Unabashed  Knowing


Lise Weil

This is unabashed Knowing climbing into bed with you,
putting its hands around your throat and squeezing
until your heart bursts open and its pieces
scatter over the world like petals.
Martina Newberry “Bad Manners,” Trivia 7/8

For all we know, the recitation of what is utterly, entirely unbearable, the litany of the atrocities of our own doing, is the means through which the holy invocation can be activated.
Deena Metzger, From Grief into Vision: A Council

Welcome to this long-awaited double issue of Trivia: Voices of Feminism. Though the articles in this issue were collected and edited by both Harriet and me, Harriet stepped down as co-editor in June (please see her letter below) so for the moment I am operating as solo editor with the support of web wonderwoman Susan Kullmann. As sad as I am to lose Harriet as co-editor—I have loved collaborating with her and am extremely proud of the work we’ve published together—as her longtime friend I applaud her for deciding to devote herself to getting well. And collaborators have already materialized for the following two issues. Upland CA goddess scholar Hye Sook Hwang, whose revelatory essay on Magoism appeared in the last issue, will be guest co-editor for #9, “Thinking about Goddesses,” for which she has already assembled much exciting material. And Vancouver poet, essayist and feminist publisher Betsy Warland will be collaborating with me on  “Are Lesbians Going Extinct?” which was to have been the next issue, and will now appear in September of 2009. Please see our calls for submissions for more information about these forthcoming issues.

This issue, #7/8, is a demanding one. It’s demanding because so much of the writing in it is a clear result of “unabashed Knowing,” knowing that in some cases one imagines must have been almost too painful to bear. Never in one issue of Trivia have there been so many cries from the heart and so much thundering outrage. Never in one issue have so many of the wars that continue to rage on this earth been made visible: the US war against Iraq ("Bad Manners,” “Screens: the War at Home,”), the US war against native peoples (“Amerika in 5 Parts”), the war against nature (“Hypatia,” “Invisible Nature,” “Edible Parts”), and, within and beside these, the disturbingly resilient war against women, in both its subtle and not-so-subtle manifestations: (“Hypatia,” “Amerika in 5 Parts,” “Invisible Nature,” “Edible Parts,” “The Happy Hooker Revisited”).

This issue is also demanding in that at least two of the articles in it are unusually long and challenging, and one of them, “Hypatia,” is long enough that we’ve posted it as a PDF file. I’m aware that both “Hypatia” and “Re-membering an Interrupted Conversation” (drawn from the Trivia archives) defy the expectation of brevity and ease most readers bring to the web. But they exemplify the kind of rigorous thinking, clear seeing, and, in the case of “Hypatia,” the formal adventurousness that we want to encourage in Trivia,and for that reason Harriet and I felt they both warranted breaking with web etiquette. If you’re pressed for time, or if the volume of material in this issue is daunting to you, I urge you to begin by reading the authors’ working notes. The ones in this issue are especially compelling and will give you a strong feel for the passion, brilliance and vision gathered here. In fact they may well draw you right into the texts themselves.

Women have, have always had, a capacity for unmediated, unabashed Knowing (“once oracle once Delphi once pythoness of the world,” “Hypatia”). Unfortunately, women are equally capable of vehement Unknowing, as the views of Sarah Palin and the white women voters now swinging to the Republican ticket as a result of those views make painfully clear. Much of the writing in this issue is a facing-off with the forces of Unknowing. In Barbara Mor’s epic poem “Hypatia,” a woman of genius of the 4th-5th century, teacher of mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, algebra and more, is tortured and burned to death for presuming to teach men. The history of Western civilization, Mor reminds us, is a history of institutionalized forgetting

intelligence consigned to Fire : mss & books,the Library razed,
utterly pillaged the great School of Philosophy – poetry music
medicine geology geometry astronomy calculus—the sacred
learning of the known world…

and the conditions in which most women live serve to block our access to Knowing

her body busy & lost
watching thru glass children in plastic pools wives&husbands
joined in squat marriage over toiletbowl&insurancepapers...

In “Amerika in 5 Parts,” Christine Stark laments and opposes the violent Unknowing to which native peoples as well as women have been condemned

Grandma didn’t know she didn’t know she died two days later she stood in her turquoise kitchen chopping bright orange carrots Grandma didn’t know...

In “Woman-Woman Bonding in Prehistory,” Gabriele Meixner writes of a history of archaeological research that suppresses knowledge of female wisdom, sacredness, and physical bondedness. Her own research excavates a world in which woman-woman bonding was primary and generative, artistically and culturally. Several essays in this issue suggest that our most vital Knowing is born from the very forms of woman-woman bonding that have been most forbidden or denied: in “Edible Parts,” from the “sublime intimacy” of the primal mother-daughter dyad, in “I Saw a Woman Dance” from one female body communicating to another on a dance floor. And in “Re-membering an Interrupted Conversation: the Mother/Virgin Split, ” a new vision of female creativity emerges—as seen in novels by Tillie Olsen and Virginia Woolf—when two polarized aspects of female being are revealed as parts of one original whole.

“What is it to heal?” The question arises towards the end of Leonore Wilson’s “Invisible Nature.”  It’s a question that seems never to have had so much urgency in human history as it does right now. Here are some of the answers offered in this issue, in their own voices:

I drank from the voice of the dancer. A bird crying up into morning. A lake humming low against shore.
With my daughters tethered to my breasts I felt like part of a primal dyad, a lioness feeding her cubs on the African savannah...
Maybe the ringdoves when they coo tell of a ripening that is right, that spastic flock of rebel benediction endless in the dawn light breaking, their lingering blue sighs of a fresh measureless future... A rising here, there, nowhere revelation of unimaginable surprise.
I sing Grandma and Great Grandfather back to the earth I sing them into existence I know I remember I have bled their pain I have bled my pain now I sing

Taken together, the material in this issue suggests that unabashed Knowing—"the recitation of what is utterly, entirely unbearable, the litany of the atrocities of our own doing"* –is itself the beginning of all true healing. Especially when it is rendered, as it has been in the writing in this issue, into stunning poetry, prose or something-in-between.

May the fearless Knowing in this issue open your heart and make a thousand flowers bloom.

*Deena Metzger, From Grief into Vision: A Council. Topanga CA: 2006, p.77

Dear Trivia readers,

My family doctor had been telling me to slow down, and in June I finally took her common-sense prescription for exhaustion seriously, resigning as Trivia’s co-editor and leaving the final work on this issue to Lise. I am grateful to Lise for handling the unexpected news and consequent doubling of her own labour, and grateful too to Susan Kullmann for agreeing to continue her fine design work on Trivia.

Lise named this double issue of Trivia “Unabashed Knowing,” and to me the title describes beautifully, not only the strength of the writings being presented, a strength that comes from facing reality, but equally the strength of the women who carry Trivia’s work into the future.

As I transform myself from a Trivia worker into a devoted reader and fan, that future looks to me promising. I’m excited about the planning for the two issues that will follow this one, and I have a strong intuition that the changes Trivia is going through signify renewal.

My thanks to all of you who have been or will be participating in the project of Trivia. You enrich my life.

Best wishes,
Harriet Ellenberger


issue 7/8
September 2008

Weibliches Zwillingsgelab Hacilar

unabashed Knowing

Lise Weil

Martina Newberry
Bad Manners
All That Jazz

Barbara Mor

Christine Stark
Amerika in 5 Parts

Laura Tanner
Screens: The War at Home

Leonore Wilson
Invisible Nature

Gabriele Meixner
Woman-Woman Bonds
in Prehistory
Translated by Lise Weil

Beate Sigriddaughter
I Saw a Woman Dance

Monica J. Casper
The Edible Parts

Carolyn Gage
The Happy Hooker Revisited

From our archives
Kathy Miriam
Re-membering an Interrupted Conversation:
the Mother/Virgin Split

Notes on Contributors