Tuesday, June 30, 1992

DREAM VESSELS # 30 Cabbage Harvest salvaged DRAFT


DREAM VESSELS # 30   Cabbage Harvest   DRAFT
     —From a collage by Marsha Connell
From the sky, a tea bowl gathers in lightning
I thought of black chickens
hovering over the city at night.
Something in the art of tea
electrifying the air.
While in a New England town in fall
the tribeswomen watch the spectacle of the dark sky
gathering greens for their dinner
the streets are quiet
the burlap sack tumescent
the tea bowl circles the city on black wings
and the women reach down to pluck the green and gold from the trees
to nourish the celestial tribe and the overprivleged one
perhaps this is where the manna from heaven originates from
the color of fall trees
you can hear the tea bowl folding its wings
as it settles for the night
the annular division of labor between night and day equal
no matter where we measure it from
the poles, the equator.
Itís just the way in which itís dished out
that affects where we live, what we eat
it all boils down to the weather
the horse latitudes, the temperate zone
where the trees live
the most densely populated place on earth

Summer 1992
DREAM VESSELS —from collages by Marsha Connell

 
DREAM VESSELS #37: Mountain Fire Shepherd   FIRST DRAFT
     —From a collage by Marsha Connell
The shepherdess comes out of the burned land and the tent.
The shelter is not a yurt, but a mountain. Perhaps Tibet.
Where to find tent poles if there’s a shortage of wood?
Tied to the door frame, an amulet, laurel leaves and feathers protect her
No one sees her in all her coral finery
On this continent  or Hawaii she would wear a feather cloak
Four rams hold up a chalice to the sky to collect rain
Have the forests been felled by a volcano, or worse?
homeless birds watch us.
the bluebird will not come again, this silent spring
The orb above the tent is not a moon;
inexorable oil barrels rise in place of the harvest moon
toward the carbon past, a march we can’t stop
The fire from the oil wells in the middle east
will be felt in the remotness of Tibet
The fire will darken her life too
though Tibet is a closed country 
Our presence is felt here too
When I was little my grandmother gave me a bluebird necklace 
This elaborate vessel. our culture does not invest in such elaborate art
a chalice, for us to own it is a sacrilege
we don’t have the investment of feeling for the power of anything natural
this very humble woman’s at peace with it so it’s more natural to her

Summer 1992
DREAM VESSELS —from collages by Marsha Connell

Saturday, June 27, 1992

DREAM VESSELS # 27: Dark Vision salvaged DRAFT



DREAM VESSELS # 27:  Dark Vision    DRAFT

     —From a collage by Marsha Connell
 
A black ship with lateen sails

in front of the gates to the courtyard
where lions with three-pronged tails
rise on each column.
A woman covers her face
the sea is the red of bombs, of destruction.
Glistening lights of the harbor on an oily sea
the lions on the pillars who watch us
for reactions liook as if theyíre about to cry.
The columns curling upward
like serpents on the healerís staff
the apron covers her but she weeps into her hands
the sea and blood share the same origin as tears
why is she weeping?
the past and future clash
in 1990 there were 111 wars world-wide;
a typical year, someone notes.

Summer 1992
DREAM VESSELS —from collages by Marsha Connell

 
DREAM VESSELS # 28:  Oil Spill     DRAFT
     —From a collage by Marsha Connell
Two women walking over the oily sea
a necklace of diamonds
the boats pull the blue-black oil
barricades globular oil glistening
seductive oil on the rocks, the birds
in jeweled formation
the planets rise guardian-like
behind the women who walk
covering their faces
the nomadic blankets
where credo is interwoven
with the dailiness of survival
and art is not separate
but the oil, these diamonds
fabulous wealth for the few
imbalance
maybe the diamonds are frozen carbon tears of stars
A womanís face is a diamond
they fall from her hands
the Persian Sea is doomed
weíve defecated in the cradle
the tropical seas abound with life
they blossom like tribal rugs
a blanket of oil for the sea
a blanket of sludge for the shore
plumes of smoke for the air
visible from space
it took the smoke from 600 oil wells to block out the sun
sabotage of the Bergan Oil Fields
the oil slick did not differentiate
between the types of grebes and cormorants
Soldiers shooting into the dark with infrared scopes
shot down 8000 camels as ememies of the state,
what of the 30,000 birds?
What of the Syrian bear shot in the foot by an Iraqi soldier for target practice.
and the camels caught in crossfireóno exodus for them but death.
At the zoo, a giraffe bends down to eat grain from an old manís upraised hands. A call to prayer from the minaret. The desert is covered with tar.
like a vast parking lot
A boy squats by the sea, Hussain wanted to ignite the water with 4 million barrels of oil.
The turtles coming ashore to lay thteir eggs, bewildered. Nosea grass to eat.
the wading birds just die quietly in the marshes
Birds and insects, seeing blue sky reflected in the oil pools
mistaken it for water and a river of oil floated down to the coast
fresh crude trapped in the branching arms of the coral turns to asphault medusaís hair turned to stone in the tide of destruction

Summer 1992
DREAM VESSELS —from collages by Marsha Connell

Tuesday, June 23, 1992

DREAM VESSELS # 23: Three Mile Island

DREAM VESSELS # 23: Three Mile Island
 from a collage by Marsha Connell
—for Regina Susskind who did not leave TMI in time

Above the tilled field a monk dips knowerís ink into the earth,
serenely addresses the dichotomy of a oil field;
a black chrysanthemum blossoming in his Zen garden.
Morning enters reverently through wooden slats.
Patterns endlessly repeat themselves.

Red lights—virgin teats—glow on the sleek green bellies
of nuclear reactors resembling vessels emerging from raw clay;
the potter breathes air into the pot, raising the walls.
These, our towers to the strange worship of divided light.
A vessel adorned with cranes sprouts papery wings as if to escape.

They say Chernobyl is heating up again;
no one can extinguish the graphite fires.
Used to their government crying wolf,
the old ones have moved back to their villages
at Ground Zeroóthe black egg of the phoenix.
They say: we donít believe. Show us evidence.

The insidious light shines through us; a light we can't see.
A light for which a child made a thousand paper cranes.
The cranes, who mate for life, most elegantly bow and rise,
pirouetting, sweeping their wings; a ballet for air and earth.

It is evident the monk cultivates the origins
of running grass before he begins to write.
How then, to cipher the inscriptions
of those megaliths pilloring the garden of the sky?
 
Summer 1992

Monday, June 22, 1992

DREAM VESSEL # 22 SOURCES OF POWER (end is missing)

DREAM VESSEL # 22  SOURCES OF POWER
      —from a collage by Marsha Connell

The angel in back offers her golden bowl.
On the hem of her garment, a procession
of men offer bowls in rapid succession.
Her wings shelter those who stand beside
a painted hide beneath an orange sun
and the vertical verdigris of a bamboo forest.
Worshippers carry the crozier and the chalice,
water plumments from the mountains.
Such is the gift of power; it begets more power.
An angel who is a bird drinks from the bowl
of a pillar that rises above them.
Old Byzantium, the Cheyenne Way
and modern technology collide head-on with nature.

An army of windmills compliments the electric pole
Bamboo gates and a score of sentient beings.
we transport
Splayed between the triangular bodies


(I think the rest is missing)
 

Sunday, June 21, 1992

DREAM VESSEL # 21: Piano Rose II

DREAM VESSEL # 21: Piano Rose II       
      —from a collage by Marsha Connell

Between shrouded barn and hills, cobwebs tether a piano to the sky.
A raku bowl instructs a white rose on gravity & the ritual of tea.
The eclipsed century unfurls its dark flag. Japanese soldiers,
or the struggle of the sun and the moon comes to mind.  
The artist said, A piano is more like a house than a barn.
The piano dreams itself into being: endless halls, lonely floors,
the caged sun porch with its restless regiment of rocking chairs.
Everything in black & white. The high ceilings, sconced candles.
Her grandfather’s barn surprises her with a secret studio.
She dreams of finding lost art; her task: to restore the garden.
Ivory keys tickle the confluence of memory and longing.
In the empty house, dischordant music shatters the windows.
Transfixed by dim visions of childhood, she returns to the farm
of white roses, her father’s death, cobwebs shrouding the past.
Born on the cusp of war, she finds light
                                             by naming the sources of darkness.
In the garden, a sculpture rises from a vessel, like Daphne,
into the corona of the black sun. Who is the enemy?
She must choose between sprouting branches, or wings.
Oil derricks inscribe haloes of black gold on desert sands.
The moon weeps, footprints in the lunar dust.
Summer  92 -  4/94

 DREAM VESSELS —from collages by Marsha Connell

DREAM VESSELS # 20: Piano Rose I

DREAM VESSELS # 20: Piano Rose I
      —from a collage by Marsha Connell

And the piano rose
only to find itself entangled
in the gnarled arms of an old oak.
Returning home to the trees
was what it least expected.
From the trunk, a cherub—
hair transformed into wings
muses over his handiwork:
a couple making sweet music
in the mossy arbor.
The crescent moon threatens to slip
down the throat of the well,
full-bellied roses rise from the dankness.
A single rose caught napping
on the piano lid like a flightless bird.
No one comes to play the piano
nesting clumsily in the trees.
Stone urns. Spanish moss gathers
in the wisdom of the air.

Summer, 1992

 DREAM VESSELS —from collages by Marsha Connell

First Love Stories: Diane Wolkstein 1992

First Love Stories: From Isis and Osiris to Tristan and Iseult 
(270 pp., $21.95, Harper-Collins),
is a compilation of stories from Old Europe, Greece, the Celtic Fringe, India,
by translator-storyteller Diane Wolkstein

The Inanna myth which probably developed as the war-like Indo-Europeans arrived on the scene between 4300 and 2500 B.C., who brought with them, the seeds of destruction to a balanced agronomarian culture, serves as an apt metaphor for the separation from nature we now face in the modern world, and its relationship to ecological catastrophe. Under the tutelage of scientists René Descartes (“Ergo cogito; ergo sum—I think; therefore I am”) who said the role of science was “to make us masters and possessors of nature,” and Francis Bacon, who said science should bend nature into the “service of man,” this plundering is a legacy of the Bible. In the book of Genisis, God gives humans “dominion. . .over every living thing.” In an essay, “To Avert a Common Danger,” Carl Sagan wrote, “We have become predatators on the biosphere, full of entitlement, always taking and never giving back, a danger to ourselves.”


(fragment...)  lost original tear sheet.

1992

Jonathan London, Poet 6/92

JONATHAN LONDON, POET

BY MAUREEN HURLEY


To be a poet, is to listen to the call of the wild, and slowly starve to death. Not a practical way to raise a family. In our culture, to be an artist is to take a vow of poverty; to become a poet is plain foolish if it’s fame and fortune (&/or money) you’re after. More is definately better when it comes to getting your words worth.

Graton resident Jonathan London, a semi-skilled laborer by day and poet by night, began to sell poems and stories to major children’s book publishers by accident—all because he wanted to make his son go to sleep. London who has published hundreds of adult poems and short stories in numerous publications, estimates he’s earned less than $300 from his writing in 20 years, just sold 15 children’s book manuscripts—and is currently making a living at it.

“It all began three years ago when my youngest son, Sean was two. I made up a lullabye poem and it put him to sleep. . It worked. I wrote it down and read it to him the next night. The following night he wanted to hear it again, and again and again.”

The 45 year-old London did test market an earlier story, “Old Mr. Snake and the Cherry Tree” on his oldest son Aaron, who is eight, but it didn’t resonate. He sent the story out, and it never sold, “so I let it slide, but somehow another story, the first story he sold, “The Owl Who Became the Moon ” really took off with Sean. The story is scheduled for publication early next year. The idea came from an earlier published poem I’d written in 1970; out of a 20 year incubus.”

“Children’s stories typically run 3-400 words; but it’s gotta be the right words at the right time.” You could slave over them for years and not get them right. London, whose work-related back injury prompted a change in career, was warned no one makes a living at writing children’s stories, but he persevered. “It was a whole new way of looking at the world, I was still using my writing skills, but seeing it through the eyes of a child. The kid in me was always present, I capitalized on it and let the kid in me be my mentor. I didn’t change my writing style. I don’t write down to kids. Many ideas come to me out of dreams or old poems. Hip cat came from God-knows-where. He was a hip cat, a hap cat, an oobie-doer who tries to make it as a jazz musician. I saw the humor of it: a sax-playing cat. I knew I had a story.”

London aimed for the stars, sending manuscripts to the major houses of children’s publishers, “Farrar Strauss, E.P Dutton, and Harper Row, because they seemed to be putting out the best books.” With two chidren of his own, London feels he has become somewhat of a conniseur of children’s books.

Breaking into the children’s publishing market is tough. After selling his first manuscript, he didn’t sell another for 15 months. He estimates he received 60-70 rejection slips during that time. The poem, “The Grey Fox” was rejected eight times. The editors said the theme was too adult because the fox dies. . .and wanted me to change it. No waay! Viking finally accepted the manuscript. There’s perserverance for you!”


A chance meeting with a children’s author Daniel San Souci, led to a contract with an agent in Manhattan. “It was a gruelling six months. Nibbles, but no bites. Then in August, all hell broke loose. Within a week Viking made a bid on ‘The Grey Fox’ and ‘Into This Night We are Rising’—a poem written on the back of an envelope in 20 minutes while sitting in someone’s livingroom. And two other houses made an offer on ‘The Grey Fox.’ All the books sold as first books.”

London’s own chapbooks of poetry “The Season of Birds” and “Between the Sun and the Moon” from “defunct New York presses,” are out of print. But “The Grey Fox” came from a poem in “Between the Sun and the Moon.”

The fifth manuscript London sold to Philomel Books, “Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back” a collection of poems for the Native American names of moons, is officially his first book. It sold out 20,000 copies before it was released in May, and is already in its second printing. Hearthsong of Sebastopol placed a big order, and featured the book in their spring catalog. “Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back” is not limited to the kiddie set; it’s being marketed as folklore for all ages.

“The idea for the book came out of a dream poem. I wrote two phrases: the moon of joyful roundness, and the moon of hazy sorrow. There were other moons in the dream: the moon when wolves run together, maple sugar moon. I saw it as a picture book based on the Turtle Island myth. A theme of culture as an extension of the landscape. The poems are rooted in the landscape of each tribe.” Thirteen tribes are represented in “Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back.” London said “I realized I was in over my depth,”so he collaborated with Native American storyteller and founder of “Greenfield Review,” Joseph Bruchac, who London met through his adult poetry connections. Research required countless hours in the library researching and gleaning Native American moon myths.

London, a self-proclaimed navy brat, landed in California when his dad retired here. Wit a vague desite to be a high school or college teacher, he majored in history and the social sciences at San Jose State—where English was his only “C” in college—and became a poet instead.

“The Lion Who Had Asthma” billed as London’s second book, actually came out first. It was written for Sean who has severe asthma.

“The Lion Who Had Asthma” will be featured on “Read me a Story” on a PBS television station in Chicago. There is talk of possible syndication rights as well. “Froggy Gets Dressed” (Viking) illustrated by Guerneville artist Frank Remkiewicz, a book of the month club main selection, will be released this September. Meanwhile, London says the book went international, and was sold to Penguin in United Kingdom, Austrailia, and New Zealand. Not bad for a poet who barely made it through college English.

version 2



JONATHAN LONDON: A POET’S CALLING
BY MAUREEN HURLEY

To be a poet, is to listen to the call of the wild, and slowly starve to death. To be a poet is plain foolish if it’s fame and fortune (&/or money) you’re after. Not a practical way to raise a family. “More” is definitely better when it comes to getting your words worth, and poets skimp with words. But perserverance furthers.

Jonathan London (no relation to Jack, but the moon, not the valley, plays a central role), a semi-skilled laborer by day and poet by night, began to sell poems and stories to major children’s book publishers by accident—all because he wanted to make his son go to sleep. “It all began three years ago when my youngest son, Sean was two. I made up a lullaby poem and it put him to sleep. It worked. I wrote it down and read it to him the next night. The following night he wanted to hear it again, and again and again.”

London knew he was onto something more lucrative than snark hunting, sent out “The Owl Who Became the Moon” and other manuscripts to major children’s publishers, Farrar Strauss, E.P Dutton, and Harper Row, “because they seemed to be putting out the best books.” With two children of his own, London feels he is a connoisseur of children’s books. The story is scheduled for publication early next year. London says, “The idea came from an earlier published poem I’d written back in 1970; a 20 year incubus.” 

London, a self-proclaimed navy brat, landed in California when his father retired here. With a vague desire to be a high school or college teacher, he majored in history and the social sciences at San Jose State—where his only “C” in college was in English—and promptly became a poet. The 45 year-old Graton resident London who lives with his wife Maureen Weisenberger, their two sons Aaron and Sean, and assorted pets, says he has published hundreds of adult poems and short stories in numerous publications. He estimates he’s earned less than $300 from his writing career of 20 years, but he’s just sold 15 children’s book manuscripts—most within the past year.

London, whose work-related back injury prompted a change in career, was warned that no one makes a living at writing children’s stories, but he persevered. “It was a whole new way of looking at the world, I was still using my writing skills, but seeing it through the eyes of a child. The kid in me was always present, I capitalized on it and let the kid in me be my mentor. I didn’t change my writing style. I don’t write down to kids. I write a book an adult would like to read.” 

“Children’s stories typically run 300-400 words; but it’s gotta be the right words at the right time. Don’t assume kid’s books are easy. There’s a disguised simplicity to them.” After selling his first manuscript, he didn’t sell another for 15 months. He estimates he received 60-70 rejection slips during that time.  He said a poem, “The Grey Fox” was rejected eight times. The editors said the theme was too adult because the fox dies. . . and they wanted me to change it. No wa-a-y! But Viking finally accepted the manuscript”

A chance meeting with children’s author Daniel San Souci, led to a contract with an agent in Manhattan. “It was a gruelling six months. Nibbles, but no bites. Then in August 1991, all hell broke loose. Within a week Viking made a bid on ‘The Grey Fox,’ and ‘Into This Night We are Rising’—a poem written on the back of an envelope in 20 minutes while sitting in someone’s livingroom. Two other houses also made an offer on ‘The Grey Fox.’ And all the books sold as first books.” 

London’s own chapbooks of poetry “The Season of Birds” and “Between the Sun and the Moon” from “defunct New York presses,” are out of print. “The Grey Fox” came from a poem in “Between the Sun and the Moon.”

London sold his fifth manuscript to Philomel Books (a division of Dutton). “Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back” a collection of poems for the Native American names of moons, officially his first book, sold out 20,000 copies before it was released in May, and is already in its second printing. Hearthsong of Sebastopol placed a big order, and featured the book in their spring catalogue. 

“Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back” is not limited to the kiddie set; it’s being marketed as folklore for all ages. “The idea for the book came out of a dream poem. I wrote two phrases: the moon of joyful roundness, and the moon of hazy sorrow. There were other moons in the dream: the moon when wolves run together, maple sugar moon. I saw it as a picture book based on the Turtle Island myth. A theme of culture as an extension of the landscape. The poems are rooted in the landscape of each tribe.” Thirteen tribes are represented in “Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back.” 

London collaborated with Native American storyteller and editor of “Greenfield Review,” Joseph Bruchac, who London met through his adult poetry connections. Research for the book required countless hours in the library gleaning Native American moon myths.

London can barely keep up with his own sweet success story. Written for son Sean who has severe asthma, “The Lion Who Had Asthma” will be featured on “Read me a Story” on a PBS television station in Chicago—with possible syndication. “The Lion Who Had Asthma” billed as London’s second book, was actually released first (also in May).  

“Froggy Gets Dressed” (Viking) illustrated by Guerneville artist Frank Remkiewicz, already a book of the month club main selection, will be released this September. Meanwhile, London says “the book went international, and was sold to Penguin to be released in United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.” Not bad for a poet who barely made it through college English. He doesn’t plan to write for adults any time soon,; he’s having too much fun. Look for his titles in the kiddie section of the bookstore.



Letter to Jan Part 1

Dear Jan                 5 July, 1992, 2 AM (Dutch time)


I’m sitting in a cabin in Bolinas, drinking red wine, feeling all alone in the world, and I’m not sure what to think about my time in the Netherlands. It wasn’t an easy trip. So much on my mind, also I’ve been unwilling to commit anything to paper, feeling a bit betrayed.

Another letter-poem has been brewing under the surface for weeks but won’t ferment, won’t get written; I’ve been thinking of it since the solstice, especially now that I’ve been to the dukedoms of North Brabant, Limburg, Brabant and to Antwerp. I thought we were all going to Stockholm together for the solstice. I was disappointed because I didn’t get to spend very much time with you. 

Vins and I rented a car and had a lovely time ferreting out the myriad dolmens of North Holland. We made a ritual altar on the top of the largest dolmen: yew branches, pieces of flint, coins, crow feathers gathered from the village church (once also a Neolithic site of worship with its enormous megalith), libations of tobacco, wine, chocolate, and a flame . . . 

We swigged deep red Langdouc wine while a kid on a bicycle madly circled us three times counterclockwise like a demon-moth. Watching the fiery sun set a few degrees to the right, I was puzzled until it dawned on me that these dolmens were built to mark the winter solstice!

I loved traveling through Belgium: the sad coal towns juxtaposed against the town of miracles where droves of believers arrived in wheelchairs to be blessed and healed, the huge beginhof, Peter Paul Ruben’s birthplace, the castletown of Louven where Vins went to university (we crashed a theologians’ Ph.D. party for wine and crackers), where they raped and drowned Marika legendarily floated upstream to unmask her murderer.

We went to Waterloo at sunset, the desolate green fields of memory unrolling before us to Napoleon’s earthen pyramid. On the way to Brussels, we leaped the fence surrounding an extraordinary castle at twilight. Sleeping swans. I picked up a pigeon snoozing on the moat gate. Though it awakened, it could not fight the instinct to sleep during the hours of darkness. The absurd rows of chickens in the branches were much safer.

Antwerp was my favorite city. On the main square, the fountain of the slain giant, the fish are doing something naughty with the mermaids. On the Lijnwaadmarkt, we had a meal in Angelot, a garden cafe, once an old annex of the gothic cathedral of Our Lady of Antwerp, our table covering the ancient well. 

I can’t help thinking about the story of your Antwerpan lady and the Spanish soldier of your ancestry. Did she come to this place as a young woman to draw water from this well, and sit in the sun dreamily wondering what the future might hold for her, only to be raped, a pawn in the spoils of war? The image of a broken pitcher in our wine carafe, spilled blood came to mind. 

I think the cathedral at Antwerp with its original red frescos is more beautiful than Louven, Den Bosch, Brussels, or Köln, though I love the juxtaposition of the Roman arch next to the church of Köln. Stories of tyrants and belief structures, the towers of men against incurably blue skies.

On my way to Bolinas, I stopped in the small village of Point Reyes, near where I grew up, and in a box outside the office door of my friend who owns Floating Island press—were some books; the very first book I put my hands on was the Granta issue your Bavarian Christmas photos were in. A strange synchronicity, Bergtesgaden, the hometown Hitler. Rods of absolution. 

Just yesterday I was missing the time we didn’t take to visit, (and to go over the San Francisco photos etc., the black hole of unfinished business—remember, I’ve got unpaid time invested in this story too; if you don’t sell the photos, I don’t sell a story). Driving to Bolinas, I listened to your Eartha Kitt tape. As she was singing “All by myself,” I realized how aptly the storyline fit my own experiences, what I’ve been feeling the past six weeks. But instead of Israelis and Palestinians warring, I’m caught between three realities, and the sad crossfire of two men—lifelong friends—who can’t seem to communicate. You may think it’s all OK, but there’s shrapnel in love’s killing fields.


6/21/1994
Part two

Thursday, June 18, 1992

ARTS/Acting out: Inanna sidebar, The Paper, 92?

Acting Out

Women's Theatre Company's current production, The Descent of Inanna, under the direction of Pauline Pfandler, attempts a contemporary rendition of the Inanna myth, and her entry into the underworld, is about following the “the origins of the patriarchy, the rape, and the exile of the feminine,” according to consultant/actor Pam Fisher. “And this myth, which takes place in the transition period, also gives us clues as to how to transition into a balanced culture.”

The impetus for the storyline came from a series of archetypal dreams, Fisher, one of the actors in the play, had about ten years ago. In a recent interview, she stated, “I found out a year later, when I was telling a therapist about it, that it corresponded closely to the Inanna myth.” She then had more dreams replete with scenes presented on stage. Six months later, when Fisher came to Pfander with the idea to stage Inanna, Pfander said, “I don't do dreams and myths. . . I do theater.” She personally relates to the dark side, Ereshkigal. As she went through her own descent, she said Inanna "grabbed her by the tits."

"I came to this play layer by layer. As a theater artist, I found the poem an excellent tool to stage, it lends itself well to theater.” Said Pfander, “Here is the archetypal path. We're not dying along the way. When we're stripped of our powers, we're stripped of what is not necessary. It's an important story for women.”

Pfander said the development of the script has undergone many metamorphoses. “We went through a lot of changes about the script, combining original text with modern dialog,” said Fisher. After various experiments, Pfander decided to stick to the Wolkstein text. She describes the theater piece as groundbreaking work, fusing visual slides, with movement and modern opera. “The ensemble has 12 wonderful voices.” It continues to mutate and evolve, much to the consternation of the cast. Pfandler says it's a collaboration piece. Joan Marler is one of the choreographers, and SSU archeology undergraduate Karin Dunwoody is working on the ethnography on the Inanna theater production Dunwoody compares the story to the Elusian Mysteries of Greece.

The future of our planet depends on women joining together to become a wave of transformation and change. . . “We are a light-addicted culture. We shun the dark side, we're in denial of the shadow, the dark, feminine rage. Now we are faced with our shadow side—the toxicity of the earth, opression, dysfunctional families, an addicted culture. . . Pfandler said, “What is needed is a paradigm shift, we have to move away from the cartesian philosophy.”

I had 6/92 down as the date, no tear sheet.

The essential goddess (Inanna) 92?

The essential goddess
A primer for the uninitiated
By Maureen Hurley

The Goddess has a way of sneaking up on you. After the Persian Gulf War, synchronicity struck repeatedly, forcing me to ask, who is this Inanna anyhow? Multiple references—the many books, exhibits, readings, plays, symposia, and talk of Inanna was beginning to give me a catholic case of Eurocentric type A goddess envy.

I first met Inanna two years ago, at a Goddess exhibit at the California Museum of Art. I was so impressed by the textile exhibit, entitled Inanna's New Clothes, by McKenzie Birnie, wrote a review of the more interesting pieces.

On Valentine’s Day, a review copy of Diane Wolkstein's First Love Stories, from Harper-Collins arrived at my doorstep. Thinking it was someone's bad love poetry, I glanced at it, and put it in the growing mountain of things-to-be-looked-at-later corner of my house.

Harper-Collins also sent me Dr. Marija Gimbutas' new book, The Civilization of the Goddess: The Old World of Europe, as well as her extraordinarily successful The Language of the Goddess, just released in paperback. In May, Quicksilver Mine Co. in Guerneville organized a show called “In Her Image, The Goddess in Art” including the work of nearly 25 local artists. Currently, the Women's Theatre Company is staging an ambitious production, “The Descent of Inanna,” at Five Corners Theatre in Petaluma.

The very names Sumer, Ur, Nineveh, Babylon, and the Gates of Ishtar, always give me goosebumps, as do the names of rivers: the Tigris, the Euphrates—this is the very cradle, the incanabula, the fertile crescent of civilization. This was the culture that also spawned the ancient immortal goddess Inanna. (She was transformed into the more familiar Ishtar; her earthly Gilgamesh is more familiar to the men’s movement.) Recent translation of 5000 year-old cuneiform tablets has given the world a brand-new myth to ponder—a major arcana goddess in her own right—Inanna.

One of the roles of mythology (and/or religion) is to instruct, and to offer parallel or alternative viewpoints. For many, the rediscovery of the Sumerian archetypal goddess Inanna provides an alternate role model (moving away from the male-dominated models). Women in particular, are hungry for relevant images; they’re seeking a metaphor for the pursual of balanced change, and a paradigm shift in religious philosophy from the patriarchally dominated, to a more balanced egalitarian code of ethics. Here was a powerful fully-fledged goddess, not some male god’s consort.

The archetypal love story of Inanna, the first recorded Sumerian goddess (3500 B.C.), the immortal Queen of Heaven and Earth and her earthly consort, the shepherd Dumuzi—and her voluntary descent into the underworld—comes from the cuneiform clay tablets—vestiges of the vast libraries of the ancient city of Uruk in modern-day Iraq.

According to Sumerologist and translator Samuel Noah Kramer, from the 5 - 6000 cuneiform clay tablets and fragments during the past few decades, a vast compendium of literature, some 30,000 lines of poetry—20 myths, nine epic tales, more than 200 hymns, laments, and dirges, and wisdom texts, including essays, proverbs, precepts and fables—“constitutes the oldest written literature of significant quantity and variety uncovered, and in its recovery and restoration represent one of the major contributions of our century to the humanities.”

The crux of the Inanna story is about separation, loss and empowerment. In order to become whole again, Inanna descends through seven gates to the underworld, is stripped of her magical vestments (and power) one-by-one. “Naked and bowed low,” she enters Abzu to confront her dark (side, or) sister Ereshkigal, in order to gain a deeper balance power of knowledge and wisdom. “From the Great Above, she opened her ears to the Great Below. / She abandoned heaven and earth to descend into the underworld.” She is reborn as the great goddess reigning over all aspects of life and death. Unfortunately, her husband, the shepherd Dumuzi, who took over her realm while she was down under, wasn’t too keen on relinquishing his new power—and was corrupted by it. She has to do battle with him as well.

Radio programmer and scholar Joan Marler of Sebastopol recently returned from a European lecture tour on the book, Civilization of the Goddess: the World of Old Europe, by Lithuanian anthro-mythologist and UCLA professor, Dr. Marija Gimbutas,. Marler said she first discovered the Inanna myth five years ago through storyteller Diane Wolkstein's book, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth. According to Marler, interest in the Goddess is not just a local phenomenon for the new-age prone in Northern California; it's worldwide.

Marler says Inanna has “a profound meaning for women of our time. The archaeological material is valuable as mythology, not just because of its antiquity, but it's absolutely timely and relevant material for today, like a mirror. A reclaiming of ourselves. In Sumerian, both 'ear' and 'wisdom' are the same word.”

“When I was in Germany, there was a symposium on Inanna sponsored by the Christian Academy.” She describes the participants as liberal, free-thinking women theologians who see no future in Christianity—because the basic underlying text is wrong. “When the church fathers got wind of it, they came unglued, equating 'goddess' with paganism and subversive devil-worship.” When the church patriarchy tried to dissuade the women theologians from continuing, it was a stand-off: the women replied, “You may not silence us. We will resign.”

This need for a valid myth for women to live by goes more than skin-deep There’s a Chinese saying; “women hold up the other half of the sky.” Unfortunately, the emphasis has always been on the other—equality among the sexes has never been a strong point of western civilization—especially when it comes to public exhibition of the arts. Less than 10% of women visual artists and poets are represented in publications and exhibitions. Sometimes figures fall as low as 1%. 

Oakland based artist, activist, and professor at the California College of Arts and Crafts, Eleanor Dickinson did some revealing studies on gender discrimination in the art world since 1965. In 1990, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art exhibited art work by nine men, and one woman. Mills College (for women) fared worse: 67 men to 3 women! “Less than 5% of the artists in the modern art section [of the museum] are women, but 85% of the nudes are female.” Over 75% of all art reviews are about men artists. Major 20th century poetry anthologies typically feature all male writers with a token female writer or two squeezed in between the sheets.

Khysie Horn, owner of Quicksilver Mine Co. affirmed “Most major museums and galleries still traditionally show men. There’s not a good professional venue for women—art by and for women—on women’s art themes. There is a tremendous need to show women’s art.” Horn said the response to the recent goddess show at Quicksilver was overwhelming. “There’s definitely a strong interest in the goddess theme. The interest among artists who wanted to exhibit goddess-inspired art was echoed by the viewers. It touched a resonant chord.” One common theme most of the artists interviewed share is that of personal grief and descent, followed by transcendence and a release of energy—attributed to the goddess.

Sebastopol artist Victoria Whitehand said her discovery of the goddess, “had to do with my own earthly mother’s death—20 years after the fact. The grieving process liberated all my feminine energy, it began flowing through my work—both the terrible and the supportive—in endless manifestations. Essentially I blocked the energy, and didn’t let it flow.”

McKenzie Birnie, whose piece, Inanna's New Clothes, which got me into this convoluted story, said “At the time, I didn’t know what I was doing. I’d been through a descent of my own at the time; a divorce, pain, suffering. I read Diane Wolkstein’s book on Inanna—it was the most powerful stuff. I gulped it down whole. It was real deep therapy and journey—I’m not a goddess person per-se, I don’t have a goddess religion, but I welcome the energy.” Journey’s North and South, Birnie’s next exhibit with Barbara Jacobson at Quicksilver opens June 6 and runs through the 20th. Jacobson’s work is deeply influenced by the goddess, very much an exploration of the feminine—something experienced after the death of her mother.

The New York based storyteller Diane Wolkstein, whose books and stories have profoundly affected so many women, said Inanna was a birthday gift. She was looking for a role model, a complete triple goddess in all her aspects—maid, woman and crone—and after extensive searching through the world’s anthologies for a moon goddess—Mari, Diana, Persephone, Lilith, Ishtar, Hecate, Seine, Brigit, Cybele, Isis. . . and found her at last by the name of Inanna. Wolkstein too suffered her own personal descent and reemerged energized by the Inanna myth.

Though celebration of the goddess may be seen as primarily a woman’s movement, some men are also inspired by the goddess. Visionary painter Paul Nicholson, and sculptor Zac Zakine claim inspiration from the goddess. Inventor, sculptor and TV cameraman Robert LaDonne said “she affects me daily. The working goddess is so alive. Men don’t allow ourselves to truly feel, we tend deny it, to be more mechanically minded. I’m OK with my male figure.” LaDonne invented a speaker system that allows deaf people to feel sound. He discovered his invention also allowed him to feel aspects of the goddess—by listening to the aorta of a pregnant woman. “It opened up a whole new world. We have to go back into the body, our own rebirthing in order to cleanse ourselves.”

Not all artists view their work as specifically Inanna, or goddess inspired, though viewers may see a connection. Whitehand identifies more with Indian mythology, and Kali. “The transformation of aspects of the goddess is the force that drives us on the spiral of evolution.”

“The influence of the goddess is not what my work’s about. I’m a little uneasy with that thought. For me, the spiritual is not gendered. My work has more to do with the spirit of woman ancestors. The female images in my work open up the pathways for transformation,” says Marsha Connell. “It’s a reminder that men didn’t always run the world. Those reminders also empower us as creative women. Where is our muse now? ”

Which brings me back to Gimbutas’s work on the European goddess. Until the 1960s, the traditional view of Western civilization was imported in its entirety from the Middle East; its history rooted in the great waves of Indo-European migration. But the goddess is not limited to just the Mesopotamian cradle of civilization.

Marler also discussed the relevance and timeliness of Dr. Gimbutas's work on European egalitarian, neolithic goddess-centered cultures in pre-patriarchal Europe—the “matristic” cultures, which existed previous to the polarized ecologically destructive and warlike patriarchal/matriarchal cultures that followed.)

In 1967, Gimbutas began excavating in southeastern Europe, where she discovered hundreds of small clay figurines—for which no one had an explanation. (In February 1990, we literally bombed the hell out of the archaeological sites of the world's first cities, Babylon, Ur, Nineveh, Tel Afar, and Uruk (the biblical Erech—modern day Warka, 150 miles south of Baghdad). In the Diane Wolkstein book Inanna, her translator, Samuel Noah Kramer wrote, “Many a text is still lying buried in the tels of southern Iraq, awaiting the lucky spade of the future excavator.” Unfortunately, many archaeological sites were destroyed during the Gulf war.

Little by little, it began to dawn on her a full-fledged alternative civilization, what she coined “Old Europe,” flourished from 7000 to 3500 B.C. The renown archaeologist and pre-historian states that the Indo-Europeans were essentially horse-riding barbarians from the Russian Steppes who destroyed the old culture, replacing the Goddess with their pantheon of plundering warrior gods—who still seem to be in control.

Radio-carbon dating, and Gimbutas's compilation, The Language of the Goddess, where she claims the parallel language and culture of the European form of Goddess—undergirds our previous notions of the rise of entire Western culture. This has turned the concept of the Indo-European progenitor of civilization entirely on its ear, causing an uproar and enormous controversy in the male-dominated anthropological circles. “This material may affect our vision of the past as well as our sense of potential for the present and future.” Marler claims the “necessity for examining the myths by which we are operating, which gives rise to our attitudes and actions, has never been greater.”



no tearsheet

Food for Though, Joan Marler, KPFA, Marija Gimbutas  Oct. 1990

Inanna, Searching for the Goddess at CMA  Aug 16, 1990