Author Archives: Becca Klaver

ALL THE FEMINIST BOOKS: Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer

This month, we asked our regular contributors to write about the feminist books that they love—books that struck a chord, for one reason or another, books they couldn’t put down, that they’ll never donate, that are underlined and dog-eared and bookmarked eternally, that you can maybe borrow, but you most definitely have to give back. Here’s Becca on Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day:


Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day (1982) has everything: dreams, daily life, memories, poetry, prose, rhyming, abstract concepts, proper nouns, flights of fancy, pure mundanity, the plots of children’s books, “Lives of the Poets”-style histories, and many epic catalogues of everyday life—grocery lists, titles of “all the current books,” names of the town stores, a list of people Mayer would buy “Xmas presents” for if she had any money (which ends up being a snapshot of a poetic circle), and a list of the contents of every room in the house in Lenox, Massachusetts where she was living with poet Lewis Warsh and their two small children, Sophia and Marie, on December 22, 1978, the day she wrote Midwinter Day, which Alice Notley calls on the back cover, “An epic poem about a daily routine.”

Mayer and Notley are two of the poets in the dissertation I’m writing, “Include Everything: Contemporary American Poetry and the Feminist Everyday.” The impulse to “include everything” wasn’t limited to women poets in the second half of the 20th century, but it’s in their work that this impulse achieves its most brilliant, groundbreaking effect. As Notley writes in her lecture Doctor Williams’ Heiresses (1980), in which Mayer is one of the titular “heiresses”: “Too many people have always already been telling you for years what your life includes.” In books like Midwinter Day, we watch women poets taking inventory of what their lives include, and deeming even the most banal details worthy of poetic attention. It’s a poetics of radical inclusiveness, feminist in its insistence that women’s everyday lives belong in poetry—not only women’s lives made to sound lofty or “universal,” and not only women’s secrets or confessions, but also friends’ names and spaghetti-sauce-making and folding clothes and a family dance party to the music of the Talking Heads.

Yesterday, I co-hosted a solstice reading of Midwinter Day at Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop, their last event of the year and a felicitous send-off for the other hosts, Berl’s owners Farrah Field and Jared White, who are about to have their second child and begin an even more Midwinter Day-style life made up of two poets with two small children. (In another echo of the two-poets-with-two-children pattern, early in the reading Anselm Berrigan read pages full of references to his parents, Notley and Ted Berrigan, and to himself and his brother: “So even if the two men were Ted and Alice’s two sons / It’s clear the women they became were my two daughters,” Mayer writes at one point, analyzing a dream (10).) It’s sometimes difficult to sustain attention at a marathon reading (even though, heads-up to future event planners, Midwinter Day only takes three-and-half hours straight through, which led Jared to dub our event a “Midwinter Day 5K” rather than a marathon). But hearing Midwinter read aloud yesterday was consistently exciting: it’s a book packed with pleasurable swerves in content, rhythm, tone, and full of humor, wisdom, and anecdotes. Perhaps what the event most resembled was, fittingly, childhood storytime, with Mayer as mother-bard, reanimating our wonder at everything that a single day can include.


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WE WERE THERE: Emma Sulkowicz’s “Carry That Weight” at the Brooklyn Museum & The Real Housewives of Bohemia Podcast

Allow me to introduce you to The Real Housewives of Bohemia, a podcast that Lauren Besser (an Upright Citizens Brigade performer and a Scorpio) and I (a poet-scholar and a Cancer) launched this August. RHB is a (weird) sister project to WEIRD SISTER in that they both involve: witches, feminist field trips, the 90s, girl bands, and me. One major point of difference, however, is that there’s a lot more James Franco discussion on RHB, because although I can never decide whether my fascination with the Franco is sincere or ironic, I’m never gonna pretend it’s feminist. RHB is full of weird jokes about astronomy &vs. astrology and lawyers and honoring-our-sisters that hopefully reward longtime listeners (okay, okay, we only have twelve episodes so far, but they are stacked thick with weird jokes meant to reward longtime listeners, or at least crack ourselves up). We call it a comedy podcast, partly because Lauren is a bona fide comedian, partly because we love to make each other laugh, and partly because we like to trick people into listening to a feminist podcast by calling it “comedy.” The full truth is that we are jouissance-filled feminists, laughing like MFing Medusas in the face of the patriarchy. We care deeply and then we don’t give a fuh, and we swerve from one to the other within seconds sometimes as we perform what it means to try to make sense of the world as women. We’re trying to unearth subjugated knowledges through the art of intense girl talk. For our latest feminist field trip, presented here as part of WEIRD SISTER’s “We Were There” series, Lauren and I attended a conversation about Emma Sulkowicz’s mattress performance at the Brooklyn Museum.

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Rah! Rah! Roundup



A video roundup!


Watch Beyoncé’s Yours and Mine, a short film celebrating the release of her self-titled album around this time last year:

PLUS: Pussy Riot and JD Samson of Le Tigre are collaborating, the Juliana Hatfield Three are getting back together for the first time since 1993, and Bitch has a great roundup of this year’s feminist music by Katie Presley, the music critic I have to thank for introducing me to my favorite musical discovery of the year, Lowell.

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Rah! Rah! Roundup


As the non-indictment for Mike Brown’s death rolled downhill into the non-indictment for Eric Garner’s death this week, and the big white snowball of racist America continued to grow too big to bear, we took to the streets, bore witness to the pain of Garner’s widowwrote and read responses to the events, interrogated our roles as allies, and thought about the relationship between self-care and social resistance.

Elsewhere, we’ve been following Delirious Hem‘s December features, including this one on feminism and fitness curated by Amanda Montei and Elizabeth Hall, and the annual Advent calendar, this year edited by Susan Gardner and Jessica Smith and featuring poetry about rape culture.

Best of 2014 music lists have been rolling out, and many feature our fave women musicians like Jenny Lewis, Lykke Li, FKA twigs, St. Vincent, Angel Olsen, and Hurray for the Riff Raff, whose music video for their song “The Body Electric” features the Marissa Alexander story:

In other music news, we can’t wait for the Lana del Rey / Courtney Love tour planned for 2015 and the new Sleater-Kinney album, No Cities to Love, out January 20 (S-K also appeared on the Chris Gethard show this week).

Also, we just discovered Autostraddle’s Saturday morning cartoons: this one’s for anyone with a case of the winter- and current events-induced SADs.

Finally, even though–

All I want for Christmas

(substitute Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice)


–we thought we’d point you toward some feminist gift guides. Bitch is running a series of them, and Feministing introduces us to The Guardian Princess Alliance, a series of books about culturally and racially diverse princesses fighting for social justice, for the princess-loving little feminist in your life. You might want to give Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please or Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist to the not-so-little feminists in your life, or the think-they’re-not-feminists in your life who will soon see the light. xoJane has a #FeministShelfie article that will spark more gift ideas. We wish these novels by Toni Morrison and Miranda July and this book of poems by PJ Harvey were out already, but then again, we need something to look forward to about now. Also, look out for WEIRD SISTER’s own series on feminist books we love, coming soon!

Feel free to post links in support of the abolition of imperialist white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy in the comments!

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Rah! Rah! Roundup: Resources for Anti-Racist Feminists and White Allies


Like many of you, this week we at WEIRD SISTER have found it difficult to think about much else besides the non-indictment of Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and the many protests that erupted in response. So, we’re devoting this week’s Rah! Rah! Roundup to links to resources for anti-racist feminists and allies. As a white feminist, I’m compiling these resources in the spirit of the anti-racist philosophy that it is the job of white people, not people of color, to educate white people about racism. Please feel free to share additional resources in the comments!


Feminism Is for Everybody: Passionate Politics (book by bell hooks)

A great place to start. In her usual highly accessible, conceptually complex prose, hooks organizes her chapters around specific topics (e.g., “Feminist Class Struggle,” “Women at Work,” “Ending Violence”) that usually take up intersectional issues in feminism. The book is available as a free PDF here, and from South End Press here.  (For the record, it is the opinion of the WEIRD SISTER editors that bell hooks deserves your money!) There’s another e-option, too: the book was originally published in 2000, but the Kindle edition from Routledge was just released in October 2014.


Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (book by Audre Lorde)

Many of the essays from the transformative Sister Outsider speak to the need to use difference–and the feelings of guilt, fear, and anger linked to difference–in order to fight racism and sexism through activist work and in our everyday lives. When we read Sister Outsider for a feminist book club that included several WEIRD SISTER contributors, many of us felt dismayed by the fact that we had never been assigned to read it in our undergraduate English and creative writing MFA programs. Let’s make sure this book gets shared and taught and talked about for a very long time. You can start with these excerpts available online:

“Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” | “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” | “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” | “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” | “Poetry is Not a Luxury”

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On “Man Spreaders”

Last night, I was on the C train on my way to a meeting of feminist poets, standing facing an MTA poster that first went up a couple years ago, announcing the return of the Poetry in Motion program. “Many of you felt parting was not such sweet sorrow,” reads the poster, but whenever I see it, I wonder, Did people really write or call the MTA clamoring for poetry? I then thought about how easy it is to run into a poet on the subway or on the streets of Brooklyn, and figured that it was possible that I lived in a city where people were hungry for more poems to read on their commutes. Still, I was skeptical.


After the meeting, I came home, scrolled my feed, and saw an article reporting that the MTA’s new courtesy campaign announcements would target “man spreaders.” Man spreaders! I thought to myself. “Man spreaders!!” I said aloud and then posted on Facebook along with the article, delighted by the elegant ridiculousness of the term. I felt a wave of relief go through my body, a cultural-linguistic tingle similar to what I’d felt the first time I’d heard the term “mansplaining.” Oh, there’s a word for that. And then suddenly many separate incidents, many men, rushed forth from memory to cluster around the term. Man purse (or murse), Man sandals (or mandals), and man nanny (or manny) had only ever made me laugh or roll my eyes, but a term like “man spreaders” does something different.

Besides sounding vaguely like a personal assistant who will spread Nutella on toast for you when you ring a little bell, “man spreaders” more importantly offers a succinct, clever, easily-rolled-off-the tongue way to name those guys on trains who spread their legs over three seats while those around them stand hunched over by the weight of three bags. #NotAllMen are spreaders, and not all spreaders are men, but on an average day on the train, the person sitting with his legs splayed is usually a man, and the person standing holding three bags is usually a woman. (The reasons for those three bags are for another post, but from one bag lady to some others, it’s true.)

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WEIRD SISTER Launch Party This Saturday in Brooklyn!


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Rah! Rah! Roundup


On Banning “Feminist”

This week, the internet got annoyed at TIME’s idea to include the word “feminist” in its list of words and phrases to ban in 2014. For the record, they insist that “You have nothing against feminism itself,” but then go on to snark it up: “when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party?”

TIME also wants to ban “bossy,” as the Lean In corporation decreed, further evidence that they might be on the wrong side of feminism. (Check out WEIRD SISTER’s own Marisa Crawford’s take on banning “bossy” and Baby-sitters Club-style leadership from earlier this year.)

Do we now have to reclaim the word “feminist” in an act of feminist reclamation? It seems so. Sorry, TIME baes, but the word “feminist” is obvi literally more delicious than a kale salad, om nom nom nom. These writers agree:

In The Washington Post, Roxane Gay points out that TIME’s entire list of words to ban “is largely a policing of the vernacular of anyone who isn’t a white, heterosexual man.” At Refinery29, Lili Loofbourow offers a satirical take-down, comparing the TIME poll to “the drunk friend who wants to know which animal you’d be if you got turned into an animal.” Jezebel explains why the word “feminist” is leading in the poll: “troll emporiums” 4chan and 9gag are sending their readers to vote in droves.

But when the internet taketh away, it also giveth back, usually in the form of petitions and hashtags:

The Feminist Majority Foundation provides an online form letter that lets you protest TIME’s choice with just a few clicks, and Anne Thériault’s complaint about TIME’s poll led to the gift of the #feministprincessbride hashtag, as BuzzFeed reports:

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WE WERE THERE: Alette in Oakland in the Crystal City

Alette in Oakland: A Symposium on the Work of Alice Notley
The Bay Area Public School
Omni Commons, 4799 Shattuck Avenue, Oakland, CA
October 24-26, 2014

Omni outer


Most of the Omni Commons building in Oakland is a big auditorium painted black, with skylights and chandeliers and a stage. I try all weekend to think what it reminds me of. I learn that it used to be an Italian social club, a rock club, and a private home. To me it feels like a barn or a gymnasium or a church. I’m here for Alette in Oakland, the first conference devoted to the work of Alice Notley (organized by Brandon Brown, David Brazil, Frances Richard, Alana Siegel and Laura Woltag) who instantly became one of my favorite poets when I read Waltzing Matilda (1981) in David Trinidad’s New York School Poetry class at Columbia College Chicago in 2006. I loved Notley’s early work for its vernacular wit and quotidian detail, and soon loved her later work—The Descent of Alette (1992) is often thought of as the dividing line—for its fierce feminist dissidence. That one poet could be capable of all these modes in a lifetime, could dig so deep into the everyday and then later so far toward the elsewhere, manifesting new cityscapes and desertscapes and other realms, still strikes me as astonishing.

In Oakland, there’s a kind of reverence in the air all weekend, not only for Notley and her poetry, but also for the agreement to sit in a big room as if in one of the feminist alternative worlds that Notley has conjured in her books for the last couple of decades. When phrases like “a poem could be considered an idea-city” (Marcella Durand) fill the air continuously, you can trick yourself into thinking you live in that city. The title of the symposium is perfect, then. “Alette in Oakland.” It’s as if we’re agreeing to treat Oakland as the setting of Notley’s feminist epic The Descent of Alette. With its black walls and ceiling, maybe the Omni is a cave, like the ones in Alette but larger, where we can all gather…




This roundup gives some sense of the topics discussed at the symposium panels. (There’s also word of a plan for a published volume of all of the papers.) I’ll leave out notes on Notley’s reading on Friday night (it was powerful, the room was packed like a rock club, and it ended with a standing ovation), Eileen Myles’s keynote (because there’s video of the whole thing), and the performance of Notley’s play Anne’s White Glove, directed by Alana Siegel, on Saturday night (because I missed it like a fool).

Disclaimer: Many of the quotations below were scribbled very quickly and likely contain inaccuracies. If any presenters want to send me corrected versions, please feel free.

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