She Is Still Burning 2 (Nov 2000)

The history continues, with a reminder of context: in November 2000, you could get on an airplane without taking off your shoes first, and no one put their hands on your body; you could travel between Canada and the US without a passport; there was no Patriot Act passed by a Congress that didn’t read it, and no Homeland Security.  No “War on Terror”  either. Iraq was still an intact country, as was Syria.

SHE IS STILL BURNING
An Expanding Reader To Encourage Life Lovers
Installment #2
11 November 2000

Dear Friends,

What were the responses to the first installment? They ranged from the funny to the profound, but they all gave me what Jeannette Muzima refers to as “a jolt of hope.” Below is a sampling:

Suzanne Cox: “I feel very lucky to be getting it in today’s world of market, piggies go to market. I cannot believe it is free.” (This was in response to her suggesting that I should at least charge $5, and my replying IT HAS TO BE FREE. Maybe I am being stubbornly impractical with this project, but the greenback god from hell rules our collective life to a degree that was unimaginable when I was growing up—and I purely hate calculating my every move in terms of money. She Is Still Burning will remain what it was conceived to be: a gift, to myself as much as to anyone else.)

Jeannette Muzima: “Thank you for creating this. I look forward to reading, contributing, laughing, raging, and re-igniting.”

Rawi Hage: “I know many shes with eternal fires in them.”

Madelaine Marin: “Et BRAVO! pour le lancement de SHE IS STILL BURNING! FEU dont le besoin se fait si grandement sentir tant la chaleur est absente de nos isolements respectifs.” (rough translation: And bravo! for the making of SHE IS STILL BURNING—a fire we feel need of to the degree that warmth is missing from our respective solitudes.)

My thanks to all who responded. “Every woman deserves her own hallelujah chorus,” says Clarissa Pinkola Estès—and so does She Is Still Burning.

This installment appears three weeks after the first one, which feels to me like a pretty good rhythm. I do She Is Still Burning in between working on contracts for my editing/translation business, so the installments happen when they happen. If it’s more than a month between installments, that doesn’t mean the project is dead. It means I’m up against a deadline.

All this said, welcome to the continuation of She Is Still Burning!

Bon courage (keep your spirits up),
Harriet Ellenberger
Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada


IN THIS INSTALLMENT

1) “Love Prints” by Jeannette Muzima (a love poem is about the world)
2) “The Castle” by Rawi Hage (a childhood memory of war)
3) “Who Really Did Write Don Quixote?” (a question for readers)
4) “Faye’s Notebook, Part I: The Most Terrifying Thing I Ever Heard” by Harriet Ellenberger (Faye is a less restrained and more playful version of myself. Excerpts from her notebook may appear regularly … or they may not.)


Continue reading She Is Still Burning 2 (Nov 2000)

She Is Still Burning 1 (Oct 2000)

And the blast from the past continues … below you will find the first SISB instalment, sent out to friends as an e-mail in October 2000. I re-formatted to make it look prettier, but the words are exactly as they appeared then.

SHE IS STILL BURNING
An Expanding Reader To Encourage Life Lovers
Installment #1
22 October 2000

Dear Friends,

We’re just at the beginning of this project, and already I’ve managed to confuse everyone, including myself. This is because I was trying to go back to the 1970s days of publishing Sinister Wisdom with Catherine Nicholson, when we put out issues that were designed like books and included original artwork. Real publishing, in other words.

In my imagination, the HTML version of She Is Still Burning was elegantly book-like too. But when I translated imagination into computer reality, the resulting e-mail was huge, unlovely, and took forever to send/receive—like stuffing a pig-in-a-pinafore through a narrow mail slot. Hence, oh sad revision of my original announcement, She Is Still Burning will appear in everyone’s e-mail box as “text only.”

But she will appear, and SHE WILL BE FREE, something that real publishing can’t offer.

That said, let me welcome you to the beginning installment of She Is Still Burning. The first writer to respond to my request for submissions was long-time friend Lynn Martin, a poet who works for the Brattleboro AIDS Project in Vermont. (We were born on the same day, in different years, so it seemed natural to me that she would immediately comprehend my intentions.) Below, you’ll find a poem and short-short story by Lynn; they go together, illuminate each other.

Next comes a sample of Suzanne Cox’s “Suzy Q. Reporter” pieces, which she e-mails to a group of friends and which, along with her letters, were a major inspiration for She Is Still Burning. Suzanne Cox is a poet and painter who lives in New Hampshire and works at the Dartmouth College library.

On 9 October 2000, the day I sent out the invitations to subscribe, the world experienced its first ozone alert. The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, already as large as three continents, had extended for the first time over land inhabited by humans, the southernmost part of Chile and the island of Tierra del Fuego. In the NASA satellite photo, the hole looked like a gigantic blue teardrop. I don’t think words exist to adequately respond to this, but the final poem in this installment of She Is Still Burning at least speaks to the causes of the event. It seems more timely now than when I wrote it in 1989.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Michèle Causse for years and years of encouraging me to keep on writing, and for her e-mail last spring pleading with me to DO SOMETHING again—which provided the impetus for this project.

With best wishes,
Harriet Ellenberger
Saint John, New Brunswick

Continue reading She Is Still Burning 1 (Oct 2000)

She Is Still Burning (intro)

In “Kung Fu Panda,” my favourite animated feature, the old turtle says, “The past is history, the future is mystery, the present is a gift—that’s why it’s called the present.” What follows is the past, a history of exact feeling as many of my friends and I faced politics and life/death/life in the years 2000 to 2004, from just before the tainted election of George W. Bush to the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq.

In October 2000, I sent an e-mail to friends, inviting them to subscribe and contribute to a new free publication. Its title would be She Is Still Burning: An Expanding Reader To Encourage Life Lovers, and I wrote the essay below to give them a sense of its founding vision:

THE FIRE THIS TIME
A Brief Assessment of Situation, and a Declaration of Intent

Here we are—Terminal Patriarchy. I personally didn’t think I’d make it this far, and I keep expecting the whole shebang to blow sky-high or grind to an ignominious halt. But it continues.

Never underestimate the strength, tenacity, and tactical brilliance of evil. That much I’ve learned.

Adult experience and reflection on that experience have reinforced my childhood impression that it is madmen who are running the world. Over the years, I participated in successive movements to end oppression, but those movements seem to me, in retrospect, to have incompletely comprehended the source of the problem (which may explain why they were defused and diverted—“Give them a little bit of what they think they want, but keep control,” say men-in-power, aided and abetted by industrious female accomplices).

Patriarchy is not what it appears on the surface: a rational if mean-spirited system of exploitation and control. At its core, patriarchy is an accelerating drive toward extinction. And extinction does not carry the same meaning or consequence as death—death being individual, natural, necessary, the soil out of which new life springs. Extinction means unnecessarily and unnaturally extinguishing the life of a whole (a whole species, a whole tribe, a whole ecosystem, a whole culture, a whole nation, a whole race, a whole sex, a whole planet), with no possibility of renewal. Extinction is not, to my way of thinking, the consciously or unconsciously conceived project of sane persons.

Extinction is where we have been, where we are, where we’re headed, and it’s madmen who are driving the train. At an ever-increasing speed. I know this with my mind and in my bones, but unfortunately I don’t know how to derail the train. Even more unfortunately, I don’t know of anyone else who knows how either. The nuclear physicist who presented the petition signed by fifty Nobel Prize winners (a petition asking the U.S. government not to continue with its new anti-missile defense system, on grounds that it made inevitable a second cold war), after being met with polite obliviousness, put it this way: “For mad people, there is no cure.”

And still I want to live—even though there is no uncontaminated water to drink, no uncontaminated air to breathe, no uncontaminated food to eat, no uncontaminated thought to think, no uncontaminated feeling to feel. Everyone else I know wants, most of the time, to keep on living too—as long as they can. And they want the children and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live.

If we don’t yet know how to stop the extinction-train, we need to find a way, imagine a way, invent a way. Otherwise, despair hardens into resignation and the soul departs, leaving the body to bumble on direction-less.

She Is Still Burning was created to encourage this finding, imagining, inventing. She, along with her editor, is devoted to clear-seeing in a confusing and deadly time, and to fanning the flames of our desire to live.

She says: Guard the fire within yourself. Tend it; keep it burning. Do not allow it to be extinguished.

–Harriet Ann Ellenberger, written August 2000

[The instalments of She Is Still Burning will follow in succeeding posts.]

 

 

The Arctic Dome

pair-of-wild-turkeys-photo-by-mr-bear-dec-2016
pair of wild turkeys, photo by Bear & Co.

 

If you were within the polar vortex,
high above earth,
the breath in your lungs would freeze.

Winds swirl counterclockwise,
moving the cold southward
to a country
where no one wants to be a loser.

Arctic wind chills the blood.

But in a land of so much noise,
so many killings,
so much heated speculation,
too many carnival barkers,
no one notices the bloodstream
and how it flows.

The body politic is distracted,
and cannot surrender
to a new Ice Age.

 

Harriet Ann Ellenberger
16 December 2016

 

note: “The Arctic Dome” was first published in “Return to Mago E-magazine” on 30 December 2016.

 

What Matters

Guadalupe has an arm around quotidian Mary
they have begun to howl not worrying
that the moon is not in the right phase

it’ll come says the second Mary

when we reach BE
elemental quintessential
that is what matters

–Susan Hawthorne, “wolf pack” in Lupa and Lamb (Spinifex Press, 2014)

30 January 2017 BE (Biophilic Era, time of the life-lovers)

It’s been nearly a year since my last posting, and in that time I’ve gone from bordering-on-blindness to being far-sighted for the first time in my life. In the meantime, the earth’s frequency/vibration increased, and on the December 2016 solstice we crossed over the threshold into a new cosmic cycle.

Earlier this month, when I had begun reading again, I snooped around in Susan Hawthorne’s Lupa and Lamb because I was in the mood for a trans-temporal party and that’s what this book of hers is. In the lines quoted above, “quotidian Mary” and “second Mary” refer to Mary Daly, whose books I was also pulling out from the shelves. Mary Daly was a phone friend of mine for a few years after Amazon Grace came out, and, like most of the friends I’ve made this lifetime, she is not in her body at this time. If you want the particular form of mental stimulation she provides, you’ve got to invoke her or reread the books she left behind.

It was Mary Daly’s idea to stick “BE” after the day’s date, “BE” being short for “Biophilic Era,” a name she invented. It was my idea to lengthen the name to “Biophilic Era, time of the life-lovers” because I like the lush sound of it.

On 21 January 2017 BE, over 600 women’s marches for justice took place on seven continents. Together, they constituted the largest popular protest in human history, and they proved a natural umbrella for anyone choosing to resist 21st-century fascism.

The following morning, Prensa Libre, Guatemala’s foremost newspaper, featured the women’s resistance on its front page. In the foreground of their photo of the DC march, many signs are large enough to read, including:

I’m With Her (with arrows pointing in every direction)
Feminism Is The Radical Idea That Women Are Human Beings
and, my favourite, I Can’t Fucking Believe This Shit.

prensa-libre-17-01-22_guatemala

Patience, Grasshopper

For the last few years, my world has been getting darker and darker, and shrinking. I can’t see well enough to drive, so Mr. Bear is my chauffeur. He reads to me the labels on grocery-store shelves, and pays at the check-out because the debit machine defeats me every time. He set the font size on my computer screen to GARGANTUAN.

Life has gone on because Mr. Bear remained devoted while his partner slowly transformed into a baby mole. I know I’m lucky and I don’t mind being a reclusive, subterranean creature — but the baby part is humiliating for someone who used to be an adult.

All this began to change in early February when I had my first encounter with surgery since I was seven years old. In the dressing room, the nurse offered me an Ativan (what’s that?), but, sailing forward in ignorant enthusiasm, I instantly replied, “oh no thanks, I’m not nervous at all.”

I was in a strange state of non-chemically-induced ecstasy when they wheeled me into the space-age operating room. They sealed me from the waist up in an oxygen-filled bubble, with a hole cut out for the eye that was to be operated on. “Look into the light,” said the surgeon, and I did.

Very soon I saw a thin red line appear, and then I saw the lens in my eye being lifted out, and then I saw a hole in my eye and a black grid centered over the hole, and then I saw the artificial lens being put in, and then I heard the surgeon say in a worried voice, “I have very little support here.”

He no sooner said this than I noticed my legs had gone rigid as a board under the heated blanket. I spent the remainder of the fifteen-minute operation wishing I’d swallowed the magic pill.

It’s now been nearly four weeks of recovery, and I’ve gone from the euphoria of discovering that the world is filled with extraordinary light, to the terror of noting that small black dots keep dancing around in my “new” eye, to utter exasperation that now both eyes hurt and I still can’t read the print in books.

When I consider there’s one more operation to go, I feel like smashing pottery. And I repeat to myself what the old kung fu master says over and over to his student: “Patience, grasshopper.”

I

Whales Who Come to Tadoussac, Quebec

I remember you,
erotic poets of the sea,
surrounding the whale-watch boats,
singing.

Wind-burned,
in fog and in pain,
I sent up my silent calls to you:
O come,
O live,
O let me caress your mind.

Humans, who poisoned the waters
and set earth on fire,
you approach with song.

Teach me to do the same.

 

– Harriet Ann Ellenberger
30 July 1989, revised 4 February 2016

note: The earlier version of this poem was published in L’Évidente lesbienne, no. 17, février 1990, and in Ms. Magazine, July/August 1993.