I just downloaded an article from the Electronic Journal of Sociology (citation on bibliography page – Fox, Nicholas) on the concept of intertextuality, defined as: “the process whereby one text plays upon other texts, the ways in which texts refer endlessly to further elements within the realm of cultural production” (1). This immediately reminded me of Gottlieb subtly drawing upon Cixous and her theories of writing one’s self… it’s always nice to be able to attach a label to whatever you’re writing about. The second connection I made was also from the first page, this time in the from of a definition of postmodern analyses, which “challenge the ontological status of modernist claims to knowledgeability concerning the world” (1). To me, this sounded extremely similar to the definition of queer theory as quoted in my last post. When applied to writing and intertextuality, these analyses (whether defined as queer or postmodern) view texts as  “fabrications and as such are subject to deconstructive re-writing and re-reading” (2). Claims made in social science texts, for instance, should be seen not as essential, capital-T Truths but rather as “claims” of truth, or narrative work that can be contested. Compare this to a portion of the Sandahl definition of queering: “appropriating a representation for one’s own purposes, forcing it to signify differently” and you can see commonalities surrounding critical analysis and reclamation of concepts, constructions, texts, and supposed Truths.

Fox also looks at Cixous and her concept of ecriture feminine, or the act of writing woman, linking it to textuality by using “one text as de-constructive of another, itself in turn dissolved or reread” (6). One particular passage also reminded me of my sexuality and gender classes, contrasting Cixous’s philosophy concerning feminism with that of a Marxist and/or modernist viewpoint:

Unlike philosophies of resistance… which have grounded their logic of resistance in identity (membership of a class or gender), a concern with the intertext is a celebration of difference and the possibility that things can be otherwise. Such a politics of difference goes far beyond feminism and suggests the potential for resisting discourse, knowledge and power through intertextual practices. In the context of writing social research, it replaces objectivity with indeterminacy and the search for control and closure with generosity and openness.

Applying these notions to Daphne Gottlieb and her poetry comes in as less concrete and more conceptual (which itself is postmodern or queer in nature) in comparison to academic and social science writing. Poetry in Gottlieb’s sense is definitely a form of narrative work and/or claim of “truth” from a personal sense. She details her personal-is-political esque stories using language and formatting that is quite unique to her work yet also reminiscent of her influences, or her intertextuality. For example, drawing upon Cixous’s theories is a form of tracing the genealogy of her work even though the wording and very medium is different between the two women’s writing. Gottlieb engages in the process of writing her self, writing “woman,” and therefore celebrates the concept of difference over sameness, subjectivity over objectiveness. I enjoyed taking this article, which was clearly written with academia in mind, and using it as theory upon which to build my analysis of poetry in this project.


In an article we read in class by Carrie Sandahl (2003) from GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, she introduces the connection between Crip and Queer identities and the concept of using these terms as verbs (emphasis mine):

Members of both [queer and crip] groups have developed a wry critique of hegemonic norms. In queer communities, the application of this critique has been given its own verb: to queer. Queering describes the practices of putting a spin on mainstream representations to reveal latent queer subtexts; of appropriating a representation for one’s own purposes, forcing it to signify differently; or of deconstructing a representation’s heterosexism

She continues:

Both queering and cripping expose the arbitrary delineation between normal and defective and the negative social ramifications of attempts to homogenize humanity, and both disarm what is painful with wicked humor, including camp.

In the article, Sandahl uses cripping and queering as verbs in the process of “solo autobiographical performances” in which (in these cases) a member of the “crip” or differently-abled community uses his or her disability to point out the biases and normativity of the audience and society at large. Similarly, I see Gottlieb’s poetry in some cases as queering notions of language, poetry, and sexuality.

In her poem, “mastering the art of poetry,” (link to full text) I see three verbs that can be intertwined: mastering, queering, and writing. In a free-write exercize, I jotted down something that may or may not make sense out of context:

Queer writing, master narrative, poetic mastery,
Power over language and ideas of sexuality
She is queering, writing, and mastering sexuality in this poem

Basically, in the poem she describes the “art of [writing] poetry” as a BDSM-esque experience, a master/servant relationship in which the writer/poet makes the poem “beg or struggle” by pushing it to “the edge of what it can stand.” This is one of my favorites because it gives an honest and unorthodox approach to pushing one’s self to the limit when writing… describes the process of searching for new words, formatting, ideas, and audiences.

The following lines on the first page of the poem:

“listen to your poem’s desires / and get ready / to be powerful and terrible. / your poem is quivering in front of you / and your iron will / as it kisses the collar you hold”

can be contrasted with these from the end:

“hold that precious poem close / show it how much it has pleased you / and rest. give it your name / and kiss it / goodnight.”

in detailing the powerful but loving (or at least lustful) struggle between both a master/writer with her subject.

(working on an analysis of this one… it’s one of my favorites)

mastering the art of poetry

make sure you have everything
you will need
on hand: (more…)

I decided a few weeks ago to email Daphne Gottlieb to let her know that I would be writing about her and to ask if she had heard of (and/or was influenced by) Helene Cixous since I saw a definite connection between the two. Much to my amazement, she got back to me a week later and said that my hunch was correct! It was very exciting because it gave my project and ideas more validity, and eventually gave me the courage to do this blog…

kate gramlich to peek [Mar 6]

Hi Daphne, my name is Kate and I’m a graduating senior in sociology/women’s studies at Southern IL University in Carbondale. I’m currently taking a class on sexual diversity and for our semester paper I wanted to do a linguistic analysis of some of the poems in Why Things Burn. I was wondering if you have read anything by Helene Cixous, a french philosopher from the 70s, because her concept of writing one’s self and writing the body is what I’m mostly focusing on in context of your poetry. If not, I would definitely suggest checking out The Laugh of the Medusa 🙂 You don’t need to respond if you’re busy, I mostly just wanted to let you know that I’ll be writing about your work and that I’m a huge (new) fan.

Thanks for your time, have a great weekend!
– kate


Daphne Gottlieb to me [Mar 13]

Hi, Kate-
Thanks so much for taking the time to write — I’m honored that you like my work. I do indeed know Cixous (and her Laugh of the Medusa is one of my favorite pieces of writing, bar none)! I’m sorry to be brief — I have repetitive strain which makes it difficult to respond at all — but I wanted you to know how delighted I am by your email.

Good luck with your work —


found this via under “spoken word memories”…

I met Daphne Gottlieb first at the Cafe Du Nord poetry slam and we had something resembling violent sex down the street in the bathroom stall of the Lucky 13. She sat on the toilet looking down on me as I lay on the floor, touching her boot.

“Usually,” she said. “I’m a lesbian.”

The following quotes from Telling Sexual Stories by Ken Plummer (1995) were chosen because they struck me immediately as being particularly applicable for this project (and Gottlieb’s work), although truthfully the entire book is quite relevant:

1.   Somehow the truth of our sexual lives lies in better communication: in telling all. There should be no ‘sexual secrets’. Tell your partner exactly what you desire. Tell your children every nook and cranny of the erotic world. Come out to your parents if you are gay, tell your teacher if you’ve been sexually abused, tell your therapist if your husband is a sex addict. Stand in the public square and shout through a microphone the story of your rape, or your abortion or your gayness. Go on television to announce your impotency, to demonstrate your sadomasochism, to reveal the innermost secrets of your heart, to get a ‘Blind Date’ or to find a ‘Hunk’. Tell, tell, tell. An intimate experience, once hardly noticed, now has to be slotted into the ceaseless narrating of life. If once, and not so long ago, our sexualities were shrouded in silence, for some they have now crescendoed into a cacaphonous din. We have become the sexual story tellers in a sexual story telling society (4).

I could not possibly agree more with this quote; I feel very lucky to be surrounded by many people who are comfortable (/brave/silly) enough to divulge intimate sexual details. I’ve talked about oral sex with my mom, sat for hours in my favorite cafe discussing orgasms with girl friends, swapped fantasies and experiences with partners, and just recently had an awesomely personal conversation with a teacher. It’s so incredibly refreshing and liberating to be open and honest in Real Live Conversations with people, often unexpectedly, and to feel a genuine connection through sexuality using words rather than touch.

2.   Power is a process that weaves its way through embodied, passionate social life and everything in its wake. Sexual stories live in this flow of power. The power to tell a story, or indeed not to tell a story, under the conditions of one’s own choosing, is part of the political process. (26, Emphasis original)

Reading Plummer’s connection between power and sexual stories made me instantly think of Daphne Gottlieb’s poetry. The way she paints pictures of her own sexuality and experiences – intensely highlighting some details while obviously omitting others – seems to be the embodiment of this particular quote. Plummer also states that power “flows into lives making some abundant in capacity… and others diminished” (26). This is particularly evident in poems such as “you never forget your first,” which I will be analyzing in detail in a later post. She recalls her “first” as an incredibly raw, abusive experience. I will come back to this quote and adjectives Plummer uses to describe these “abundant” and “diminished” situations.

Daphne Gottlieb’s poem “haircut” reminded me of a discussion we had in class yesterday about gendered appearance and stereotypes about butch/femme. (I’m including the entire poem this time)

My baby keeps her hair
Number 2 guard, 1/4 inch white oster clippers short
short hair.

Not I’m-depressed-and-I’m-going-to-shave-my-head short,
just short.

She’s got beautiful baby-short hair.
Baby short, not basketball-player short
or concentration camp short or
or military short or militant short:
not monk short
or cancer short.

Her gray hairs shine like
flashbulb filaments,
one for each brilliant
idea she has.

She’s getting more and more
gray. She says it’s my

My baby keeps her hair
Nothing to cling to desperately,
nothing to get tangled up in.
My baby keeps her hair short–
she likes it that way
and so
do I.

I feel like Gottlieb is using hair, an aspect of the body, as a marker of an identity. She makes sure to distance her lover’s hair from both “military short” and “militant short,” images often tied to women with short hair, but does not create a hierarchy between the concepts; she just points out what Is (reminding me of the reading Safe Trip in which calling the narrator’s lover a bull dyke is like yelling “Trees!” at a forest).

Because hair (specifically long hair) is so closely tied to what could be considered hegemonic femininity, rejecting the ideal is a way of subverting gender norms. Although Daphne herself has long hair (from any pictures I’ve seen), which could lend itself at first glance to the butch/femme sexual stereotype, Daphne rejects that as well with her language usage. In other poems in which she is the first-person narrator, she uses strong and sometimes masculine language, which would tend to conflict with her outward appearance. Likewise, she refers to her short-haired lover as “my baby” repeatedly, calling her hair “beautiful” and “Baby short,” also conflicting with norms relating to such short of hair.

On a personal level, I love this poem because it deals with short hair as an identity marker. Although this may seem silly, as soon as I chopped my own hair off (which seems slightly longer than the subject’s in this poem) I immediately felt more connected to the “queer” label that I claim as an act of moving outside of the gender binary.

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