I want to talk about this female publishing conversation, rampaging rampaging all over the internet over and over again.
See... I'm torn. And I think nobody has it quite right.
I agree that it sucks. The numbers are clear. More men are published. Not because there are more men writers. But they are.
But I think it's also possible that a lot of editors are simply choosing the work that they prefer.
However, how did they decide what they prefer?
Who decided what qualifies as "good?"
It's hard to deny that the standards for "quality" were decided by a patriarchy.
To deny that is to be kind of ignorant.
Does being a "good writer" by society standards mean writing "like a man"? And what does that mean?
I can't deny that I've noticed that, while not across the board, men and women write differently.
I don't necessarily know how to define that relationship.
I can't deny that I think it's rare for a man to write a certain kind of "pretty" poem. I would call them girl poems.
I am not saying that guys cannot or do not write pretty poems. They do. Often.
I think of my friend who got her MFA in Fiction. She frequently complained about the workshop. Her teachers were men. She was often the only female in the room. Occasionally one of two females in the room. She wrote in vignettes. They talked about "traditional narrative structure--introduction, complications, climax, denoument" and "craft" as though a story told in vignettes could not be crafted. They had a framework they were working from, a tradition, a set of hard and fast rules about what makes a story a "good" story. She talked about the female narrative structure-- like the female orgasm-- in waves.
I wrote a paper about a female writer line... in terms of Alice Notley, HD, Plath. We have a history too. It's often told in relational terms. (Notley in terms of Berrigan, HD in terms of Pound or Eliot or Freud, Plath in terms of Hughes). Female writers have patrons.
Yet I've been published. And most of my favorite living writers are women. And I know this to be true of many people. Man and woman alike.
As an editor, with another female editor, I find myself in constant battle. Forced to think about balance when we are making final decisions. Yet, I've rarely had to work to hard to come to a gender evenness in the poetry we publish. It's not always perfect, but it's usually quite balanced.
In prose, we have to work harder. Literally soliciting women writers we like because we can't find a piece by a woman in our submissions that we like. (What is the definition of "good" again... who defined what it means to be "good")
We get less prose submissions by women as well. That's simply a fact.
My fellow editor often complains that I ask her to try to find at least some female writing we would want to publish. "Do I have to?" she sighs. "Why do I have to?"
I feel like, as a feminist, we have to try to publish women. But also, it feels weirdly wrong to seek women out.
I don't even know how to begin making sure LBGTQ or various ethnic groups. I could be making the whitest magazine in the world and not even know it.
Perhaps editors should start asking for headshots with their submissions.
I'm going to start publishing only beautiful people. (What is beautiful? Is that what I see in magazines? Who "determined" beauty?)
I was talking to a few girlfriends the other day... we all agreed that Crispin Glover is among our favorite celebrity crushes. I remember him in that Charlie's Angels remake described as the "creepy thin man" or something like that.
Did you know that, etymologically, author stems from "to father."
I always wish I was the kind of person who automatically called somebody's partner their "partner"... but I usually call them husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend first... and then think, in my head, that I should have said partner. It is work, conscious work, for me to make that distinction.
But really, what I want, is a partner. Not a boyfriend. Not a husband. A partner.
What I really want from a piece of writing is a rising moment. Under my skin. In my organs. Something I can feel. Something that makes me breathe, or stop breathing. Something that makes me wait or stop or not be able to wait or stop. It should change me.
I want that from a partner too.
That's if it's great. Most things are probably just sort of good, or competent, and sometimes just plain good.
What makes a thing good?
I know it's not the gender/race/sexual preference of the one writing it.
But I know that still matters too.
If only because our gender/race/sexual preference changes the way we view the world.
Some of that, probably, has to do with language.
I think of my friend Kim Philley's article in the New York Times about love. She is an american white girl who got an MFA. Her boyfriend was a Nigerian professional soccer player. Language defined their relationship.
Do you speak differently to the different people you speak to? I do.
I read an article recently that said you can tell if the person you are talking to is sexually interested in you because they start to match their speech patterns and language choices.
My favorite poet of all time is a gay man. Does that make me better somehow? Does it matter that he's also white?
I know these are complicated issues.
I like to read delirious hem. I like them better for having also done delirious lapel.
Perhaps all the publishers in all the world should read everything without any indication on the piece who wrote it. Every editor should have 3 filters before the piece gets to them.
Or perhaps they should just be thoughtful. Or at least ask the question.
But people keep asking the question and it hasn't changed. This whole conversation happened already with Spahr and Young's "Number Trouble"-- and all the conversations that happened then. VIDA is doing the same thing. The numbers aren't really changing.
But it's true... I don't feel like I've struggled much as a writer due to being a woman.
Is it wrong to admit that I'm tired of poems about being a mom?
I might change my mind with the right poem.
Then again, I don't want to be a mom at all.
Does that make it different?
I have to admit that I think the most important thing as an editor is to publish the work that you like.
I just don't think it means that the other stuff doesn't matter. Meaning: who you choose to publish. That says something about a journal. (Or magazine, or whathave you.)
I want to be the kind of person who thinks about it. Not as a way of deciding what goes into an issue, but after the issue is decided. What is it that brought these authors to me? What is it that brought these pieces out from the slush pile and into my journal? What made them "good"?
Do I like writing by women? By men? By a wide swath of the human population? Do I like writing in a variety of styles?
I think I do.
I read every issue I publish after it's out in the world. I try to see if my view of these pieces change. If I still love them like I did in my inbox. What does the rest of the world see?
There is a definite vision for alice blue, I think. A single issue seems to exude a "style"... like smelling eucalyptus if you walk near it's tree. But if you read it from Issue 1 I think it moves. I hope it's open, and opens--