marlene mountain
letter essay
ecember 1987

how the past

dear elizabeth  12/10/87

Our light snow is gone and in yesterday's nice weather (tho inside) I put the first coat of purple (in honor of Alice Walker) on the old screen door and the front door. Today's rainy air may not let me get the second coats on. Purple may or may not 'go with' the barn-reddish house . . . I'm hoping it won't. Nothing else matches.

Your letter arrived almost a week after I received the news clipping-- lost somewhere between here and there.

I was sorry to hear your response to what Adele and I feel to be a provocative review. The history of the world (more and more understood as lie upon lie) is indeed being rewritten by women and men--feminist and otherwise--as more information is uncovered and/or interpreted more accurately. How the past is viewed has much to do with how the present is viewed, and vice versa. While of course the review could be seen as feminist, I rather like to think of it as just plain realism, based on truer information. I've spent much time reading both patriarchal (women and men) and non-patriarchal views. There is much difference in those views, including field work in animal studies and current gather/hunter societies--a book such as WOMAN'S CREATION (and others) is certainly an eye-opener. (Unfortunately, an otherwise interesting novel, CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, has concepts based on dated perceptions of the past.)

What is disappointing about your rejection is an underlying tone that somehow a feminist perspective is other than meaningful or accurate, or that a discussion of the human past is inappropriate in haiku. In time all scholarship will be feminist--welcomed and taken as normal. And all facets of humanity will be a part of haiku. (I believe haiku, like everything else, is and has always been political--but, then, that would take reams to explain, and I doubt that I could do it adequately.)

There is indeed a correlation between how the earth and women are perceived--it's a universal correlation, from an ancient ancient positive one to a recent (several thousand years) negative one. The rape of the earth is very much tied to the rape of women. And there is tremendous difference in women identifying ourselves voluntarily with nature and how men have done and are doing it 'for us.' There is risk for women (as there is risk for men who want to 'be nature,' but 'can't' identify as they would like because of patriarchy's degrading of woman/nature, i.e., that which requires controlling, or that which is romanticized.) The correlation and risk seem vital to a discussion of 'nature poetry.' Haiku has never been unto itself. If it is a creative art then it is organic, as is the interpretation of it also. 'We' have had our share of misinterpretations of haiku and the philosophies surrounding it, and of those who say who can write it and when. Blyth's statement that it is doubtful that women can write haiku will always haunt me. It should haunt any haiku poet. Another pronouncement in the string of 'debates': if we have souls, are human, can vote, can participate fully in society, have complete bodies and even if they belong to us, etc.

I sent the review to Bob who said it was 'fine,' but that Rod was reviewing Adele's book. I've recently sent it to Hal, but I wonder if he has space these days. If he hasn't, I suppose I'll just leave it go. I'm sure another can be found to review it for FP. Ultimately, I do believe that nature and women, the past and current views, will have to be dealt with in haiku. As well as many other aspects.

I've been feeling much better since mid October. Here's a piece of automatic writing which helped me deal with some of what I went through. Health is to be treasured. The best of it to both of you.

ps I'll share this with Adele


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