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30 review for The Women Who Hate Me: Poetry, 1980-1990

  1. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Dorothy Allison's novel Bastard Out of Carolina just about ruined me. I read it, in its entirety, on a non-stop flight (ironically, one that departed out of Columbia, South Carolina), and I finished it right as we landed. I remember feeling completely hopeless as the other passengers went about the mundane business of gathering their belongings, and, ironically, I felt as though I did not belong. Why would I want to belong to the human race after that brutal tale of physical and sexual abuse? I Dorothy Allison's novel Bastard Out of Carolina just about ruined me. I read it, in its entirety, on a non-stop flight (ironically, one that departed out of Columbia, South Carolina), and I finished it right as we landed. I remember feeling completely hopeless as the other passengers went about the mundane business of gathering their belongings, and, ironically, I felt as though I did not belong. Why would I want to belong to the human race after that brutal tale of physical and sexual abuse? I was too wrecked by the story, and when you're too wrecked by a story, too abandoned down that rabbit hole without any rope, you want to set that book to fire and watch it burn. I wanted to give Ms. Allison another try, so I turned this summer to Cavedweller (published in '98, six years after Bastard), and I could see, again, how strong her writing was, but I could also feel her holding back. Cavedweller is beautifully written, but the protagonist is gay. . . but then isn't gay. . . and everyone is flirting, but nothing is happening, and the caves are dark and everything is just so DAMNED VAGUE. That novel turned me into goddamned Barry White, crooning let's get it on to the pages every day. Then, no more crooning: LET'S GET IT ON! LET'S GET IT ON, PEOPLE! I took several angry walks on my favorite trail that week, kicking hard at the weeds. God, do I hate it when grown-ass consenting adults can't get it on. I digress. Okay, so, when I saw that Dorothy Allison had a collection of poetry, her first published work, I thought to myself yes, this is it, this is the book I want. Only, here's the plot twist: the book has gone out of print and is considered hard to find/expensive. Well, guess what, booksellers? Don't you EVER tell a perimenopausal woman that a book she wants is unavailable to her. That's akin to setting me on fire. I declared I will have this book, and I did! Once my copy arrived (thanks to Cheri and thriftbooks—I love you both!), I was greeted with this: Do you remember the screaming? The bushes where you hid our stepfather running after us caught me more often than you ran blood down my body? Do you remember that porch? How I fell back onto the corner cut deep between my legs screamed for mama driving up catching my scream in the pit of her fear my blood in her hands my hands between my legs the scream dying in my throat strangling on the certainty I would die. Bleeding across the car seat mutely pushing at the blood I knew it would ruin the seatcover mama's uniform, your white curls. I knew they'd have to cut away, throw out the seatcover, your hair, my body. Good God. I knew that Bastard was semi-autobiographical, but it was a different experience to read the very personal poetry that confirmed it. I can only tell you this. . . if I ever have the misfortune to witness two little girls fleeing from their house, blood on their legs, screaming, a rapist stepfather running after them to beat or rape them some more. . . please, Lord Jesus, let me be in the midst of cooking up a batch of cornbread in a cast iron skillet and, with all the power imbued by the goddess Isis herself, let me smite that motherfucker on the head and render him dead. I will gladly write my reviews from prison. This is a powerful collection of poetry, worthy of whatever you need to do to get it. Ms. Allison is a lusty woman with a hearty appetite, both for food and women (I knew you were capable of a sex scene in Cavedweller, lady, you were holding out!). And, despite some staggering sexual and physical violence in her past, she has found a way to thrive. I loved, loved, loved it. I leave you with this, from “i chose this ground:” Every Wednesday, every Sunday of her life my grandma swept her yard, raked the dust into smooth clean lines the red dust that choked babies and stained the boards of her porch. She paid whatever rent was demanded for the right to rake her yard and when they put her out three years before she died, the uncles moved her to a yard where the rocks had never been cleared where glass and wire scraps threatened our feet. She ignored the boxes sitting full, went out to rake that ground to clear herself a sense of place. “Hold your ground,” she told me.

  2. 5 out of 5

    brass

    i got to pick her up from the airport a few years ago. i still wonder if i made an ass of myself that afternoon. she's a working class sheroine of mine. she's also an incredible flirt with disarmingly smooth moves. and i fucking love her words.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    The Women Who Hate Me was first published as a chapbook in 1983 when Dorothy was 34; it was expanded and published in the form being reviewed here in 1991. Her short story collection Trash was first published in 1988 and an expanded version was published in 2002. She received mainstream recognition in 1992 when Bastard Out of Carolina was published. The Women Who Hate Me: Poetry, 1980-1990 is available used at www.alibris.com . An informative and fascinating interview with Dorothy Allison in 1 The Women Who Hate Me was first published as a chapbook in 1983 when Dorothy was 34; it was expanded and published in the form being reviewed here in 1991. Her short story collection Trash was first published in 1988 and an expanded version was published in 2002. She received mainstream recognition in 1992 when Bastard Out of Carolina was published. The Women Who Hate Me: Poetry, 1980-1990 is available used at www.alibris.com . An informative and fascinating interview with Dorothy Allison in 1995 is available on the web at http://www.tulane.edu/~wc/zale/alliso.... The following is a lengthy portion of the interview about The Women Who Hate Me poetry. THE WOMEN WHO HATE ME is a series of poems most of which were written in 1982, and the summer of 1981-1983. First, the book was published in 1983, the first edition. Most of the poems were written following the Barnard Conference on sexuality in April, 1981. I was part of a panel there. The conference was designed to look at a complicated notion of sexuality and the whole design was about pleasure and danger, so they wanted to talk about all of the harm and the danger that exists around sexual issues for women. And they also wanted to talk about why sex and sexuality could be a source of power, authority and pleasure. Well, this was also 1981 and that was exactly the part of the discussion that was not supposed to be happening. When the Women's movement was essentially, the ---- was the anti-pornography movement. And it was not simply that there was a ---- of notions of what you were supposed to be saying about porn or anti-porn or any of that. The dominant notion was that we can't take care of all that until we take of this problem. Therefore, we can't talk about lesbian relationships, or incest. Everybody's gonna have to refrain from enjoying sexuality or women's pursuit of sexual pleasure, or heterosexual women teaching heterosexual men how to actually make them have an orgasm. We can't talk about any of that until we stop pornography and stop violence against women. These are the only two subjects we can discuss about sexuality. That's what happened at the Barnard Conference because the conference opened a whole range of discussion and the New York chapter of Women Against Pornography picketed. Not only did they picket, they published leaflets which named eight of us as being essentially anti-feminist terrorists. Not only did they distribute leaflets with our names and addresses and phone numbers up and down Broadway, they called each of us, the people we worked for and reported our various deviations in an attempt to get us fired. They called the University's development committee, you guys got a university, you know what happens when all of a sudden what is the equivalent to a Christian riot walks in and says "------all these lesbians and perverts and child sexual molesters over there talking". The day the conference happened, the program for the conference was confiscated and burned by the university officials, because they had some many interesting phone calls the week before. It turned into a nightmare. I know people who lost their lives because of that conference. A lot of people lost their jobs. Plenty of people had nervous breakdowns, left town, disappeared. I wrote poems. I wrote a series of poems. I left my lover, I stopped having sex, I went home and told my mother I want a real mastectomy, so then I wrote another series of poems. The book is largely about that. And a lot of us lost our religion. Jesus had turned out to be not what we thought he was. The Women's Movement was not the safe place we imagined it to be. Open discussion was not the rule as we had imagined. A lot of us had to hold back, hold ourselves up, and think very seriously about what we had been doing. It wasn't so easy as to say, "Y'know, I got the answer. I'm a feminist. I'm going to change the world. It is very simple." It ain't simple. And it is extremely complicated for working class women, because we tended to be the ones whose sexuality was not as --- as a lot of the middle class women who were at that conference, and who were perfectly willing to say, oh we'll wait. We'll do anti-porn first. But as a working class lesbian, the one thing you learn is that if you don't kill yourself, you do not drink yourself to death, if you do not find a girlfriend who will literally bash your head in, if you survive, one of the things you learn is that sexuality is the place where you cannot compromise, because it is so dangerous. That you can't always just talk about the bad side, you have to go over and find out why, why if sex is so dangerous, you're still gonna look for the one who can do it right for you. So, the poem THE WOMEN WHO HATE ME is essentially aimed at the women I couldn't speak at, couldn't speak to at the Barnard Conference because they were screaming at me. And it starts out, The women who do not know me. The women who, not knowing me, hate me mark my life, rise in my dreams and shake out their loose hair throw out their thin wrists, narrow their already sharp eyes and say Who do you think you are? Lazy, useless, cunt sucking, scared and stupid What you scared of anyway? Their eyes, their hands, their voices. Terrifying. The women who hate me cut me as men can't. Men don't count. I can handle men. Never expected better of any man anyway. But the women, shallow-cheeked young girls the world was made for safe little girls who think nothing of bravado who never got over by playing it tough. What do they know of my fear? What do they know of the women in my body? My weakening hips, sharp good teeth, angry nightmares, scarred cheeks, fat thighs, fat everything. (but the women who hate me cut me.) Don't smile too wide. You look like a fool. Don't want too much. You ain't gonna get it. Say goddamn it and kick somebody's ass that I am not half what I should be, full of terrified angry bravado BRAVADO The women who hate me don't know can't imagine life-saving precious bravado. The fight you have with the people that you need are the most intense.

  4. 4 out of 5

    S/Faye Alberstein

    sad lesbian poetry ™

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    "A Southern dumpling child", I discovered Dorothy Allison's in my mid-twenties and emulated her style in numerous therapeutic poems. She talked about what it felt like to be misunderstood and mis-labled due to socio-economic status, circumstance, and sexual preference. She speaks of the deep ties that bound her to family, especially the women. excerpt from "to the bone" That summer I did not go crazy spoke every day to my mama who insisted our people do not go crazy. ... that summer I did not go "A Southern dumpling child", I discovered Dorothy Allison's in my mid-twenties and emulated her style in numerous therapeutic poems. She talked about what it felt like to be misunderstood and mis-labled due to socio-economic status, circumstance, and sexual preference. She speaks of the deep ties that bound her to family, especially the women. excerpt from "to the bone" That summer I did not go crazy spoke every day to my mama who insisted our people do not go crazy. ... that summer I did not go crazy but I wore very close very close to the bone.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Liza

    I LOVE DOROTHY ALLISON EVEN MORE THAN I DID BEFORE I just. I just fucking love her. I love how she writes. I love how fiercely she communicates her truth. I love the words she uses and the lust and the rage and the endurance and the resistance. I love the honesty, I love how total it is. This feels like REAL poetry, it speaks right to the gut of me and I don't get confused about "what it means" cos it isn't cloaked in vagueness (unlike much of the poetry the bourgeois elite champions). This shit I LOVE DOROTHY ALLISON EVEN MORE THAN I DID BEFORE I just. I just fucking love her. I love how she writes. I love how fiercely she communicates her truth. I love the words she uses and the lust and the rage and the endurance and the resistance. I love the honesty, I love how total it is. This feels like REAL poetry, it speaks right to the gut of me and I don't get confused about "what it means" cos it isn't cloaked in vagueness (unlike much of the poetry the bourgeois elite champions). This shit is glorious and dangerous and important and living. I love Dorothy Allison. You have no idea how many hearts I scribbled on this when she hit the nail on the head again and again and again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donnelle

    d. allison . . . my first chance to read her poetry . . . wow. . . . my favorite poem in this collection: "little enough" this book is worth a read . . .

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Hard to get a copy of of this book. Worth it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bookish

    A few of the poems early on in the collection, about hurt, were particularly savage.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Collection that insists on corporeality, not separating sex and feminism, and drawing lines of connection between straight and queer women, rather than separating them.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Great selection of pieces. One set of lines from "we all nourish truth with our tongues" resonated well for me: "We all nourish truth with our tongues not in sour-batter words that never take shape nor line-driven stories bent to skirt the edge of our great exhaustion, desire, and doubt. We all use simply the words of our own lives to say what we really want to lie spent on our lovers put teeth to all we hate to strain the juice of our history between what has been allowed and what has always bee Great selection of pieces. One set of lines from "we all nourish truth with our tongues" resonated well for me: "We all nourish truth with our tongues not in sour-batter words that never take shape nor line-driven stories bent to skirt the edge of our great exhaustion, desire, and doubt. We all use simply the words of our own lives to say what we really want to lie spent on our lovers put teeth to all we hate to strain the juice of our history between what has been allowed and what has always been denied, the active desire to take hold of the root."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Az

    it was sticking out of the library shelf at me, impossible to ignore. fate? nah, chance. my gay-book-dar strikes again! or someone left it sticking out on purpose, to catch interest. allison's style can be a bit disjointed, but still fascinating and engaging. i normally don't like poetry, but this managed to maintain a balance between the completely abstract (what-the-fuck-does-this-mean) and hitting-you-over-the-head.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Leah Horlick

    A friend of mine at the Lambda retreat threw this into my hands minutes before I was to have a photo taken with Dorothy Allison. Of course I love it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lane

    Damn. Cuts and bleeds. A lesbian feminist juggernaut minus the nostalgia and bullshit. Throw yourself into a Brooklyn that no longer exists. Big fan of the tomato poem.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sandra Helen

    This is one of the few books I own. I've downsized my library to one three-shelf bookcase, including plays, poetry, books from my childhood, gardening books, and a few others that are special to me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alice Urchin

    Dorothy Allison is amazing. I'd recommend this to any queer writers looking to be inspired.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Adriane

    these are the kind of poems i would hope to inspire. full of longing, lust, love, regret, reverence.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leandra Flores

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ronnie Stephens

  21. 4 out of 5

    Penny

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

  23. 4 out of 5

    Zuzia

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kiia

  25. 4 out of 5

    Alexandria Eyes

  26. 5 out of 5

    Cj

  27. 5 out of 5

    GG

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lesley

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Max

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