For those of you of a “certain age,” you are probably well-versed in Elana’s work and impact on lesbian fiction and culture. For those of you who came of age after the 70s or 80s and aren’t aware, HERE’S YOUR CHANCE.
I was really excited and honored to finally chat with Elana, who JUST RELEASED her latest book of poetry through Sinister Wisdom, What Can I Ask: New and Collected Poetry, 1975-2014. She’s the third poet featured in the Sapphic Classics series over there, and if you’re not familiar with Dykewomon’s poetry, wow. You are in for a serious treat.
Her poems address themes that you will find throughout a lot of her work — lesbians as dynamic and active; honesty, no matter how painful or difficult; women moving between communities; class; physical bodies; the sense of the outsider; sexuality and sensuality. You’ll find those themes as well in her novels at Bywater Books, so you can read Elana’s work in a variety of narrative forms.
In honor of this just-released Sapphic Classic collection of poetry — and in honor of National Poetry Month! — our fabulous colleagues at Sinister Women are putting up a print copy of Elana’s latest collection. To get in on this awesome-ness, leave a comment below (remember, don’t put your email in the comment body but please provide your email in the comment fill-out form). We’ll do the drawing Monday, April 20th at 9 PM EST.
Elana Dykewomon was born in New York City. When she was 8, her middle-class Jewish parents moved the family to Puerto Rico. She returned to mainland eventually, and studied fine art at Reed College in Portland, Oregon and received her B.F.A. in creative writing from the California Institute of Art. Later, she would complete an M.F.A. in creative writing from San Francisco State University. She published her first novel — the groundbreaking Riverfinger Women — when she was in her early 20s. Since then, she has won awards for her fiction, served as editor of Sinister Wisdom, the multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and been a teacher and activist.
With the publication of her collection of short stories and poems in the 1976 And They Will Know Me By My Teeth: Stories and Poems of Lesbian Struggle, Celebration, and Survival, Elana changed her surname to “Dykewoman” to demonstrate her commitment to and solidarity with the lesbian community as well as to “keep her honest” — anyone reading the book would know instantly that the author was a lesbian. The collection dealt with themes like class, lesbian bodies, sexuality, and lesbian communities both real and imagined. With her 1981 book of poetry, Fragments from Lesbos, published “for lesbians only,” she changed the spelling of her last name to Dykewomon, to avoid an etymological connection to men.
Her work has broken numerous silences about women and lesbians — their bodies, sexualities, identities, lives, losses, and loves. She has often voiced what remained unvoiced, written what had yet to be transcribed, and captured the essence of eras and change.
Please join me in welcoming Elana to Women and Words.