrogates the state, of language, of family, and of war, unmakes and disarticulates the narrative, all that everyone has worked for, the conservatives forces, to which she says no. The women who say no, made visible, audible, through quiet histories of the imagined, what the reading tracks, an ongoing engagement, within a space called unhomelike. She leads me to this uncanny where unhomelike rejects the father, the son, familiar. Her unhomelike conjures a city, a Troy, an island, a coast, creating dwellings for others, for difference, for me, for reading to inhabit, for subjects of reading to self define, working through other configurations, compositions, multiples, repetitions, recursive narratives, no beginning middle end or not in that order, no final words. Reading is unhomelike is a liberatory promise, emancipatory fantasy proposing a radical future for our now.

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