marlene mountain
letter essay
march 1991

as a play

dear rebecca   3/17/91

Truly great talking with you. I love to hear your voice--and the ideas that come through it. It would take forever, wouldn't it, to catch up on our recent lives? I hope everything works out well with Charlie.

Sending this 'womuscript' may be a bit premature, as only just recently I've gotten this far in collecting and trying to date--and still at it. As I mentioned I've tried to scrape the bottom (esp the 'as is' writing and the gatherings) to see what all I did say to myself over the years--perhaps a lot is not shareable. I've tried to read some of it, but can't seem to get into it more than to try to proof, etc. Much is difficult to look back on so I've had one eye closed and most of my heart. Even though I'm not all that sure I'm ready to let it go out into the haiku unworld yet (tho Jane and I working toward that), I would like to see if it has anything for another audience. It's hard for me to 'place' it. The content and attitude are so different from regular haiku, and the haiku makes it odd to place it within women's writing (though I've not really read women's writing). I can see it as a 'play'--with of course hard work to get it there. I would love to have your feelings on it--I thrust your instincts.

I'm including the early sequences as they reflect the beginnings of minimalism, TN surroundings (which I no longer have interest in), some dadaku (spoofs on haiku rules, people's styles, and magazines), beginnings of 'women's.' The better of the 70s writing does not show up in the early sequences.

What I eventually did was to rebel against my better haiku (as I also did with my earlier 'abstract' painting) to find women's content. (Another rebeginning.) From the late 70s/early 80s I saw this content as physicality, spirituality, protest--things not really written about in haiku. And even beyond that to say how I felt about things--another no-no. So, in a sense, an underlying (sometimes very overt) aspect of the sequences is the love/hate relationship with haiku. In a way this aspect seems out of place, but it has been a major struggle in my life to write of my life in haiku. Perhaps even an indictment of the form which is one of control and repression (rules, attitudes, 'spirit') which leads to self-censorship.

I've been in a continual struggle--in both painting and haiku--to mentally and spiritually do away with all of my old art. With art itself. Awful self-recriminations. It's only recently that I've let most of that go and allowed myself to have an art past instead of trying to get rid of it. Then I became quite uncomfortable that so much of the haiku was written to a male (a great listener for 10 years)--that this has/had kept me from writing . . . what? Who can know? I've almost resolved this conflict: that's what I wrote. Then when I try to look at the angry pieces,I gulp. What's said had to be said to myself--a partial way to deal with a world I don't like. In a form in which I felt trapped. So in a sense the ultimate struggle has been to 'say it' in haiku. But, of course, I don't feel 'it's' said.

One of my posters last year: i've freed haiku from that fuckin sound of water. (the most famous haiku: old pond a frog jumps in the sound of water--by Basho.) Arrogant, to say the least. And almost true for me, but hardly for anyone else. But it's said. So, anyway, the dadaku may seem out of place throughout the sequences, but they are significant in the journey not out of haiku completely, but in finding my wom's voice/spirit--'things are they are' for me.

What have I said? I'm still struggling.

If you have interest in the sequences/renga as a play, here are some thoughts. I see the creature (MM) relatively isolated in her bedroom/nest/cave in a continual dialogue with herself ('isolation i work out with the moon who i am,' 'if i am not me who is,' etc.) For props, I can see a bed where sitting crosslegged she paints (even 4 x 4' things) and writes (for years on a portable typewriter). I envision a radio as contact with the larger world, with an occasional statistic coming out which is incorporated into a sequence as M writes, or she is haunted by until it eventually gets into some piece of writing/painting. Instead of a mirror (above a dresser/on a wall) there is a painted moon--not the real moon, but the symbolic women's female moon--which can be turned arbitrarily in phases. M talks to her or ignores her. Not a nature moon, or a haiku moon, but one representing women's past, and finding oneself within.

For several years there's a place where she goes to work and types all day, drives home and begins to paint, her coat still on. (a painting a day for a month--whew.) Unable to say at work what she does/thinks/creates at home. Paintings all around. Cluttered room. A phone. A mail box, the flag often up; sending stuff out to friends, editors, etc. An inadequate pot-bellied stove. A tiny garden in which to pull weeds, to unwind. A kid. A lover. And only a few kindred spirits with whom to 'talk about stuff.' A CETA job, with part-time job/no job. Poverty, in spite of her mother's help--a mother she can't talk with about anything in her life. All this and a million other things leading to an illness. A time when she can't paint/write/drive. Healing visions. Pain. A bottle. Then painting/writing about the illness, the pain, the fears. Continual discovery of women's/goddess symbols which are denied in our culture--'our' culture--ha; I've recently come to call it 'the fog of men.' Self-disgust that she's never paid much attention to women/women's struggles/women's art throughout her male art background. And of course there are the printers (and framers/photographers) who continually fuck up her work, when she finally has the 'nerve' to share it.

As I mentioned M is a multi-wom/in one. Several personas (seemingly opposites). Each actor looks similar to her and could express one aspect, such as anger. They could merge and separate (slowly or abruptly). At times speaking/singing at the same time with different feelings--similar to sextet arias. One M could be bird-watching through a window with binoculars, the other raving about deforestation, another wanting to make love, etc. I think an ironic line occasionally popping up throughout could be, 'I'm fine, thank you.'

Can you make sense of any of this and the haiku stuff? If you'd have interest, and would want some background, there are a few 70s poems to John expressing frustration; journal notes ('79-85/6); letters to friends and editors; other poems.

Re the renga. I've only included my links and full renga with women, and added them when the piece ended. I've lost most of the other full renga and will have to retype them eventually--can send if you have interest. Links (and letters) could come for unseen voices or to and from the mail box.

If you'd want to work on this here, there's the cabin with a stove, refrig, beds, desk for daytime writing and privacy. And the pond. And, of course, the kitchen, shower, Jason's room here anytime. However is comfortable. Or if you just want to get away sometime and work on other things, the same is very open to you.

I appreciate that you want to take the time to read this stuff. Mainly wanted to be in touch with you again.


back to 'letter essay contents'