I was born on the Oregon Coast and raised in the Pacific Northwest. After thirty years in Brooklyn, New York, I still “belong to the lesser coast, the greater ocean” (as a poem of mine puts it). How to hold onto both lyrical and political impulses, how to dwell at the conjunction of imagination and craft without giving up on the need to change reality—this effort has informed my writing in many genres. I got my start as a published writer in the lesbian feminist literary movement of the 1970’s, where my editorial work on the journal Conditions taught me the skills of constructive criticism that I now employ as a teacher. My books include three poetry collections; a short story collection; two novels; a collection of essays and reviews; and, most recently, the memoir Apples and Oranges: My Journey through Sexual Identity (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). My poems and stories have appeared in such literary journals and anthologies as Another Chicago Magazine; Bloom; Calyx; An Ear to the Ground; Fence; For a Living: The Poetry of Work; Hanging Loose; The Hat; The Kenyon Review; Luna; Ploughshares; Red, White, and Blues; and Xconnect. I’ve written reviews and literary journalism for Ms., The Nation, Poets and Writers, and The Women’s Review of Books. Awards include an NEA fiction fellowship and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship in poetry.
Complementing my work at Goddard, I teach creative writing at Eugene Lang College, a division of New School University. In working with MFA students, I always keep in mind the lessons of critical consciousness and democratic dialogue that stem from a lifetime of community activism centered on social justice issues. My epistolary conversations with advisees about their writing have to do with, on one hand, identifying pre-existing strengths in the work and figuring out how to build on those strengths; on the other hand, I push for consideration of new or under-explored possibilities. I took it as a compliment when a student wrote that she felt “busted” by my probing questions about her creative agenda—“in a good way,” she hastened to add. I think students tend to regard me as a demanding advisor, but also one who really listens and who is equally demanding of herself when it comes to offering a detailed, thorough response combining close analytic reading with a synthetic overview. For a selection of my most recent poetry, fiction, and critical prose, go to Ablation.