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Les Femmes Folles

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Posts tagged womenwriteresistance:

Elayne Safir, artist


Artist Elayne Safir’s cover illustration graces the front of the recently published Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2013); (a reading will take place in Lincoln
May 7(7pm, South Mill, 48th & Prescott, details here). The artist shares with LFF about drawing since she was a kid, her favorite (relatively unknown) artists, how feminism plays a role in her work, her sculpture installation in the upcoming Figment Festival in NY and more…

Background/where are you from? This is a simple question with a complicated answer…I was born in Ukraine and spent my early childhood there. My family immigrated to Brooklyn in 1993, which is where I went to school and grew up. I moved to Toronto, Canada in 2001, where I studied art and watched America from its window to the north. I’m now back living and working in New York.


"Synth Waves" by Elayne Safir

How’d you get into art? I’ve been drawing since I was a kid - illustrating books before I knew what illustration was. I’d read a book and draw endless character sketches or images depicting particularly exciting plot points. I got into comic books and graphic novels in high school, and that’s when I realized that picture books weren’t just for kids - that it was possible to create art illustrating adult themes and complex social and philosophical concepts.

Tell me about your work/inspirations. My two favorite artists are not terribly well known but they really should be! I’m a huge fan of Giorgio de Chirico - his student Salvador Dali is much more famous, but if you look at their work side by side, it’s easy to see how much Dali was influenced by his teacher’s work. It’s beautiful, haunting, and an amazing example of “magic realism” - a literary genre which I use as a description of my own work, which also aptly fits de Chirico’s art catalog. I also hugely admire the work of Malcolm Liepke, a modern american painter, and his oil paintings of daily life - couples at dark bars, women getting dressed, intimate moments that feel like painted photographs. I aspire to convey the same intimacy in the way I portray people in my own work.

Does feminism play a role in your work? Women are my go to subject matter - I’ve been drawing female faces and shapes since early childhood. It’s a meditative and somewhat obsessive process - expressing something intangible yet deeply important through an inked eyelid, a pencil-shaded curve of the lower lip, a furred eyebrow, ten intertwined fingers. I wonder about feminism, the power of femininity, the place of ancient gender roles and the future of the sexes as I draw, and let those thoughts and questions pour into and through the ink. It’s a communication of sorts, from a woman and to other women, and from a human to other humans, one without words or answers - just feelings and fears and hopes.

"Absent Without Leave" by Elayne Safir

Tell me about making the cover of WWR and why that is important to you. I have so much deep respect for Laura Madeline Wiseman and the amazing poets who participated in this project. Resistance against gender violence is such an important cause - one with so much relevance to the time we live in - one which knows no geographical boundaries. I received some of the poems as a preview and an inspiration, and read the words over and over again, making them the music in my head, and a call to arms as I worked on the artwork. I am incredibly proud to have contributed to this book and am really looking forward to participating in the WWR New York event in May: https://www.facebook.com/events/346921008758905/

Any other projects you’re working on /excited about you want to share? Yes! I am participating in the Figment festival in New York in June. It’s a wonderful annual celebration of art and creativity, and it’s my fourth year participating with a sculptural installation - a giant flying Firebird, a mythical creature from Eastern European folklore, evoking promises of magic and inspiring the chasing of dreams.

Check out Elayne’s cover illustration and Women Write Resistance here.

Keep up with Elayne and see more of her artwork at emptyminute.com.

Sara Henning, poet


Poet Sara Henning was recently published in Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2013), and will be reading to promote the book May 7 in Lincoln (details below). She shares with LFF about how she fell in love with writing, her artistic processes, her piece in the book and more…

Background/where are you from? How’d you get into writing?

I’m originally from Savannah, Georgia, though I spent quite a few of my formative years in Athens, Georgia.  I have spent all but a few years in disparate parts of the American South, which I believe (as much as I fought against it) inspires quite a bit of my writing.   I toyed with writing stories and poetry (though I wasn’t very good at either) since I was a girl (I remember a first grade short story documenting the shenanigans of a certain suspect feline duo, Lily and Tigerlily, that is likely collecting dust somewhere).  After a few years as a Genetics major at the University of Georgia, I ended up in an introductory creative writing course with poet Lew Klatt while he was still a doctoral student there.  I enjoyed the course (though I was writing overly sentimental poetry and self-consciously “out there” short stories), and the next semester, signed up with what I hoped would be a fiction class at the University of Georgia (to keep writing those troubling stories?). It ended up being an advanced writing class with poet Brian Henry, and with only initial reservation, I fell in love (and became a pre-med dropout).

Tell me about your work/style/inspirations. Does feminism play a role in your work?

I write a lot of post-confessional and persona poems, as well as ekphrastic pieces.  I glean inspiration from those around me (people, animals, landscape, inscape, etc. around me) with the goal of understanding them through some kind of emotive investigation.  I dwell a lot (sometimes unhealthily) in memory, things I should have said, things I relished in, things I wish I could still bear. And sometimes, poems are the places where I make erratic deviations from truth, and find more truth there. And sometimes, I find myself drowning or singing in the risk of untruth.  The poems I write very much come from a woman’s body.  Does that make them feminist? Yes and no. Many of my poems are ontological and/or political, but in ways that influence, rather than obstruct, content. I don’t believe I can restructure the world in my poems, my classroom as a teacher of creative writing or literature, or my bedroom, though the self in its many activities never stops being a self, does it?  These are self-reflexive battles.

On another note, I also love to use poems as an excuse to geek out with research.  I have learned so much about animal mating rituals, phobias, and classification of obscure plants during my “writing sessions.” I almost always have my Smartphone next to me as I write, researching ideas as they come.  Oh, and I am wildly inspired by poets such as Kimiko Hahn, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Jane Mead, Dorianne Laux, Carolyn Forche, Emily Dickinson, and Wallace Stevens, just to name a few.  Without them, and my formative mentors, I would not know how to breathe.

Tell me about your piece in WWR; why is it important to you?

This is a meditation on ex-lovers.  It is almost completely autobiographical. I spent much of my twenties ensconced in physically and emotionally abusive relationships, and so this is why Laura’s anthology means so much to me as an artist as well as a woman. Abuse is all around us, and the only way to stop it is through sharing our stories and with them, awareness. 

Is this what you’ll read for the May 7 reading (7pm, South Mill, 48th & Prescott in Lincoln, details here) ?

Yes, among some pieces from my collection, A Sweeter Water, as well as from a collection in progress tentatively titled The Color of Ashes. (Below is the cover of To Speak of Dahlias, my chapbook out from Finishing_Line_Press (2012).)


Deborah T. McGinn, poet


(above photo of Deborah taken for Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence)

Poet DEBORAH T MCGINN’s Lincoln High Slam Poetry Team took First Place in the “Louder Than a Bomb” State Championship April 12, 2013!  This is very exciting for the teacher and writer and her talented students! McGinn has been published in The Iowa Review, Times of Sorrow/Times of Grace, The Poets Voice, Plains Song Review, Poetic Voices, Free Focus Nebraska English Journal, New York City, Fine Lines, Whole Notes, Celebrate, Lincoln Review, Richmond Award in Poetry, The South Dakota Review, and elsewhere. She is the author of the chapbook Self Unbound, To Go From Privacy. Her poem “Two Teachers Leaving” was recently published in Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman, 2013), and will be reading to promote the book May 7 in Lincoln (details below). She shares with LFF about the impact of her parents reading to her growing up, writing as her outlet, her love of teaching and more…
I was born in Holt County in O’Neil, Nebraska but quickly moved with parents to Omaha before eventually settling  in Lincoln, Nebraska.  I attended Pius X High School and was on the school newspaper staff and had a private mentor in creative writing.  I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln earning a BA in secondary education in English and Reading.  I started my teaching career in 1985-86 at Lincoln High School and still teach in the I.B. program there, working with Honors English 9 and Creative Writing.   After teaching a number of years I returned to UNL to earn a MA in English with a Creative Writing thesis.  Proudly I sponsored the literary magazine called Scribe for twenty-five years and now the newly established Lincoln High Slam Poetry Team.
How’d I get into writing:
My mother and father read to me and they made the characters on the page come to life.  They were both very good at a theatrical presentation of voice and personality.  It was an excellent introduction to the power of the written word and pathway to composing through the power of the imagination.  My family, except for me, were extreme extroverts.  As a first-born I was drawn to the shy side of life or the quiet times when art, reading, and writing became my closest allies.  Perhaps it was tiresome trying to get a word in, the overload of TV and people noise, or I was just simply attracted to a world where solitude breeds the transformative art of creative expression.  Along with great memories of holidays and such, there was also pain in my family home.  Writing was my outlet, the place to restore my mind exposed to chaos and sadness.  I could write a better plot that what was in front of me. I could rhyme my way out of the tumultuous belt of angry words in the background.    I was blessed with good friends in small numbers, good music, an inquisitive mind and inclination to make sense or have fun with life through story, film, poetry, and first person narrative.  Writing is a powerful transformative force.
I chose a career where I could engage my hours in an atmosphere built on the foundation of language.  My classroom is full of words and images on the walls and bulletin boards, and there is something quite satisfying about encouraging young adults to write, revise, and shape an original piece into a clear, detailed better draft.  Each student and teacher creates a three-ring notebook of writing each semester.  Each student with teacher’s encouragement learns to read well and present original work on a microphone.  Even though lockers and hall noise is quite like the family I grew up in, there are always those productive moments when students hush and hover over a book.  There are those moments when the room grows silent for writing time and the kinds of tests that hold graduation over their heads like bombs are forgotten.  This writing is for them with prompts they invent, prompts that mean something.  There is always a kid in the back of the room who sulks because math and science are his arms and legs.   There is that same kid turned on by something in poetry that urges him out of his desk to share something he created unexpectedly in his notebook.  He will take his place, come out of his orbit and do something he once thought impossible.    I love the humor in a classroom, the hearty discussions of play, novel or poem mixed with the rise of words over sound and the pure act of discovering an experience with language that can change someone.
In 2012 Nebraska schools made history when the Omaha Writer’s Collective established a slam poetry competition called “Louder Than a Bomb.”  My students were moved by a documentary of the same name that high lighted the fine writers and performers in Chicago.  It is rare when an adult sees a riveting movie and the students are just as inspired.  We were on the edges of our seats when we discovered that finally the process of first draft to final draft verse could plunge into a new existence for us in the prairie, city and towns of Nebraska.  Our polished works of three minutes or less could be shaped into a live presentation capable of making three hundred people stand and cheer for poetry.  

Feminism in my work:
My strength and survival as a now stronger woman plays many an instrument in my verse.


Hear Deborah read May 7, 7pm at the South Mill, 48th & Prescott in Lincoln, Nebraska. Details here.

Mini-review of Women Write Resistance edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman


I was so thrilled and honored when Lincoln-based poet Laura Madeline Wiseman (who is also reading this Friday at Noyes Art Gallery in Lincoln; details below and here) asked me to read through the final draft of  Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013) for minor errors and the anthology did not let down, to say the least. The book is now available on amazon.com; below is my very short, understated review on a truly revolutionary work of art…

Poetry, like visual art, illuminates with the potential of societal change. Judy Chicago’s 2006 sculpture, “Snake Arm”—a raised a fist coiled by a golden snake—calls to mind fertility and connection while also questioning aggression and war. Her series, “The Holocaust Project” (1985-93) brought the darkened tragedy of the Holocaust’s violent “medical experiments” and sexual violation of women to attention. Faith Ringgold’s “The Flag is Bleeding #2,” (1973), a piece on violence against women, offers the American flag, a symbol for militarism and racial violence, and a stoic black mother who attempts to protect her children, while she, the children, and the flag bleed. These artistsdeal with violence and political issues head-on, garnering revolutionary enlightenment and societal change. Each of the diverse, enthralling poems in Wiseman’s Women Write Resistance is a work of art, revealing hope and cultural transformation. Exhilarating and groundbreaking, Women Write Resistance combines true heart-wrenching stories of gender abuse with revelatory “sassing” language demanding meaningful conversation on the universal issue and, hopefully, change.

~Sally Deskins, founding editor of Les Femmes Folles, journal of women in art

Read more about Women Write Resistance and Laura Madeline Wiseman at lauramadelinewiseman.com. Keep posted on Women Write Resistance at facebook.com/womenwriteresistancepoetsresistgenderviolence.

Hear Wiseman read her work alongside other writers who are women this Friday, March 1, 6pm. at Noyes Art Gallery, 119 S. 9th St. in Lincoln. Details here.

Wiseman was also a featured reader at LFF & momaha.com’s reading on motherhood to close my “What Will Her Kids Think?” exhibit at Star Deli Gallery February 24. You can see her reading her work on youtube!