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August 15, 2011


It sounds idyllic, and it's wonderful that you've finished your verse novella. Thank you, Leslie. In fact I have heard only warm and positive things about Whidby Island in general. (There's a program located there that meets annually in the summer and features David Wagoner among other Pacific Northwest writers of note.) The only trace of mixed feelings I have reading your enthusiastic post is that men are excluded. The traditional response to that objection is that all-men institutions have until recently been hegemonic. Maybe so, but are we now in danger of penalizing an entire generation of young men? DL

Hi David,

I wonder about this-- the exclusion of a group of writers on the basis of their gender-- myself. In 1989, when Hedgebrook opened, the literary world was a different place. Now there are more women enrolled than men in American universities. And do I remember correctly that there are more women in creative writing MFA programs here as well?  Will there be a tipping point? Can I apply the same question to organizations which exclude certain races and ethnic backgrounds?

What I've found refreshing here (and very helpful in terms of finishing the novella) is that there's diversity among women here-- geographic, racial, etc. Last week I was in a minority here-- most of the residents were lesbian. I was very moved by their accounts of what it was like to self identify as such in decades past. Would these conversations have taken on a different hue if there were men around? They might have, though it would have been just as moving to men, I'm sure, to hear these stories.

Your question about unintentionally penalizing one group in the name of providing another a closed community is one I think about often, and not without sadness. Even talking about this publicly feels a bit like rubbing a flint over dry tinder. 
There's conference on race, gender, sexuality and class that's being organized in New Jersey in May, 2012 by Laura McCullough and Dwayne Betts. I'm
 enthusiastic participant. and hope that members of various parts of our literary community can come together and discuss these subjects in a way that will be helpful to *all* of us.


Thank you, Leslie, for this considered comment on my comment. Let the dialogue commence! -- DL

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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