Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Natural Bridge #16, Responding to Women Writers

Natural Bridge
The new issue of Natural Bridge is out. Nan Sweet is the issue's Guest Editor and the topic is "Responding to Women Writers." Nan invited contributors to echo women writers or write in response to the work of women writers. The resulting collection includes excellent poetry and stories on topics including China after the Cultural Revolution, a woman soldier in Iraq, and America's Great Depression haunted by immigration from Austria.

Nan Sweet brings to this topic a history of thoughtful consideration of the role of women in writing. As an Editor, she's keenly aware -- I know this from many personal conversations with her -- of the responsibility and opportunity an editor has to open doors and cast light, and how that can change the look of things. It's a chance to do some deep exploration of what literature is, and how it's used. In Nan's case, I know she approaches the task with a history of scholarship, a love of the written word, and a well-traveled delight in international literature.

I saw many of those same qualities shine through in Nan's own poetry (Rotogravure, her chapbook published last year by my own Cherry Pie Press). It's a privilege to see the editorial work she's doing now.

Many of the women writers that contributors have chosen to respond to have also worn the Editor hat at various points, and been able to bring their own knowledge and passion to bear on the literary arena: Marianne Moore, Adrienne Rich, Allison Funk and Annie Finch come immediately to mind.

Women writers who are the subject or inspiration for poems, essays and stories in this special issue include:
Helen Adam, Kim Addonizio, Anna Akhmatova, Gloria Anzaldùa, Charlotte Brontë, Julia de Burgos, Jayne Cortez, Emily Dickinson, Hilda Doolittle, Denise Giardina, Kathleen Ann Goonan, Hildegard von Bingen, Shirley Jackson, Julian of Norwich, Emma Lazarus, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore, Rosalie Moore, Lady Murasaki, Joyce Carol Oates, Marge Piercy, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich, Sonia Sanchez, Lynne Sharon Schwartz, Anne Sexton, Gertrude Stein, Ruth Stone.

The contributors include Catherine Rankovic, A.E. Stallings, Kelli Russell Agodon, Anne E. Michael, Terri Witek, Barbara Crooker, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Annie Finch, Sandra M. Gilbert, Mary Ruth Donnelly, Erin Elizabeth Smith, Rebecca Dunham, Helen Eisen, Rachel Hadas, Tess Farnham, Allison Funk, Jane O. Wayne, and others.

On Thursday, January 25, 7-8:30 pm, the journal will launch Issue 16 at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid in St. Louis's Central West End. The launch event will include readings by contributors and by the editors who helped assemble this noble issue. If you can't be there, you can order your copy of Natural Bridge (a bargain at $8) and ask Left Bank to ship it to you -- 314.367.6731.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Literature for the Halibut

For anyone who missed it – or heard it but would like to listen again – the January 11 “Literature for the Halibut” show is available on the KDHX website. You can listen to Nan Sweet, and many of the folks who helped edit the Natural Bridge #16 special issue on women writers influencing women. Catherine Rankovic reads from one of her great essays, and I read a poem (ok, it is about a dead insect...) and talk about Marianne Moore as an editor.

Thanks again to Nan Sweet for the idea for this issue, and the muscle and music to carry it through.