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About This Site
To accompany Everywoman Her Own Theology: On the Poetry of Alicia Suskin Ostriker we proudly present this online companion of essays and reflections responding to her poetry and criticism, as well as additional interviews. The first essay we are honored to present is Janlori Goldman’s “Alicia Ostriker: The Thief, the Volcano, and a Fistful of God.”
Readers should know that this is a dynamic anthology and new essays will be added every few weeks. As you will see when perusing these essays, reading Ostriker is dancing with Alicia--and the engagement is physical, spiritual, emotional, cerebral, and just plain beautiful. My conclusion for the introduction of the book is just as apt here: “To Everywoman Her Own Theology’s readers, we offer the ‘beams of’ tough ‘love’ that permeate these responses to Ostriker’s work over the last fifty years in the hope that each and all will dwell in the possibilities afforded by the more numerous rooms, windows, and doors found in reading, and in reading about, Alicia Ostriker’s work."
Martha Nell Smith
In a poem titled “The Liberal Arts” from her most recent book Waiting for the Light (2017), Alicia Suskin Ostriker imagines a beautiful, complicated epistemology steeped in interdisciplinary collaboration. Cataloging lessons learned in subjects as diverse as chemistry and literary studies, Ostriker presents a poetics of interdisciplinarity in which mathematical, scientific, and humanist perspectives are mobilized to better understand the liberal art of being human. This varied approach to knowledge-making is not always cohesive or linear:
Nevertheless, the poem argues that we forge pathways between these means of knowing that inspire fruitful insight and connection: “Music bridges mathematics, the soul of the universe, and my personal soul.” Out of this frustrating educational journey, Ostriker turns, in her conclusion, to poetry for understanding: “In poetry they say the arrow may be blown off course by storm and returned / by miracle” (67).In mathematics they say the most beautiful solution is the correct one
In physics they say everything that can happen must happen
In history the more it changes the more it is the same (66).
“The Liberal Arts” encapsulates the multivalent--sometimes unwieldy--nature of discovery that archivists and literary scholars encounter when tasked with gathering, assessing, and reflecting on the work of a prolific and capacious thinker like Alicia Suskin Ostriker. Indeed, to reflect on Ostriker’s body of work--as each of the contributing writers on this site were asked to do--is to sometimes feel like that arrow in the poem, “blown off course” into diverse subjects and genres only to find oneself “returned” as if “by miracle” to that central thread of feminist introspection and critique that unites Ostriker’s oeuvre.
In creating this online companion site to University of Michigan Press’ critical anthology on Ostriker’s legacy, The Everywoman Her Own Theology, we wanted a publishing platform that not only aligned with the range of literary, religious, and epistemological traditions Ostriker’s writing builds upon, but also one that might approximate the varied pathways of reading such an intersectional and interdisciplinary body of work. Once again, Ostriker’s unwavering feminism helped us assess our options and with our ultimate decision to publish with Scalar. Why Scalar? First, Scalar values difference. By adhering to such a principle, Scalar confronts the norms of our contemporary global computational apparatuses and their methods of abstraction--something we thought was an apt homage to Ostriker’s work, which views knowledge as situated and contextual. Second, Scalar resists a stringently linear, hierarchical representation of works within an archive by acknowledging how every work has both an autonomous identity and a social identity, or, relative meaning within a larger context. What better way to present Ostriker who engages issues of identity from multiple subject positions--as a Jewish woman, scholar, teacher, poet, visual artist, mother, and wife--than with Scalar that celebrates the multidimensionality of works? Hope you enjoy this companion site & let us know what you think!
Hillary Roegelein & Setsuko Yokoyama
Cover art: Peter Pitzele, The Dog's Tulip, 2012