Herstory: Women’s Histories, Memoirs, and Biographies

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the largest single day protest in US history—the Women’s March—when on January 21, 2017, 4.2 million people marched across the US in more than 600 US cities, and from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, at least 261 more sister marches cropped up worldwide. To celebrate this pivotal protest, UC Press is highlighting titles across subjects as part of our Herstory series, with today’s focus on Women’s Histories, Memoirs, and Biographies recognizing the lives of incredible visionaries and rabble-rousers who shaped history. While just a preview of our publishing “herstory,” these titles will engage your intellect and inspire your activism today, tomorrow, and for future tomorrows.


Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles (Forthcoming June 2018; preorder today)
By Imaobong D. Umoren

Race Women Internationalists explores how a group of Caribbean and African American women in the early and mid-twentieth century traveled the world to fight colonialism, fascism, sexism, and racism. Bringing together the entangled lives of three notable but overlooked women: Eslanda Robeson, Paulette Nardal, and Una Marson, it explores how, between the 1920s and the 1960s, the trio participated in global freedom struggles by traveling; building networks in feminist, student, black-led, anticolonial, and antifascist organizations; and forging alliances with key leaders to challenge various forms of inequality facing people of African descent across the diaspora and the continent.

Ronnie Gilbert: A Radical Life in Song
By Ronnie Gilbert

Ronnie Gilbert was an American folk singer, songwriter, actress and political activist whose lifelong work for political and social change was central to her role as a performer. Best known as a member of the Weavers, the quartet of the 1950s and ’60s that survived the Cold War blacklist and helped popularize folk music in America, Gilbert continued to tour, play music, and protest well into her 70s and 80s. Covering sixty years of her remarkable life, her memoir is an engaging historical document for readers interested in music, theater, American politics, the women’s movement, and left-wing activism.

 

Lavender and Red: Liberation and Solidarity in the Gay and Lesbian Left
By Emily K. Hobson

A primer for social justice activists today, Lavender and Red tells the political and intellectual history of the lesbian feminist and gay liberation movements that linked sexual liberation to radical solidarity against imperialism, war, and racism. With archival research, oral histories, and vibrant images, Emily K. Hobson intertwines the history of political struggles of the 1970s through the 1990s.

 

 

My Name Is Jody Williams: A Vermont Girl’s Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize
By Jody Williams  

Jody Williams is an American political activist known for her work toward the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines—for which she became the tenth woman and third American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. She’s also well-known for her defense of human rights, especially women’s rights, and in 2006, she helped to launch the Nobel Women’s Initiative to spotlight and promote efforts of women’s rights activists, researchers and organizations working to advance peace, justice and equality for women. Her memoir offers a candid look at her lifelong dedication to global activism.

 

The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century
By Grace Lee Boggs & Scott Kurashige 

“Activism can be the journey rather than the arrival.”—Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs was a lifelong revolutionary, a legendary figure in the struggle for justice in America. The Next American Revolution is a powerful retrospective to Boggs’s participation in some of the greatest struggles of the last century, from anti-capitalist labor movements of the 1940s and 1950s to the Black Power Movement to contemporary urban environmental activism. It is a manifesto for creating alternative modes of work, politics, and human interaction that will collectively constitute the next American Revolution.

 

Finding Women in the State: A Socialist Feminist Revolution in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1964
By Zheng Wang

These socialist state feminists—who maneuvered behind the scenes of the Chinese Communist Party—worked to advance gender and class equality in the early People’s Republic of China and fought to transform sexist norms and practices, all while facing fierce opposition from a male-dominated CCP leadership. Illuminating not only the different visions of revolutionary transformation but also the causes for failure of China’s socialist revolution, Finding Women in the State raises fundamental questions about male dominance in social movements that aim to pursue social justice and equality.

 

A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov
By Donna Hollenberg

Denise Levertov was a poet, essayist, and political activist whose work focused on social and political issues. She was outspoken in her opposition to the Vietnam War, and helped form the Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam. Additionally, she worked as a poetry editor for The Nation in the ’60s and for Mother Jones in the ’70s, and in 1963, she received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. This authoritative biography captures the complexity of Levertov as both woman an artist, and the dynamic world she inhabited.

 

 


Best of the Blog 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, we’ve compiled ten blog posts that resonated most with our readers over the past year. Popular blog themes closely mirrored current events, and the state of global political realities — immigration, inequality, fascism, and environmental issues; additionally, readers were taken by posts on critical thinking, “slow” cinema, indigenous and world poetry, and the secrets unearthed from an ancient metropolis.

Have a happy new year, and see you in 2018, the 125th year of UC Press’s founding!

Immigration historians from across the United States launched the website #ImmigrationSyllabus to help the public understand the historical roots of today’s immigration debates, inspiring us to follow suit with a list of UC Press suggestions to provide further context to the ongoing conversation. View the Immigration Syllabus: UC Press Edition.

Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore’s A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things focuses on seven areas that are the foundation of modern commerce: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. In this excerpt, find out how the cheapening of care has made the world safe for capitalism: #7CheapThings: Cheap Care

In Trump’s Transgender Crisis, Jack Halberstam, author of Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability, responds to Donald Trump’s tweeted policy change banning trans soldiers from the military to ask: at a time when the visibility and acceptance of transgender people has never been higher, why this ban, why now?

In today’s fast-paced political news cycle, terms like “fascism” and “populism” are often used, but not always clearly defined. This excerpt from Federico Finchelstein’s From Fascism to Populism in History, explores the origins of these ideologies, their significance, and the important distinctions between them: Fascism or Populism? Playing the “Democratic Game”

One of the earliest, largest, and most important cities in the ancient Americas, Teotihuacan is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most visited archaeological site in Mexico. Take a Look at Teotihuacan to see some of the rare and awe-inspiring artifacts featured in the exhibition and accompanying catalogue Teotihuacan: City of Water, City of Fire.

 

Fifty years since its original publication, Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred continues to inspire and educate readers with its ability to expand the possibilities of poetry throughout the world. Rothenberg recently visited the UC Press offices to discuss the book’s enduring power and read from the 50th anniversary edition.

 

 

Peter M. Nardi, sociologist and author of Critical Thinking: Tools for Evaluating Research, addressed the importance of looking beyond the “two-sides-of-the-coin” perspective when responding to complex issues in his post False Balance, Binary Discourse, and Critical Thinking.

Releasing in May 2018, Paul Schrader’s seminal text Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer will be reissued with a substantial new introduction representing his experiences and ideas as a filmmaker that have evolved over time, giving the original work both new clarity and a contemporary lens. Hear Schrader discuss some of the techniques and attitudes of slow films in Transcendental Style in Film Revisited.

During the 2017 International Open Access Week, we interviewed Interim Director Erich van Rijn to survey the landscape of OA publishing at UC Press, discussing the progress and future of Luminos (our OA monograph program), and Collabra: Psychology and Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene (our two OA journals).

What is a case study, and how can case studies positively impact critical thinking and knowledge acquisition, as well as inform research in academia and training in professional practice? In the post The Case for Case StudiesCase Studies in the Environment Editor-in-Chief Wil Burns explains what case studies are, and how they can provide an important bridge to understanding important environmental issues.


The Enduring Power of Technicians of the Sacred, Fifty Years Later

Jerome Rothenberg at UC Press, seated beside his collections: “Technicians of the Sacred” and “Symposium of the Whole.”

Jerome Rothenberg changed the course of poetics with the opening statement to his landmark anthology, Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries From Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania: “Primitive means complex.”

Fifty years later, Technicians of the Sacred endures, inspiring and educating readers with its ability to expand the possibilities of poetry throughout the world. In the preface to the new 50th Anniversary Edition, Rothenberg situates the book in the present and affirms poetry’s power in making sense of our shared humanity in especially fraught times:

We have witnessed an upsurge of new nationalisms & racisms, directed most often against the diversity of mind & spirit of which the earlier Technicians was so clearly a part. To confront this implicit, sometimes rampant ethnic cleansing, even genocide, there is the need for a kind of omnipoetics that tests the range of our threatened humanities wherever found & looks toward an ever greater assemblage of words & thoughts as a singular buttress against those forces that would divide & diminish us.

Jerome Rothenberg with Nick Cave.

Many readers—among them, notable poets, musicians, and artists—have been profoundly influenced by Technicians of the Sacred, including the musician Nick Cave, who says, “No one taught me more about poetry than Jerome Rothenberg. Technicians of the Sacred is the greatest anthology of poetry ever created, ‘primitive’ or otherwise.” While the poet Anne Waldman says: “Technicians of the Sacred is a seminal world wisdom text, a vibrating compendium of poetry and exegesis that reanimates poetry’s efficacy in the world. More radically timely than ever in a tormented era of xenophobia, racism, post-truth, and psychic crisis when words are abased. This is a spiritual book; a book to survive with.” Poet and environmentalist Homero Aridjis says it is “a unique, groundbreaking and essential guide to humankind’s spiritual relationship with Earth and the divine,” while Michael McClure says it as only Michael McClure can: “Jerome Rothenberg is a DNA spaceman exploring the mammal caves of Now.”

Eddie Vedder with the 50th anniversary edition of “Technicians of the Sacred.”

Other artists who have found inspiration in the book include Eddie Vedder (pictured here with a zydeco washboard vest that Rothenberg gave him) and the late singer and bibliophile Warren Zevon. Zevon’s extensive library rests in the care of his ex-wife, Crystal Zevon, who says: “When Warren moved in with me in 1971, Technicians of the Sacred was the only book he brought with him. Our early relationship is indelibly marked by Warren reading to me from that book, and it continued as a favorite pastime in years that followed.”

UC Press staff were lucky to have Rothenberg (along with wife and co-editor of the 2016 collection Symposium of the Whole, Diane) visit our offices recently for a fascinating presentation on his background, his coining of “ethnopoetics,” and the publishing history of Technicians of the Sacred. He followed with a wonderful reading of a few selections from the 50th anniversary edition, including “Essie Parrish in New York.” The poem appears in a new section called “Survivals and Revivals” in which Rothenberg explores the resurgence of indigenous poetry. Rothenberg explained that Essie Parrish was a healer from the Kashaya Pomo tribe, and as she spoke in 1972 at the New School in New York, poet George Quasha transcribed her narrative of a dream-vision. Watch the video below:

Celebrate the 50th anniversary edition with 30% off. Enter promo code 17M6662 at checkout.

 


Representational Power of International Criminal Courts

This post is published in advance of the American Society of Criminology conference in Philadelphia, occurring November 15-18. #ASCPhilly

Joachim Savelsberg recently spoke at a symposium on power in international criminal justice. The event, held in Florence, Italy, and organized by the Centre for International Law Research and Policy and the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, included judges from the International Criminal Court (ICC) and from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as well as representatives from the United Nations and NGO experts.

Savelsberg argued that international human rights courts hold substantial representational power, defined as the probability to impress on a global public, even against resistance and competing narratives, an understanding of mass violence as a form of criminal violence. The argument is urgent as international criminal justice institutions are under fire from many sides. Most recently, Burundi was the first country to withdraw from the Rome Statute on which the ICC is based. Savelsberg presented empirical evidence from Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur to support his argument.

His analyses of the Darfur case show that international criminal justice institutions and their supporters in civil society are engaged in struggles with competing forces. The latter include diplomats who privilege representations that open up spaces for mediation and negotiation, and humanitarian aid organizations advancing narratives that allow for collaboration with the perpetrator state in the interest of the delivery of humanitarian aid. Yet, international criminal justice representations dominate in media reporting in all eight countries under investigation. They prevail over frames of the violence as armed conflict or as a humanitarian emergency, especially after the onset of institutional intervention. Sources of this dominance likely include control over rituals, access to channels of communication, and legitimacy based on procedure.

The representative power of human rights courts faces constraints, however, that color their message. They include the court’s focus on the role of individual actors (at the neglect of structural forces); limiting evidentiary rules; neglect of historical context; and a simplifying binary logic of guilty versus not guilty. They further include the need to satisfy institutions and states that exert power by controlling funding and the statutory basis of the court. The ICC also needs to be on good terms with permanent members of the UN Security Council on which it partially depends for the referral of cases and for enforcement action. The result of such tension is a treacherous journey between Scylla of formal-rational justice and Charybdis of practical concerns in the highly politicized environment of international relations. Finally, international criminal justice depends on the diffusion of its representations through mass media that follow their own rules of the game. Some of these rules induce selectivity.

Despite such constraints, theoretical arguments suggest, and Savelsberg’s analysis documents, substantial representational power of international criminal courts. Will this power advance a reduction of international human rights crimes, long-term pacification in the realm of international relations? When powerful leaders with responsibility for mass violence are repeatedly represented as criminal perpetrators, international criminal justice may then become imbued with symbolic power. A resulting broad-based understanding of such leaders as criminal perpetrators could quite possibly contribute toward a diminished role of naked violence in the international realm. Yet, the jury is still out, as they say—and that jury includes those engaged in continued scholarship.

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During the ASC conference on Thursday, November 16, see Joachim discuss the Punitive Term and the Justice Cascade. And see Joachim’s previous work on genocide from Armenia to Darfur, the 101st anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and the cultural consequences of international criminal justice intervention.


Representing Mass Violence: Conflicting Responses to Human Rights Violations in Darfur by Joachim J. Savelsberg is available as a free Luminos Open Access e-book as a free download.


A History of Cookbooks: Recipes in Verse

excerpted from A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries by Henry Notaker

This October we are celebrating National Cookbook Month by exploring the history of the cookbook genre. Check back each Wednesday for a new excerpt from Henry Notaker’s work.

A History of Cookbooks coverDidactic works in verse go back to Hesiod’s Works and Days, written around 700 BCE, and are found in the Middle Ages and the early modern period. Several versions of Regimen sanitatis were circulated in verse starting in the thirteenth century, many of them written in a Latin close to the vernacular Italian. In England, there were John Russel’s treatise on household duties, The Boke of Nurture (ca. 1460), and Thomas Tusser’s A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry (1557). According to the German scholar Bernhard Dietrich Haage, the bound form is used in practical literature as a mnemonic aid, but it might also have been used to give material an aesthetic value.

Several early cookbooks open with a verse, either written by the author to serve as a preface or written by someone else as a recommendation for the book, but there are also examples of rhymed recipes from the fifteenth century in German and English manuscripts. According to the historian Hans Wiswe, however, one of the German recipes is “a humorous Intermezzo in a book that is otherwise so matter-of-fact.” This can be explained by what Haage said about versification of practical literature for the upper levels of society: “It is mainly for fun” (Aus reinen Spieltrieb).

There is a long tradition in European literature of verses about food, often with a comic or playful element, and the humor is quite obvious in the collections of rhymed recipes (“poetic cookbooks”) from the eighteenth century onward. The first of these books was the French Festin joyeux, printed in 1738. One of the recipes is for perdreaux aux écrévisses (partridges with crawfish) and it starts like this:

First you cook everything well,

And mix with a light ragoût,

Add sweetbreads and truffles too,

And let cockscombs and champignons swell.

Typical for the recipes in this book is that they can be sung, as they were written to well-known tunes from light and popular music genres. Referring to himself as a cook, the alleged author made excuses for the bad rhymes in his verses, which he said were certainly not as Scarron would have written them. By referring to the seventeenth-century burlesque poet Paul Scarron, the suspicion is strengthened that the verses belong to the century before the book was printed, and it has been suggested that the real author was the aristocrat Louis de Béchameil, although this has not been confirmed.

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, French, German, Spanish, American, Danish, and Norwegian books of recipes in verse were published. A Norwegian book from 1833 versified the recipes of the first printed cookbook in Norway, published only two years earlier, and the verses were written to melodies used for national anthems, drinking songs, and hymns. By using tunes for hymns in these merry songs, the author, a church warden and rebellious publicist, did the opposite of men such as Martin Luther and William Booth, who wrote religious hymns to popular, secular melodies.

Were these recipes intended to be used to help in the kitchen? Some of them did in fact emphasize that that was the basic idea. The Danish Kogebog for musikalske husmødre (Cookbook for musical housewives) professed in verse in the preface:

The housewife now can cook her meat

While singing from a music sheet.

But in spite of the declared intentions, these books were probably made more to amuse readers than to instruct them. Most of the verses were rather amateurish, with clumsy rhymes and hobbling rhythms, and could not hope for a glorious afterlife in the history of literature. There are, however, recipe poems that were written by authors with acknowledged literary qualities. They followed the same chronological progression as the ordinary recipes, giving step-by-step instructions, but they added aspects and elements that were generally absent in cookbooks. Here follow five examples in five languages and from different literary contexts.

The first was by a representative of Polish romanticism, Adam Mickiewicz, who in his epic poem Pan Tadeusz actually used a 1682 cookbook to describe an old Polish dinner. But he also gave, as part of his description of old national traditions, the “recipe” for bigos, a dish still popular in Poland. He admitted that words and rhymes—he used thirteen syllable lines with caesura and rhymed couplets—were not sufficient to transmit a real appreciation of “the most wonderful flavor, the smell and the color.” He listed the ingredients of the dish—good vegetables, chopped sauerkraut, morsels of meat—and explained that they should all be simmered in a pot. But he did not follow the traditional recipe form; his recipe is a narrative told in the third person and without the particular verbal forms indicating a request.

Other writers, however, chose the imperative. The French dramatist Edmond Rostand included in his most famous play, Cyrano de Bergerac, a scene where the protagonist’s friend, the rôtisseur and pâtissier Ragueneau, proudly declares that he has versified a recipe: “J’ai mis une recette en vers.” The recipe is for tartelettes amandines and is written in a light, elegant poetic form that plays with the rhymes and rhythm, making it very difficult to translate.

While Rostand kept the imperatives in the second-person plural, which was typical of most French culinary recipes at that time, the Argentine-born Spaniard Ventura de la Vega—who wrote many occasional poems—chose the first-person singular when he described his method of making garlic soup, sopa de ajo. The Voltaire-admirer-turned-Catholic paid tribute to the soup as a dish for Lent, but he also declared it the basis of the Castilian diet. The personal tone in the poem creates an atmosphere similar to the one in Pablo Neruda’s Odas elementales (which is about tomatoes, potatoes, and other foodstuffs), combining the solemn and the ordinary: In a casserole, boil salt, pepper, and small bits of bread in olive oil, and in this swelling mixture, “I will hide two well-peeled cloves of Spanish garlic.” Instead of Neruda’s free verse, Vega chose the bound form, and the Spanish composer José María Cásares later composed music for it. The text and the notes were printed in Angel Muro’s original cookbook, El practicón (1894).

Another original and much praised cookbook, Modern Cookery, by Eliza Acton, included a recipe in rhymed verse in the 1855 edition. In a note, Acton wrote that this was the first time the poem was printed, after it had been circulated among the friends of the author, the poetic reverend Sidney Smith. But in contrast to the serious, almost religious tone in Vega’s verse, Smith’s poem is filled with the light-hearted humor he was famous for. The ingredients for his salad dressing are enumerated with the common imperatives, but they are not always used in the traditional manner: “Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,” he instructed readers in one line, and in another, he told them to add “a magic soupçon of anchovy sauce.” He even resorted to alliteration: “Of mordant mustard add a simple spoon.” And then he expressed his enthusiasm for the result: “Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbacious treat!”

A final example, which also raises theoretical questions, is a poem the German romantic poet Eduard Mörike wrote about Frankfurter Brenten, a type of small cookies. The first surprise is perhaps his use of the imperative second-person singular, a dated and very uncommon form in the mid-nineteenth century:

Start with almonds, I suggest,

Take three pounds, or four at best.

This poem, which is included in Mörike’s collected works, was originally published in a German journal for ladies, Frauen-Zeitung für Hauswesen, weibliche Arbeiten und Moden, in 1852, and Horst Steinmetz used it as an example of how context may decide the reception of a text. The readers of Mörike’s complete works may have considered the recipe as a poem on a par with the other poems in the book, which describe feelings and phenomena of the human universe. The ladies who read “Frankfurter Brenten” in the journal may have looked at the text as a practical instruction—a recipe—even if they observed and appreciated the form as an amusing variation and perhaps made no practical use of the recipe in the kitchen. Yet a closer reading of Mörike’s text reveals that it has elements not expected in recipes. Consider, for example, these lines:

Now put all this while it is hot

Onto a plate (but poets need

A rhyme here now, and therefore feed

The finished stuff into a pot).

With this ironic remark, which breaks up the sequence of instructive steps, the poet seems to make fun of his own role; it is a kind of Verfremdung, or alienation, that creates a distance between Mörike as a poet and as a cooking teacher.

These rhymed recipes seem to have been written with very different intentions: to inform, to instruct, to entertain, or to create art. This is of course also true for recipe poems in unbound form by Günter Grass and others. But there is a noticeable difference in intention when recipes appear in prose works other than culinary works.


Notaker cookbook author photoHenry Notaker is a literary historian who taught courses in food culture and history for over a decade. He was a foreign correspondent for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and a TV host of arts and letters shows and documentaries. He is the author of numerous books and articles on European and Latin American contemporary history, food history, and culinary literature.


A Vibrant, New Translation of Hesiod with Stunning Images

In this new translation of Hesiod, acclaimed translator Barry B. Powell gives an accessible, modern verse rendering of these vibrant texts, essential to an understanding of early Greek myth and society. An exciting introduction to the culture of the ancient Greeks, The Poems of Hesiod is the definitive translation and guide for students and readers looking to experience the work of this influential poet, who ranks alongside Homer in Greek antiquity.

Praise for Barry B. Powell’s translation:

“Powell’s accurate but sparkling English renditions make this book the ideal place to begin reading Hesiod’s timeless classics.”—Ian Morris, Stanford University

“Powell’s translation is fresh, rich, and nuanced but never arcane or difficult to follow. Perfect for undergraduate students and anyone who loves Greek epic poetry.”—Carolina Lopez-Ruiz, The Ohio State University

“An exciting and most welcome new translation.”—Silvia Montiglio, Johns Hopkins University

 

Ideal for classroom use, this new translation includes:

Beautiful, color illustrations that bring Hesiod‘s words to life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Substantial notes that clarify complex passages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maps to orient students to the places where events happened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genealogical charts alongside the text for seamless reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a glossary/index with pronunciation of ancient names, brief annotations, and alternative spellings.

With a fresh translation and up-to-date introduction, charts and maps, substantial notes and beautiful images, Powell’s The Poems of Hesiod is the ideal book to teach with.

Read the introduction and request your exam copy today.


Jerome Rothenberg on “The Symposium of the Whole”

Fifty years ago, when I was assembling and then publishing the first edition of Technicians of the Sacred, my concentration was on the poetry foremost, the sense that came to me as a poet that the roots and resources of poetry were far more complex and widespread than how we commonly thought of them. In my search, informed by the ways in which poets of my own generation and those immediately before had expanded the idea of what we could both hear and create as poetry, I discovered by looking “everywhere” (but especially in places neglected by others) a richness of poetic means and methods that both extended and confirmed the sense of what we were doing in our own place and time. What I stressed far less, though I thought it was apparent to all, was that behind the poetry as such was a diversity of autonomous peoples and deep cultures beyond anything we had previously imagined and cherished. And with that came not only new possibilities for our work as poets and artists, but the possibility of opening up the full dimension of what it meant to be totally and meaningfully human.

Today that total humanity – that “symposium of the whole,” as our fellow poet Robert Duncan named it – has again come to be challenged. I take this as the context in which this revised and expanded edition of Technicians of the Sacred is now appearing. As Anne Waldman expresses it for me, “More radically timely than ever in a tormented era of xenophobia, racism, post-truth, and psychic crisis when words are abased, perhaps it will be transmission such as this that reinvigorates imagination and highlights our generative cultural inter-dependence.” In my own words I see the new Technicians both as a testament to the survival and revival of many indigenous and threatened poetries and languages and as an instrument against new acts of genocide and ethnic and religious cleansing abroad and an upsurge closer to home of still potent nationalisms & racisms, directed most often against the diversity of mind and spirit of which the earlier Techni­cians was so clearly a part.

That I continue to assert a central place for poetry as an instrument of change and difference is also to be noted.

Watch Jerome Rothenberg’s recent lecture on ethnopoetics and Technicians of the Sacred given at the The Faculty of Arts – The University of Melbourne.


Jerome Rothenberg is a poet and an internationally acclaimed anthologist. His more than fifty books include the anthology Poems for the Millennium, coedited with Pierre Joris. He is Professor Emeritus of Visual Arts and Literature at the University of California, San Diego.

Keep up to date with his poetry and writing on his blog Poems and Poetics.


Variants and Errors in Old Editions of Island of the Blue Dolphins

By Sara L. Schwebel, editor of Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition

Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition

While preparing Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition, I was shocked to learn how significantly the text of individual copies of Scott O’Dell’s Newbery-winning novel differed. Island of the Blue Dolphins is not Sister Carrie, with its complicated publication history, or Walden, famous for its textual variants. It is a twentieth-century Newbery winner published with numerous printing but just three editions: the first (1960), a thirtieth anniversary edition (1990), and a fiftieth anniversary edition (2010). Given the availability of late twentieth-century computer software, I had thought the editions would be identical.

How wrong I was.

Houghton Mifflin first sold the paperback rights to Island of the Blue Dolphins in 1971, and this opened the floodgates to variants in U.S. editions. Dell retyped the first edition, and in doing so inserted a series of variants. The first printing of the first Dell paperback, for example, introduced 6 variants in punctuation, omitted one word (the pronoun “I,” in chapter 8), and made seven printing errors, ranging from a lower case “i” that is missing its dot to a lower case “m” that is only half printed.

In some but not all reprintings of this Dell paperback, errors were corrected. For example, the Laurel-Leaf Historical Fiction imprint published in 1978 corrects two missing periods and a missing comma, as well as the missing pronoun “I;” however, it inserts a different error (“though” for “thought,” in chapter 8). The 1987 Yearling paperback is identical to the 1971 Dell first printing with one exception: it corrects a missing open quotation mark in chapter 8. But bafflingly, the 1999 Newbery-Yearling imprint reverts to the original 1971 Dell paperback: no corrections are made at all. These variants, while slightly annoying, are largely insignificant. And this is where things stood until 1990.

Houghton Mifflin celebrated Island of the Blue Dolphins’ thirtieth birthday by issuing a gift edition of the book illustrated by Ted Lewin. This cloth edition made a series of welcome corrections to Houghton Mifflin’s first edition; most of these corrects are inconsequential (commas, subjunctive verbs, etc.), but three are interesting and substantive.

Continue reading “Variants and Errors in Old Editions of Island of the Blue Dolphins


Who Was the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island?

by Sara L. Schwebel, editor of Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition

This guest post is published in conjunction with the airing of the documentary series West of the West: Tales from California’s Channel Islands, directed by Peter S. Seaman and Brent Sumner and produced by Sam Tyler; check here for your local listings.


When the producer, directors, and film crew pulled into the winding driveway of Stoneapple Farm in Julian, California, their first remark was, “Well, this is different.” For three years, the team had been filming West of the West, a sweeping documentary about the eight islands situated just beyond the California coastline—and the continental United States’ border. As you might expect when you’re producing a film set on the “Galapagos Islands of North America,” you have some pretty spectacular backdrops. And here they were, inland, in a tiny Gold Rush town.

It was Island of the Blue Dolphins, a children’s book, that brought them here.

The California Channel Islands are known for their spectacular vistas, pristine shorelines, and startling biodiversity. Located close to the mainland, they nonetheless feel a world apart. Intense conservation efforts help to keep it that way: five of the islands are protected as part of the Channel Islands National Park and a fifth is managed by the Nature Conservancy.

But West of the West isn’t telling a story of the islands’ flora and fauna. Instead, it is interested in the human history of the Channel Islands. And there is a lot of it. The island chain is the site of the first human habitation in North America, as many as thirteen thousand years ago.

Amidst this long history, one story has fascinated the public for centuries. It unfolds on the most remote of the islands, San Nicolas. About two hundred years ago, the Channel Islands attracted the attention of maritime fur hunters enraptured by the silky sheen of otter fur. Their drive for profit profoundly disrupted indigenous life on San Nicolas Island, and after a violent clash between hunters and Natives in 1814, the surviving Nicoleños were taken to the mainland by a Mexican ship, in 1835. But one woman was left behind.

For eighteen years.

René L. Vellanoweth at the mouth of the cave the Lone Woman is thought to have lived in, 2012. (Photograph by Steven J. Schwartz)

This Nicoleña became a news sensation, with journalists calling her a “female Crusoe” in newspapers printed across the nation and throughout the English-speaking world. Later, anthropologists would refer to her as the Lone Woman of San Nicolas Island. Today, this Lone Woman is best known as Karana, the protagonist of Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins.

Karana’s story was composed in Julian, a 7.8 square-mile Census Designated Place in San Diego County. Population: 1,500. In a quirky stone cottage equipped with a wood-burning stove and shelves upon shelves of California and western history books, the struggling writer Scott O’Dell (1898-1989) thought back to his childhood days in San Pedro, when he could look across the water and spy the Channel Islands. He had undoubtedly heard the tale of the Lone Woman as a boy growing up in and around Los Angeles: everyone had. Moreover, a famous account of the Lone Woman’s life—written by journalist Emma Hardacre, for Scribner’s Monthly—was republished in 1950, just a few years before O’Dell began to put pen to paper, producing one of the bestselling children’s books of our time.

West of the West’s film crew set up cameras in Stoneapple’s Great Room to capture the story of O’Dell and his wife Dorsa retreating to Julian in a desperate attempt to overcome Scott’s writer’s block. It was a last-ditch effort that worked spectacularly well when O’Dell chose the Lone Woman and San Nicolas Island as his subjects.

As I discovered in researching and writing Island of the Blue Dolphins: The Complete Reader’s Edition, the story of Scott O’Dell’s years at Stoneapple Farm have long been lost to researchers because soon after his book was published, Scott and his wife separated. Dorsa remained in the house—which contains an assortment of Scott’s books, literary awards, manuscript drafts, and ephemera—until she died in 2008. Today, Stoneapple Farm operates as a VRBO writers’ cottage, and anyone who stays there is treated to Julian, a town where everyone has a story to tell about Scott, Dorsa, and Island of the Blue Dolphins.


Scott O’Dell was the author of numerous books for children and adults. He received the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1972.

Sara L. Schwebel is Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina, author of Child-Sized History: Fictions of the Past in U.S. Classrooms, and editor of the Lone Woman and Last Indians digital archive.


Learning to See from Thoreau

by Richard Higgins, author of Thoreau and the Language of Trees

I once sat in an old barn to soak up the quiet before heading in the woods. A rusty iron hay rake hung from the rafters, and light poured through warped boards. One minute turned into three, then five. As I sat motionless, the swallows that scattered when I entered slowly returned. Soon dozens of them were pecking ever closer to my feet, oblivious to me. I was enjoying my sudden intimacy with nature when the devil whispered in my ear, “Hey Saint Francis, what about a photo?” My camera was next to me. I thought if I could just slide my hand out and drag it to me ever so slowly, the birds would be none the wiser. I moved a finger to start—and every single bird flew off as if I had yelled “OK everybody, say cheese!”

For much the same reason, I used to wonder if carrying a camera in the woods ruined the purpose of a walk. Was I out to experience the beauty of trees or to shoot them? Thoreau helped me shed that ambivalence.

We only truly see, he said, when we look. “The scarlet oak must, in a sense, be in your eye when you go forth,” he wrote in “Autumnal Tints.” “We cannot see anything until we are possessed with the idea of it, take it into our heads.” Even the hunter “must take very particular aim, and know what he is aiming at….So it is with him that shoots at beauty.” He may wait all day but won’t bag it “if he does not already know its seasons and haunts, and the color of its wing—if he has not dreamed of it.” When he has, “he flushes it at every step.”

Thoreau knew what he was aiming at and was always ready to see it. His eye was sharp, but, more important, his soul was able to appreciate beauty. That was the inner “film” that let him receive its impression. “There is just as much beauty visible to us in the landscape as we are prepared to appreciate—not a grain more.” Seeing a beautiful tree isn’t about capturing anything, but about wanting to see it and letting it in. Ansell Adams, who saw the world much like Thoreau did, agreed. You don’t take a photo of nature, he said. You make one with it.

I think that, over the years, taking a camera into the woods has actually increased my desire to see the miraculous things nature presents and made me more inclined to notice the expressions, character and beauty of trees.

One tree that I see might remind me of others I have known or photographed for this book—Big Guy, Doubletree, Hutchins Oak, Soldier Pine, Davis Elm or Shadow Tree. Or it might call to mind other trees I have seen in a certain light or in a certain stance, and make me hope to see something similar. I go off trails, down ravines and up hills because I never know what I will see—but I want to find out. In the woods right after a snow storm, I am sometimes so excited that I fairly race from one favorite haunt to another.

Seeing the possibility of a photograph in a particular tree or thinking about where to stand or how to frame it can now produce a second reaction in me. I pause and really look at it, take in its wonder. On those occasions, the camera in hand is telling my eye to be ready to see. If I’m lucky, I’ll carry that image in my mind.


Richard Higgins is a former longtime staff writer for the Boston Globe, the coauthor of Portfolio Life: The New Path to Work, Purpose, and Passion after 50, and the coeditor of Taking Faith Seriously. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Christian Century, and Smithsonian. He lives in Concord, Massachusetts.