Filed under: Announcements, Art, Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Summer Online Issue
The 3rd annual So to Speak Summer Online issue is here! Our editorial staff is proud to showcase the work of these feminist writers and artists in the Summer 2013 Issue. This issue includes all of the genres you’ve come to expect from So to Speak: extraordinary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art!
Read the new issue HERE or click on the cover art to the left. Later this summer, be sure to check our blog for posts by our contributing writers and artists, as well as guest writers, on craft and their views on feminism. Our blog offers a continuous dialogue on feminism, which can be found in surprising places! Be sure to engage with the contributors by commenting on their blog posts and offering further ideas in the comment box.
Lauren M. Plitkins
Adsilen Reyes Pino
Filed under: Monthly News Round-Up, Nonfiction, Post by: Sheryl R, Summer Online Issue
Happy summer – the season of sunshine, relaxation, and fun! Here at StS, the editors have been busy creating our summer online issue, which will premier July 9th (more on that soon.) This month, we’ve had a fantastic line-up of blog posts:
- Jack Solano discusses the role of white males in the feminist movement in his post Using Privilege to Combat Inequality. Solano doesn’t shy away from inequality, in fact, by choosing to attend a historically black university, he has openly embraced the challenges that many men in his position do not routinely face. In doing so, he has arrived personally at an important place—not only does he recognize the privileges his race and gender afford him, but he believes that this very privilege should be used to advance gender and racial equality.
- Our outgoing blog and poetry editor, Sheila McMullin, in her Final Thoughts post, explores feminism in a deeply personal way. She opens up about feminism, describing it as a living, surviving creature, much like a jellyfish, with the ability to sting—and as an evolving, unfolding definition that she continues to create. From bell hooks quotes to her thoughts on promoting feminism in her career, post-graduate school, McMullin invites us into her most interior thoughts on feminism and positive feminist education and online feminist forums.
- Tamar Altebarmakian, in Lesser Shades of Equal, writes about the shifts in consciousnesses that are created by the ripples of small gestures, gestures that challenge unconscious mores and prejudices and that widen circles of acceptance.
- If you’re looking for summer reading suggestions, our poetry reviews of the past year are examined in Summer StS Reading: Poetry. We’ve reviewed outstanding collections of poetry that deserve space on every bookshelf.
Stay tuned for more information on our exciting summer online issue!
It’s that time, right? Red rocks, cactus margaritas, whatever signifies vacation to any of you. I suspect what counts as vacation depends on where you’re from, what media you consume, and what you can afford.
This poem, like my other Mustang Sally poems, is a persona piece, one in which I get to try out an alternate life where those conditions are somewhat different for me. As Sally does, I came from a Midwestern blue-collar town where racial and class tensions significantly overlapped. I took the name, “Mustang Sally,” from the old Motown hit because, in spite of (because of?) the racial difference, Motown music has always resonated with me. The industrial world, the class values, the family stuff all sounded a lot more like home than the farm life idealized by the country music of my youth. In my poems, Mustang Sally is a trailer-trash white girl, with origins not so different from my own.
The salient difference ultimately being money. The combination of my scholarships and my folks’ hard-won savings paid my way into the gentrified existence I now enjoy. And I’m aware almost daily of differences my own child takes for granted. The genesis of the Mustang Sally poems is often in those points of class difference.
This poem, “Mustang Sally Takes a Vacation,” though, springs from similarities between me and my alter ego. I’d like to think whoever I’d have been either in this life or the one I’d have put together without the money to leave home, the comforts of sunshine and alcohol, the bewilderment of connection and the loss of it, the curiosity about a larger life would all still be part of the deal.
As a feminist, I value the awareness, the politicizing, of such differences in class, race and ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, and any similarities that might crack or underscore those differences. The examination of such issues forms part of my work as a writer, as a citizen, as a life partner, and as a parent. While I think it’s problematic to borrow an icon out of African-American culture as a namesake for my alter ego, and I think it’s problematic to be a married heterosexual with a literary persona who indulges in the occasional girl crush, I hope such blurrings of identity can be seen as boundary crossings, not boundary violations, as me writing in who I’m not while I live out who I am. Perhaps, too, it’s a measure of how much Motown shaped my imaginative life growing up and how much feminism, in its many manifestations, has shaped my imaginative life as a woman.
Food for thought. So, I’m stepping down from the soapbox now, and wishing you all a great vacation this summer, whatever form it takes!
I was recently notified that a piece of writing I had submitted months ago to So to Speak would be published in the summer online issue. There are things about my submission which had led to an initial rejection, and I am unaware of what internal decision-making had been performed which resulted in the work’s final acceptance. Perhaps they simply like the work. I am also, considering my background, uneasy about broaching this news prior to the publication’s actual appearance online; prior training in hesitation, prior places and types of employment, prior promises of love and adoration, all lead me now to suspicion.
I raise this topic for an entirely different reason, however: So to Speak is a ‘feminist’ publication with university staff and funding and support, and that may or may not mean many things. I was invited by the publication’s contact person to complete and submit an ‘interview’ form that would also be published. I was excited at that prospect, less so than the selection of a piece of mine potentially being published, but excited at the possibility of replying in ‘rant mode’ to a list of things some anonymous interviewer might ask of me. There would be no, “What’s your favorite color, Mandy?” questions; and certainly none of the questions repeated to me over and over while working as an adult sex site chat model, none of which I will repeat. I took a quick look at the survey questionnaire, and paused. I paused beyond the required submission for publication date. I thought about the implications of the venue, of the questionnaire, and what I would say in answer.
As a ‘person,’ there are things about me which I suppose might classify me as ‘feminist.’ This is a condition of mine, and frequently reflected in my writings; it’s hard to explain, but the point, I think, is that I am not convinced that I am classifiable as belonging properly to any category. I once had the statistical universe of behaviors and combined attributes of the sapien species described to me thus:
“Picture an aquarium, Mandy, filled with tiny motes of dust, each a person. There are clumps and a glowing bright swath of them running mid fluid center. Mandy, somewhere in that aquarium, where each mote is an individual, somewhere in that mix, is a mote that is you. It is not in the center mass, Mandy; it is far out on the edges, where the darkness gathers. It is, on that two-dimensional, statistical thing called ‘normal distributional curve,’ at an end where the others will always seek to destroy, for their own safety.”
Margarita Ríos-Farjat‘s, “Cafe in Pioneer Square” has a special place in my heart because it was my first: the first poem Margarita sent me, and the first I translated. I was fairly new to translation at the time, having only worked with the poetry of two other poets, and had a lot to learn then (still do, of course) about the Spanish language and its unique poetics, about poetry in general (my primary training is in fiction), and about Margarita herself. I had the fortune of meeting Margarita and her family about a year into our partnership when both of our travel itineraries happened to converge for the same weekend in Boston, but while I was translating this first poem, I knew almost nothing about her personally.
While there are different schools of thought regarding what biographical information about a poet is useful or necessary to the reading of a poem, I have always found it helpful. Especially when translating. Even fiction, told through the hand and eyes and experience of its author, is informed by the writer’s life, and poetry is usually even closer to its author than fiction. I think it is telling that this was the first poem Margarita sent me, and only now having worked through the poem as well as having met Margarita and gotten to know her do I understand why. Early in the poem, I struggled with the first line: “Five years ago I had a round afternoon.” It wasn’t an issue of the Spanish, that’s what the line says, but I didn’t know what she meant by that. Despite several other obvious (in hindsight) references in the poem, Margarita had to tell me directly in our revision process that the theme of roundness was referring to her being pregnant at the time of this memory. It wasn’t complicated, it wasn’t a language barrier, I just didn’t know Margarita well yet and didn’t understand how her family informed her writing.
Of course, once she told me that detail, everything else clicked into place, and as a poem itself, this is one of my favorites. The sensory details and imagery that Margarita creates to capture this winter afternoon are wonderful: the sky “a cotton bedspread / thick with dreams and caught upon the fingers of the winter branches” and the “clusters of lamps on each pole” glowing in the fog while she and Gabriel are warm inside the cafe. And then the poem turns, and her thoughts about life and new life and “the grace of turning in the spiral of time,” which is “sometimes difficult to discern, as in the fog” I have always found particularly insightful, and still faithful to the poem’s imagery, not waxing overly philosophical.
Sometimes the most difficult element of translation has nothing to do with language, culture, or poetics; it has to do with intention. It takes a lot of work with language, culture, and poetics to finally arrive at the point where you understand the poet’s original intent for the poem, and once you find that, then you’ve successfully translated the poem into your target language. You can run the original poem through an internet translator all you want, but there’s more to literary translation that switching between languages. You have to work your way into the poem, find and understand the heart of the work, and then work your way back out to allow the poem to reflect this understanding; this is one thing Google will never do for us.