New York Woman's Literary Salon

May & June 1978 Newsletter

Text of the Newsletter:
This Newsletter will cover four events, so please save it to refer to. The first three events will take place on Saturday evenings at 7 P.M. The fourth event will be held on Sunday afternoon at 2 P.M. All events are at the home of Erika Duncan: 463 West Street (Westbeth) Apt. 933B Between Bank and Bethune Sts. NYC.


(Don't forget the Michele Wallace Salon on April 29th !!! BLACK MACHO AND THE MYTH OF THE SUPERWOMAN-- Introduced by Robin Morgan)



June 25 OUR TRADITIONAL OPEN READING. REMEMBER!!!!!!!! THIS IS ON A SUNDAY AT 2 PM. Bring poetry, music, fiction, drama and Alice B. Toklas tasties.

MAY 13: The Women's Writing Collective of Toronto has published an anthology of poems entitled LANDSCAPE, edited by Gay Allison, Karen Hood and Janis Rapoport. In three years of its existence the collectives main purpose has been that of organizing small (6 members) writing groups which operate autonomously. The collective is an informal network of these small groups and workshops with a membership of about 60 women. Inspired by an article they read about the New York Woman's Salon in Ms., Toronto women decided to form their own Women's Poetry Salon. They, too, support the oral tradition, and sponsor readings, special events, publications such as a Newsletter and anthologies. Plans are being made for a forthcoming women's journal. We welcome this opportunity to exchange poetry and perspectives on feminism with our Canadian sisters.

I feel that it is appropriate for me to conclude my 3rd year of Salon work with my slide lecture on THE REEMERGENCE OF THE ARCHETYPE OF THE GREAT GODDESS IN ART BY CONTEMPORARY WOMEN. The lecture will be presented for the first time at the Conference on The Great Goddess Re-Emerging, held at the University of California at Santa Cruz from March 31--April 2. Since I plan to extend my research on The Goddess in art and literature, I'd be happy to hear from those of you whose work is relevant to this topic. I present this lecture as a kind of temporary good-bye, for I will be leaving the Woman's Salon next year to direct the Rutgers Junior Year in France program. It seems somehow strangely appropriate that someone who is working on the archetype of The Great Mother should be going abroad with 50 students and two of her own children! We will spend 6 weeks in Paris, and then settle in Tours, where students will study at the university. Since the Loire Valley saw the birth of the early court salons of the 16th century, it should be a setting that will provide interesting material for me to study. While I'm away Erika Duncan will carry on the work of the Woman's Salon, and I urge you all to give her support and assistance, for the work load is heavy, and we have a budget that does not allow for paid assistants. I wish you all a very exciting year, and consider that I am not really leaving, but rather extending the network. If you come to Tours, be sure to get in touch with me. I look forward to seeing you all on my return the following year. In Sisterhood, Gloria Orenstein.

N.B. After July all mail is to be directed to Erika Duncan.

MAY 27: Mae Jackson is a poet, playwright, and fiction writer. She has published a volume of poetry entitled CAN I POET WITH YOU, and a short story I COULD REST FOREVER, that will be featured in the April issue of ESSENCE. Mae has been a playwright with The Negro Ensemble Company, and taught Creative Writing workshops in prison for two years. We welcome her back to the Salon, for she participated in our Salon on Women in Prison which was held last Spring. She will be reading both poetry and short fiction.

Leah Fritz is an active feminist whose poetry was a closet activity until 1976 when she dared to read aloud at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris and received encouragement from Gregory Corso. Previously, Robin Morgan had published one of her poems in SISTERHOOD IS POWERFUL. She has now put together a poetry collection, and several of these poems have been published in SOJOURNER. The collection is appropriately titled BUREAU DE CHANGE. She is presently working on a non-fiction study, THE LONG VIEW: PERSPECTIVES ON MODERN FEMINISM, to be published by Beacon Press in 1979. THINKING LIKE A WOMAN was published by WINbooks in 1975. We welcome Leah Fritz and Mae Jackson, and are certain that the evening will be exciting and varied.

JUNE 10: Alix Kates Shulman is a novelist, an ardent feminist, and an activist. She was an early member of Redstockings. Alix teaches Creative Writing at New York University, and is the author of two books on Emma Goldman, and of a number of childrens books. We are all familiar with her first novel, MEMOIRS OF AN EX-PROM QUEEN, and look forward to her reading of BURNING QUESTIONS. This, her most recent novel, has just been published by Knopf, and is the first large novel about the rise of the women's movement. In MEMOIRS OF AN EX-PROM QUEEN, Alix Kates Shulman underlined the way in which the personality of the American woman has been shaped since infancy by a patriarchal society. In BURNING OUESTIONS she embodies the radical awakening of the American woman's new consciousness of selfhood and possibility." This is a book that anti-feminist critics will undoubtedly attack, and one that we urge salon members who are critics to write about in order to give a correct feminist analysis to counterbalance the reaction that will certainly come from the backlash of those reviewers who would hope to destroy the Women's Movement. We all feel that these new feminist works of fiction must be defended in their ideological integrity. (See Erika's essay last page)

JUNE 25: TRADITIONAL OPEN READING. REMEMBER IT IS ON A SUNDAY!!! Bring poetry, music, theater, novels, short-stories and Alice B. Toklas delicacies.

NEWS OF MEMBERS: "The Dust Storms", a chapter from a forthcoming book by Marilyn Coffey, a founder of the Woman's Salon, has just been published in the February 1978 issue of NATURAL HISTORY, the official magazine of The Museum of Natural History in New York. Marilyn is the author of the novel MARCELLA. Marilyn's research on the dust storms of the Great Plains turned up vivid descriptions of the storms which were written by women and works by women photographers. The article is illustrated with many photos from the era.

THE GAY WOMENIS ALTERNATIVE meets every Thursday night Sept. thru June at the Universalist Church; 4 West 76th St. at 8:30 P.M. Guest Speakers and discussions on a variety of topics relating to Feminism and Lesbians, and talks of general interest are featured. The GWA was originally formed to provide a congenial atmosphere for gay women over 30 to get together for a pleasant evening. Refreshments are served and admission is $3.00. Future programs include: April 6 --Betty Friedan; April 13--Speak-Out on Coming of Age in the Lesbian Movement; April 20--Woman's Salon--An evening on the formation of literary networks. Discussion and readings by Salon founders Erika Duncan, Gloria Orenstein, Karen Malpede; April 27--Bertha Harris; May 4-Nutrition; May 11--To be announced; May 18--Merlin Stone, author of WHEN WAS A WOMAN; May 25--Doris Lunden: Women and Classism; June 1--Midge Costanza, Special Assistant to President Carter. GWA is free of ideological slant and prescriptions, but serves as a vehicle to boost both feminist and gay awareness.

As soon as we learned that Alix Kates Shulman's new novel, BURNING QUESTIONS, was assigned to Pearl K. Bell by the TIMES BOOK PEVIEIW, we felt concern. For here was a novel of the Women's Movement dealing with important attitudinal issues, but written in a genre which could easily reach the readers of JAWS, COMA, AIRPORT. It was a book that many women in this popular audience were hungry for, women just beginning to experience the restlessness which is sweeping over us all but who have not yet put into words the humiliation of being a 'girlfriend' forced to support a young man's wildness and whims, or the yearning to give importance to their own lives, their relationships with other women, which BURNTNG OUESTIONS deals with. But with Pearl K. Bell and Anatole Broyard (in the Daily) reviewing it, there was little chance that it would reach them.

Surely this book which had deeply moved a group of women as diverse as Betty Friedan, Tillie Olsen, and Simone de Beauvoir would have no relevance to a man like Broyard (and why should he be forced to read it? to turn out an instant reaction like an automaton? Why shouldn't he be spending his time reading and reviewing books he can enthusiastically share with his audience?) Or a woman like Bell who has written for years in COMMENTARY and THE NEW LEADER viscous attacks on "crude, aggressive morality tales of liberation that a shrilly aroused feminism has spawned to such excess." Clearly these two people are not part of Shulman's audience, but why should they be allowed to alienate its vast body of potential readers?

This is an issue which goes far beyond Alix' particular book and the circumstances surrounding its publication, an issue about which we must begin to take an active stand. When my own first novel was ruthlessly torn apart by Joyce Carol Oates in the TIMES this summer, I tried to make my case (also one of total lack of sympathy with my sense of purpose--although the disagreement was aesthetic not political) the catalyst for a serious reevaluation of a reviewing system based upon "objective" distance and "impartial" evaluation rather than the paving of those paths of entry that make literature into the art of deep spiritual communion it can be.

Until we insist upon having reviewers who are meaningfully connected to the books they write about, we will continue to have a dispassionate, judgmental reading audience, cut off from those works which could transform their visions. Reading, writing, and reviewing must be acts of love or else our literature will die (as it is slowly doing) . We urge you all to lend your voices to this cause through speaking out about Alix' situation and its larger ramification. Erika Duncan.

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