Susan Gevirtz on HOW(ever)

Here are some excerpts from Susan Gevirtz's notes for her part of the conversation about HOW(ever). Not all of these things actually got brought up during the conversation as the discussion had a life of its own. I've tried to indicate in asides (in green) what appears in Susan's notes but did not get discussed on October 2nd.

Susan Gevirtz and Kathlee Fraser
photo by Camille Roy
From Susan Gevirtz:

Some of you were there, but for those of you who weren’t, I wish I could thoroughly invoke the world of November 1985 when I began working on Volume II No. 4 of HOW(ever).

There are a few things that may at least summon aspects of it :

  • First : the 2 words: feminist and poetics. [Susan wondered why she was NOT finding these two words together, anywhere!]
Susan, who was a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz in the History of Consciousness Program, was alerted to a flier at San Francisco State with those two words together--"Feminist Poetics." The flyer was for a class taught by Kathleen Fraser. Susan sought out Fraser's telephone number and called her cold. Kathleen invited her over and they had scotch and cheese and talked. Susan ended up being a Teaching Assistant for Kathleen and got credit for it because her UCSC professors Donna Haraway and Jim Clifford were already subscribers to HOW(ever) before Susan even knew about it.

Being Kathleen's TA and then being made an associate editor (not even an assistant!) on How(ever) were life changing events and informed everything that followed. I can never express enough gratitude to Kathleen for this -- and of course also for introducing me to the work of Dorothy Richardson

I don't think Susan got a chance to talk about this conference (below) at the SPT event, but it is in her notes. I wish we had talked about this because I too went to this amazing event. My friend Sally Doyle and I were there. It was my first serious intellectual conference and it was thrilling!
  • Second: Emily Dickinson, H.D Dual Centennial Colloquium , October 1986 at San Jose State – Perdita was there, memorable talks by Beverly, Ann Friedberg about H.D, Richardson and others and Close Up, Susan Howe, … and more
  • The Poetry Center sponsored "Women Working in Literature Conference" at San Francisco State in April 1985: Monique Wittig, Olga Broumas, Jayne Cortez

  • Third: The low-tech nature of it all: i.e. bulk mailings that took hours to assemble on one of our floors and tables – which meant that we had a lot time to talk and argue . One thing Susan appreciated among many others about Frances is that she was always willing to disagree --about the writing being published in that issue, under consideration, our own, favorite new restaurant. Also we were laboring to send out an issue but we were not united under the banner of one common poetics. We disagreed a lot but one thing I’d risk saying we probably all agreed on was the oppressive nature of “the dream of a common language.” That book was published in 1978. It was compelling. Rich was brilliant and charismatic. But our project deviated from a kind of unity while attempting to make a place for devaitors to come together and converse
I want to say that the issues and concerns that fueled my passion for HOW(ever) haven’t waned in urgency but have maybe become more integrated into other urgent concerns. Sometimes investigation into these issues continues for many of us in ways that may not look obviously like continued investigation: –in writing poetry for example – or in more overt ways: like in Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young’s A Megaphone; without HOW(ever), I'm not sure I would have thought about poetry and cross cultural issues in the way that compelled me to start the translation symposium in Greece that I started … and the desire to continue to think about writing and form as kinds of politics in places outside of the U.S.

Some of the things we might have talked about while folding and stamping and labeling HOW(ever)s remain abiding unresolved questions and conversations –mattering more or less or differently than they did at that time:

+ What do we or does anyone mean by “experimental” ? Is the word “innovative” any improvement on all the problems with “experimental”?

+ Cross genre – what counts as poetry or experimental? -- issues of race, class… and why are so many we publish white?

+ How does what counts as “convention” change from one context to the next? For example…Greece and many other places… Convention as a fluid, impossible to fix, category

[Note: not all of these points were discussed at the SPT event.]

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