marlene mountain
letter essay
september 1986

haiku quarrel

dear rod 9/4/86

It was good to get your last two letters and now the review of POP&CW that John has sent.

I like that you've dealt somewhat with the quarrel with haiku. Indeed, it's one that has been brewing for many many years-- and I've finally let it come out, within itself. And I'm glad that you've suggested that others too might have one. Perhaps, though, it's just a wish more than a reality. World wide, I believe that haiku is the parlor art of the contented. A safe art in which one congratulates one's self for being able to take time to smell the rose.

One may for sure say I'm reacting to the 'manmade' haiku. But more than that, I'm reacting to my own mythbuying. I freely admit to being angry with myself.

'Feminist' isn't a word that turns me on. It's not a 'radical' term, of course. And it's been so watered down by so many who claim it.....well, it has very little impact on me. Intellectually, I love terms like Lesbian Separatist and Pinko Dyke, but since I'm not these wonderful beings, I can't give myself these wonderful titles. Revolutionary (even 'mild mannered' [on the surface] Gloria Steinem says the term is inadequate, and 'I'm now left without a word.'), subversive, dissident and so on are so tied to male stances (and also watered down), that we're in dire need for a good mean word for the task at hand.

'Strident' feminist does have a good ring to it. I'd claim it, but it is not strong enough. How about, 'pissist'? Rageist. Barfist (note the pun). Disgustmentist. Fedupist. ???

You know why these feminists you mentioned aren't strident these days. Like the blacks, they won some personal battles--not the war, of course-- have gotten some good jobs, a little better pay, etc. (They can even sue the bottompinchers.) They more or less fit in now. To do so they had to tone down. Survival, and all that. But they'll be back. (Many have been lost to burnout and to madness.)

(Makes me shiver to think about fitting in. Though we all yearn to be understood.)

Funny--dangerously funny--how the public/the critics go through 'movements' so quickly. Surely, Rod, you don't mean this line: 'strident feminism... which most feminists abandoned ages ago'? Ages???? This second wave has hardly begun. Few remedies have been found for few problems. Few problems have even been named. Voices have hardly been heard. Strident voices--oh, how I wish we really had them. But don't dismiss our precious few with a sentence. Nor those smoldering while raising kids alone in poverty, trying to keep it together----partly by keeping their mouths shut.

We cannot all be regulated to 'quiet diplomacy.' As much as the world wants it that way. What the patriarchy really wants is Female Silence.

Again G.S.: this is 'the deepest and longest of all revolutions.' It will take many forms and many voices before it's over. I love being a part of it--a very minor part of it even. Way out here, isolated--and unaware/unbelieving that it's over. It ain't over. The world's a fuckin mess. And I KNOW why I'm pissed. To quote part of a sequence: i think therefore i am pissed.

Ah, it's The Ton Of Bricks. One has either had it happen, or hasn't. Once it's happened, all other 'enlightenments' are like koolaid and grahmn crackers at kindergarten.

It's serious biz--this revolutionary stuff. I have my genitals, but there are millions and millions of girls/women who've had theirs dangerously sliced off. There will be millions more.

Critics must be careful. If they have no rage----------no,no....I'm too nice again. Those without rage should shut up.

Strange as it may seem, I have no dark side. No demon inside. (Neither am I happy go lucky.) I have met the enemy and he is the world. Yes, the male world. Haiku and painting just happen to be the ways in which I address and sometimes redress (and dedress) the world. (As opposed to knitting and marching.) Little did I know that I would do so when I was under the spell of pure art. Or as a friend spells it: rrt.

Rage, I claim. And it was a long time in acknowledging/knowing. It is a healing experience, believe it or not. It is centering to claim rage. I am focused. Up front with myself.

The book (which of course was an afterthought) has helped immensely.

By the way, I like your review. I appreciate the thinking and feeling that have gone into it. (If possible though give further thought to strident feminism being over.) It's just possible that real dialogue within the haiku community is beginning. (Keep in mind that strident feminism in haiku is not ages-old.)

I'm on a rage-break right now. In the middle of a new painting series tentatively called: she is one and she is two--signs of the ancient. Very simple obscure neolithic goddess designs....with heavy titles like 'immortality.' I've not though given up the 'political.' For me, She is 95% political. Perhaps, by the end of the series, She'll/I'll be more spiritual. One can I believe be a pissed off spiritualist. a recent sunnynight poem: white sugar white flour white male It only takes in part of the world; I'll leave it to my sisters to write their version. (Not a bit strident, is it?)


back to 'letter essay contents'