The Production of Lesbian Spaces in the 1970s March 19th | Friday, 6-8 PM Room 9205 at The CUNY Graduate Center (NYC) 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY Participants: Madeline Davis, Deborah Edel, Julie Enszer, Joan P. Gibbs, Stina Soderling Moderator: Jen Gieseking "The Production of Lesbian Spaces in the 1970s" panel and reception is part of CLAGS’s year-long series, “In Amerika They Call Us Dykes: Lesbian Lives in the 1970s.” The panel will discuss the production of lesbian space and place in the 1970s, both urban and otherwise and within and without lesbian feminism, with a reception to follow from 8-10pm. We hope to touch on such topics as the roles of concepts of public and private, the politics, experiences, and uses of visibility and invisibility, and shifts in lesbian-feminist, butch-femme, and other dynamics throughout this period. Participants include Madeline Davis (founder and director of the Madeline Davis GLBT Archives of Western NY, and co-author of _Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold_--winner of the 1993 Lambda Literary Award), Deborah Edel (activist and co-founder / long-time treasurer of the Lesbian Herstory Archives), Julie Enszer (poet and founder of the online Lesbian Poetry Archives), Joan Gibbs (co-founder of Azalea and Dykes Against Racism Everywhere), and Stina Soderling (Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University studying lesbian separatist spaces in the 1970s). The event will be recorded and archived on the CLAGS site for future viewing, while the conversation itself will continue in an online mapping venue that those in New York City and beyond can contribute their own place markers with accompanying stories to record lesbian spaces over time throughout the world
Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) Lesbians in the 70s Series:
The Production of Lesbian Spaces in the 1970s
March 19th | Friday, 6-8 PM
Room 9205 at The CUNY Graduate Center (NYC)
365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
Presentation by Julie R. Enszer
In thinking about space, I returned to Gaston Bachelard on the Poetics of Space. He writes, “[A]n empty drawer is unimaginable. It can only be thought of. And for us, who must describe what we imagine before we know, what we dream before what we verify, all wardrobes are full” (Bachelard, xxxvii-xxxviii.)
From my perspective, lesbians in the 70s were describing what they imagined and what they dreamed and then writing and publishing those dreams and imaginings in lesbian print culture. They were creating spaces and finding “all wardrobes full.” When I think about lesbian and lesbian-feminist print culture in the 1970s, I think of four “spaces”:
- •Poems (like Adrienne Rich’s “The Floating Poem” “whatever happens with us, your body/will haunt mine—tender, delicate” or Pat Parker’s “For Straight Folks who don’t mind gays but wish they weren’t so blatant” or E. Sharon Gomilion’s lines, “We’re doing it in our books/history, poetry, and song/We’re doing it every chance/we get/Right on—further on!” Judy Grahn’s “A History of Lesbianism” “The subject of lesbianism/is very ordinary; it’s the question/of male domination that makes everybody/angry.”)
- •Poetry books, chapbooks, broadsides and other printed materials
- •Journal, newspapers, newsletters, and periodicals like Sinister Wisdom, Conditions, The Furies, Azalea.
- •Small presses like Violet Press, Out & Out Books, Women’s Press Collective, Diana Press, Persephone Press, and Easter Day Press.
- •Physical objects – the things that are in libraries: books, chapbooks, journal issues
- •Shared communities of concerns – collectives of women producing the work and communities of readers
- •Institutions with economic, cultural, and political impacts
- •Shared spaces, physical and metaphorical, for and array of activities including identity creation, community building, political strategizing, theory generation and a variety of other political, social, economic, and cultural mobilizations.
I am appreciative deeply of the organizers of this panel for inviting me; my presence here is a testament to the power of lesbian spaces—I met Jen Gieseking at the Lesbian Herstory Archives. I thank CLAGS and Sarah Chinn for the important work on the series In Amerika They Call Us Dykes. Finally, I just want to leave you with the final four lines from Rich’s “The Floating Poem.” Rich evokes a particular type of space in this poem; one that is crystallized by touch. It is a space that was central in the writing of lesbians in the 70s and so I want to remind us of this space as another in our considerations this evening. The last four lines of Rich’s “The Floating Poem:”
your touch on me, firm, protective, searching
me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers
reaching where I have been waiting years for you
in my rose-wet cave -- whatever happens, this is.
Thank you. I am very much looking forward to the conversation.