New York Women's Literary Salon

September & October 1980 Newsletter

Text of the Newsletter:

Sept. 27, Saturday, 7 pm Jana Harris reading from her novel Alaska

Oct. 25, Saturday, 7 pm Louise Bernikow reading from Among Women, her study of female relationships

Followed by an OPEN READING on Relationships among women. These Salons will take place at the home of Erika Duncan: 463 West St. (Westbeth, between Bank and Bethune Streets) Apt. 933B. There will be a social hour from 7 to 8 for evening programs. Readings start at 8.

Sat., Sept. 27 ~ Jana Harris ~ "Alaska"

The first book that we are honoring this Salon Season is Jana Harris's ALASKA, which she read from in its early stages at our Salon two years ago. At that point, she wrote the following description of what she was doing for our Newsletter:

I write from the memory of the mill-town women and the fishing village women in the Pacific Northwest where I grew up; where I too became one of these women, the daughter and granddaughter of slaughterhouse workers and the wife of a fisherman. I write from a culture where women are kept from each other by social taboo, a culture that teaches reverence for the work of man and the commitment of women to servitude. "Women" are a lower caste and because of this they have their own language, an underground language, an idiomatic communication for cultural experience, having been taught that real words are too embarrassing or unladylike. My writing is an attempt to capture this language, to give form and shape to what has heretofore been considered the non-literature of female survival.
ALASKA, as well as being Jana Harris's first novel, is also the first novel to be published by Harper and Row's San Francisco division and on that basis will receive substantial attention and backing. According to the San Francisco EXAMINER, "The relationship between Harper and Row and "Alaska" was forged when Harper and Row editorial director Marie Cantlon met local poet Jana Harris at a Berkeley hot tub party. Harris told Cantlon about the novel she vas writing and Cantlon vas interested. Thus, often, are the literary relations of our era forged.

JANA worked on commercial fishing boats in Alaska, as a rodeo cowgirl, an instructor of creative writing, an algebra teacher. She is a poet, widely published and known on the east and west coasts. She grew up on the Clackamas River in Oregon. From these diverse sources, she has developed a strong poetic voice based in the tradition of the spoken rhythms and idioms. Her poems create the deathless voices of the women and men of the working class, of various regions, the voice that has the pulse of lived life, and the kinds of experiences that can communicate another person's experience. The spoken word has a presence, an identity, quite apart from the written counterpart. It is through inflection, through cries and sighs, through the rich variations of voice quality that we express our deepest feelings to a present, listening Other. It is to this tradition, of course, that the Salon bas been committed since its inception, and to the tradition in literature--the printed word--of the power of that almost silenced spoken voice. We are proud to have Jana with us again, for her work embodies this idea. Jana will be introduced by LOUISE BERMIKOW.

Sat., Oct 25~Louise Bernikow ~ "Among Women"

Louise vill be introduced by HONOR MOORE.

Two women are alone in a room. What happens? Who makes the record of what happens and how is the record read? The women are female family (mother, daughter, sister, grandmother) or friends or enemies. One is white, one black or one is Jewish, one Christian, one rich, one poor. AMONG WOMEN begins and ends with the writer alone at her desk considering two women alone in a room. It traces the meaning of female relationships in "Cinderella" the evidence in novels, the tracks in history, considering what Colette called "alliance," Woolf called "a protective republic," touching the lives of Elizabeth Tudor, Mary Stuart, Natalie Barney, among others, weaving these lives with her own life, mapping the evidence and the nuances of female intimacy.

LOUISE BERNIKOW has been a member of the Salon since its inception. She is a poet, journalist, review, and editor of the classic anthology THE WORLD SPLIT OPEN, which like AMONG WOMEN, sifts the past for the suppressed words of women writing and revises literary history in the light of what she finds.

For the second half of the program, we invite the audience to participate with poetry, fiction and non-fiction exploring relationships among women. We hope our audiences will create for us a rich tapestry of the many types of relationships Louise's book explores: Friends, Lovers, Sisters, Mothers and Daughters, Mentors, the complex relationships between black and white women unearthed in Louise's chapter, The Light and the Dark. We ask that the readings stay within these topics and remain relatively short-around 10 minutes.

From now on, we will open many of our non-fiction salons to thematic open readings. In this way, we hope to uncover a rich source of women's writing and thinking, and to offer works in progress a space in which they can be aired and supported. We hope that you, as members of the audience, will be enriched and given ideas and pleasure by these works, and that each of you will be able to share with us some parts of your work.

The idea of thematic open readings vas first generated by the very moving response to last June's Open Reading in honor of Muriel Rukeyser, at which women who cared for her and worked with her came to read poems about her, and Elizabeth Rukeyser, her niece, shared both her aunt's poems and her stories as well as her own powerful poetry.

In November, EIAINE JAHNER, who is guest editing Book Forum's American Indian issue, will be organizing a special American Indian Women's Salon program with a number of the more prominent Indian women writers from different parts of the country, who will come to share their works as well as their feelings about such issues as the links between violations of women and violations of the sovereign rights of their people. We look forward to this salon and will give the exact details in our next newsletter.

Theresa McGriff, who used to come to our Salon when she vas living in New York, has now started the AFRO-AMERICAN WOMEN'S SALON of New Haven, meeting at Yale University's Afro-American Cultural Center. Run by black women artists, it will be sponsoring and co-sponsoring cultural events in the New Haven area to elevate and celebrate the image of black women and their work. We have had several meetings with the group, which has asked to be loosely affiliated with us and to share insights into our common working process as well as occasional Salon programs of mutual interest.

Salon Founder GLORIA ORENSTEIN moderated two literary readings at the Copenhagen Conference with Audre Lorde, one for American women, the other for European women.

MAXINE McCANTS has agreed to become the Salon's financial coordinator and to help us seek funding sources for expanding our work. We are very grateful to have Maxine with us.

NEW CYCLE THEATER BENEFIT: A preview reading of a new play by KAREN MALPEDE, "A Monster Has Stolen the Sun", plus excerpts from past works of the New Cycle Theater will be presented as a benefit for the Theater's 1980-1981 season on Thursday, October 2.3 at 8 pm at St. Ann's and the Holy Trinity, a landmark brownstone Cathedral located at Clinton and Montague Streets in Brooklyn Heights. For information and tickets, call 788-7098.

Karen Malpede teaches a play writing workshop at the New Cycle Theater. For information, please call 768-6249

Calligraphy [for this newsletter] by Gwynne Duncan

The Salon fiction writing workshop is now entering its third year with eight deeply personal novels well under way, as well as a powerful autobiographical study of child battering, exploitation of foster children, and mother/daughter incest and a group of short stories and prose sketches from a Hungarian immigrant childhood spent in holocaust torn Israel.

Because we believe that books and other shorter works reflect in impact upon readers the essential quality of the writer's experience in their creation, we have developed a workshop approach in which writers learn to share their deepest selves in ways that truly can reach others. The process of writing, by necessity, brings to the surface our most vulnerable areas. It awakens many hidden sides of self. Therefore, we strongly feel, it should not be a lonely one, especially in the early stages.

Together, we help each writer discover her essential themes and questions showing how, through understanding these, a living structure for a project can evolve. And once a project is begun, we teach each writer to recognize in "what works" her strengths from which forward motion can be unleashed. We started to see how even weak and "unsuccessful" sections function to protect those parts of ourselves we fear (as we work to overcome those fears) or lead to what we do not yet know how to say, so that gradually we learn to accept and "own" the totality of the writing process, while increasing our mastery over its many complexities.

This year, in addition to Erika's New York City group, which still has several openings, we will be forming a Long Island fiction writing workshop to start in Sept. 1980. This workshop will be taught by both Sallie and Erika in Sea Cliff, Long Island. Call Sallie at 516-759-9624 for the Long Island group. Call Erika at 212-691-0539 for the New York City group.

MEMBERSHIP --The Women's Salon, entering its sixth season at the time of this printing, has been exclusively supported by membership contributions which are vital to our expansion and survival. At present, in addition to the special mailing to our members, we do quite a large bulk mailing, which seems important in terms of keeping the Salon active as a widespread network. (Women from all over the country and the world do call us when they are in town, or write to us.) We are asking women who enjoy receiving our mailings and coming to our programs to become members for a $15 yearly contribution, to help make our activities possible. Any additional contributions would be greatly appreciated.

Members will be entitled to all newsletters, free admission to all programs and cider or wine. In addition, each member may purchase up to 10 guest tickets to individual events each season at half price.

Please mail subscription form below to The Woman's Salon, c/o Erika Duncan & Sallie Reynolds, 463 West Street, NYC NY 10014. (Apt. 933B)

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