marlene mountain
letter essay
november 1986



dear rod 11/12/86

I'm going in a 100 directions at once these days (glad I'm not writing a novel, too).
The difference in your last two letters was like night and day. I'm curious if you've had the Ton Of Bricks Experience.---------Down deep, I'd like my book to have such an effect on people--though I had no motives as I was writing the poems last winter. Probably the majority of readers are two: those who already know what I'm talking about, and those who are too offended to get through it. A few, hopefully, are in between, and maybe it could make a difference in their perceptions of the world around them.

Anyway, both of us seem to be beyond our defensiveness. (Though defensiveness can serve a meaningful purpose.)

In the long run, I don't believe you'll be able to or want to disagree with anything in the book. Or even with the tone. I'm willing to bet on it. I trust you to get into what has caused my 'rage.'

Men, though, can never have the incredible ton of bricks experience that women have (that women are capable of having). Some men (particularly 'minority' men) have had their revelations. But it is not quite the same. Yoko has said that women are the niggers of the world--and when a woman comes to that realization, it is indeed an Experience. Unsurpassed.

I have had just enough troubles in my life to enable me to understand/feel the pain of women everywhere. Quite often it's for my sisters (who can't write, paint, 'talk back,' etc.) that I want to speak. (This not meant to sound pretentious.)

Men say and have said for some 5000 years all sorts of bad & terrible & mean & gross & denigrating words about women--and yet they are not called strident. The Great Men and Great Books have said these things. Continue to say these things. (They can be ever so subtle about it too.) It can get to a Woman. I really think the time is long past due for women to be bold and blatant--to let the powers-that-be know that we're fed up with it. 'LADY-LIKE' HAS BEEN SUCH AN EFFECTIVE BRAINWASH.

My 'it's beyond me why everyone isn't pissed' and your 'it's beyond me why everyone isn't in a state of joyous wonderment' is indeed a significant difference in our 'philosophies.' I can though answer your question with one word: patriarchy. The answer to mine is brainwash by the patriarchy.

I'm reading CREEK MARY'S BLOOD (Dee Brown of WOUNDED KNEE fame). In it Brown has Mary say 'Why do they think a piece of flesh hanging between their legs gives them rights over women?'

A couple of weeks ago I reinvented crone as a verb. As in, 'croned-off' and 'crone about' something. I'm croned-off and just want to crone about the patriarchy.

Several years back I heard G Steinem speak. (In fact, the opening night of my one woman exhibition at Appal. State Univ.---afterwards, she came to the reception, and wrote a great note:
To Marlene who brings us back ourselves in art.) She says terrific subversive things (that never get into MS Mag) in a very cool, often humorous manner. One's hardly aware of the subversiveness--tho a friend (head of the gallery) had her mouth dropped open the whole talk. I of course was wanting MORE to be said. On the other hand, E Smeal at a rally (on radio) was so shrill, screechy, & strident that I could hardly listen. Whom do I love best? I love the passion of Smeal, and identify with the indignation she feels and expresses. Who can better reach the public? GS, of course. 'We' need them both. I need ES more. It is she who more fully keeps me 'honest'--who reminds us that injustices cannot be tolerated. Her fire (& brimstone) reminds us that we cannot be complacent; that we have an obligation to speak out--even if we cannot move/change the world (until that 7th grade girl comes along). We must at least express our indignation. Even in haiku.

It took years for me to understand who might be the audience for my painting & writing. It often is not the kind of art that can go directly to 'the public.' It is the kind that might support and encourage one who already 'knows'--and maybe one who is more able to be an intermediate.

It's not that I'm 'aiming at politicalization' in my art. It's just bound to show up--since I've acknowledged that everything is political. (Religion, being the most political; the gender of a deity extremely political.)

Again, I like the pieces you wrote for Hiro. The personal you brought to them. Re your 'pig and i' essay--I read this the other day: Pig is the sacred animal of the Goddess of Vegetation. (From Neolithic times.) And your comment on the Rod/Cor/M renga is quite perceptive. We were 3 ships that clashed in the night.

An interesting book (that will not turn you off--as most likely some of Mary Daly's would) is Marilyn French's BEYOND POWER: WOMEN, MEN, AND MORALS. It's wide ranging, historical, intelligent. I've not read it all, but I trust her very much.

Have you given any thought to making a change of some sort in the 'stridency/'ages' sentence? I agree that many women have put aside stridency (though I believe time will show that it's cyclical, and will be back) as a form of protest. I still feel it to be relevant; it has its place in the criticism of the patriarchy. Indeed, I embrace and claim it as a positive expression. An art form, no less.

I guess I worry--Far Beyond what may be said of me--how women everywhere who deal with the patriarchy are perceived. Women are taking great personal risks, and their intent (their expression) needs to be more fully understood.

from the mountain
PS I was counting on 'tonight i am mountain' to be typeset. It would look so much better. I don't trust the quality of computers. But we can talk more about the idea when you get more information on it all.

I'm open to suggestions.

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