Susanna J. Sturgis   Martha's Vineyard writer and editor
writer editor born-again horse girl

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History

August 26, 2005

A member of my new online writers' group reminded me of "Mimi's Revenge," a prose-poetical personal-political cultural history that I wrote in the late 1980s. I took that as a sign that it was time to add it to the website, so I did. I had to retype it first: all my late '80s stuff was backed up on 5 1/4-inch diskettes, and I chucked all of them when PCs stopped coming equipped with 5 1/4-inch floppy drives. That issue of Trivia, #16/17, "Breaking Forms," came out almost exactly 15 years ago. I'd forgotten that the writers' group member had been associated with Trivia -- she's more closely associated with another feminist journal, one that has been through several editorships and is still publishing, though I haven't laid eyes on it in many years. I was startled to see that Trivia 16/17 was dedicated to the feminist theologian Nelle Morton, who died in 1988, whose The Journey Is Home is currently on the floor next to my desk, and whose concept of "hearing into speech" I was quoting in this bloggery a few days ago.

Most of the journals that advertised in Trivia 16/17 no longer exist, but I remember all their names and read most of them regularly at one time or another. I remember the names of nearly all the other contributors to that issue and have no idea what any of them are doing today. I skimmed the pages, remarking how fresh and provocative most of them seemed. How long had those words been hibernating on my bookshelf? What other forgotten words are hiding there?

An online correspondent mentioned burning her journals 15 years ago (I see now: around the time that Trivia 16/17 came out), and immediately I thought of a poem I wrote, also in the late 1980s, about a friend who had burned her mentor's letters, at her mentor's request. Ever since I heard the story, I've wondered whether, in similar circumstances, I would save the letters for their considerable historical value, or honor a promise to a beloved friend who, being dead, would never know whether I honored it or not. Another sign: "The Lapsed Archivist Attends a Housecleaning" is now up on the Poems section of this website.

Then an e-mail arrived confirming that Island Community Chorus rehearsals resume on Monday, September 12, and announcing that the dates for our December concert had been changed to December 6 and 7. It also noted that this is the 10th anniversary of the Island Community Chorus. This is not true. It has been 10 years since the current director took over the musical organization that had been performing Handel's Messiah every December for around 15 years, maybe longer, and guided it toward a more ambitious, year-round performance schedule. Director and chorus leadership pulled the plug on Messiah a few years ago; they didn't seem to know or care how long it had been going on, or how for a few hundred Vineyarders it was an integral part of the Christmas season. They hadn't been around long enough, and they didn't know those people, and like many professional and serious amateur musicians they consider Messiah an embarrassing old chestnut.

And I'm now halfway through Octavia Butler's new novel, Fledgling (Seven Stories Press, October 2005). Its protagonist is a young vampire who awakes in a cave and has no memory of how she came to be there, and so terribly wounded.

Today's conundrum is history -- how easy it is to lose it, how lost we are without it, and how opaque and ambiguous its obligations can be.

 

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