The Prestige

It is easy enough to make a lady vanish, but bringing her back—that is the prestige. So abracadabra, here come all those women authors disappeared from the canon. Nothing up my sleeve…Presto!

Beginning with my birthday (start of my physical year) I will be reading only books by women for at least one year. At 52, having already absorbed a great chunk of the male-centric Western canon, it occurs to me I would probably need to read women authors exclusively for the rest of my days to balance the scales and that seems extreme even to me, a female author. Why? Well, it is unreasonable to tune into one narrow band of communications to the exclusion of everything else, isn’t it? And yet that is what you do when you follow the canon. It only feels reasonable because it is the default. You didn’t actively choose to exclude anybody; this is just how it is. And there is variation within the sample so you don’t perceive it as monoculture, but clearly it leaves huge swaths of human experience unaccounted for. Why wouldn’t I want to fill in those gaps? Why wouldn’t anyone? Although gender is my primary focus for this project, I recognize that it is only one axis and will bear that in mind in making selections.

So, thinking about erasure, I decided the creative piece of the project would be a thread poem taken from the work I am reading. (I think I made this form up, though it is possible someone else made it up first.) The thread poem is a kind of erasure where you identify the thread of a poem within a block of prose and carve away the surrounding text. This requires the words of the poem to be contiguous in the text so that the poem can be carved out as a single piece. These thread poems will be incorporated into a sketchbook I’m making for the Brooklyn Art Library about these books. That project is due in March 2018, but I expect I’ll keep making thread poems and posting them here for the duration of the year.