Friday, June 28, 2019

Thank you, Shebar, for getting this page back again. I will write more soon but here is my, our, dear Cello a few years ago. We said good-bye to him last week but like all who love and taste deeply of life, he will live. What times these are--50 years celebration of lesbian, queer, Pride in a city where Trump towers over all, in a country where yearnings for a better life drown in policed waters. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Words, Again

I have missed this little pocket of screen that some how feels it is just you and me, Joan as a writer in small places. Face book is the posting of my work, my projects, my sending on of calls to action and thank yous to all who live there. Here I am the the aging woman, the writer who never did another book but yet it feels as if I have never stopped writing. A 78 year old woman with yet another body mystery--a mass in my left lung that is not cancer, but a rare disease known as granulomatous inflammation--a word I cannot really pronounce. An autoimmune misreading, trying too hard to protect, it has created a hardness of cells that can be systemic but for now seems confined to my lung. The mysteries of the body misreading itself, a tenderness for its fallacies, when it errs on the side of protection. How human that all is--to create difficulties from too much vigilance.

I am still in Melbourne, still with Di, Cello still walks beside me, he and I slower, more crooked. We slant like Emily Dickinson's famous line, but I am afraid no truth seeps in. Other then the changing body, the changing abilities, the changing time one remains vertical. I am deep in helping to edit the Sinister Wisdom issue celebrating LHA's 45 years of existence along with wonderful LHA-ers: Red, Shawn, Morgan, Saskia, Deb, Maxine, Flavia. From 23,000 miles away, collaboration.
A Flame Robin, an Emblem of Passion, 2017, Anglesea, Australia

Like this pulsing heart of life, my heart, my head sometimes feels like bursting as I follow Trump's bellowing, the easy cruelties, the rush of money because Capitalism does not care who lives behind barbed wires or cocked guns-the overstatements of intent--I watch my NY Yankees, a daughter of the Bronx, I still am--and the the Boston Red Sox's sweat shirts assert "Do Damage"--not just simply win or do the best you can. The new Supreme Court Judge, a strange child man whose face pouts much like Trump's when he feels wrong done by, now a life time of power. Democrats demonized as the extreme left--we predicted this so many years ago when "liberal" became too scary for its progressive attachments--the center does not hold, it does not exist. But and the but is needed, we march, we get arrested, we write and create and vote and get others to vote and will never give up this resistance. 

I am very cold often and tired but books clothe me--my watercolor pencils take me into Cezanne's world, I miss my old friends and wish they were closer-- a kind of loneliness has been a companion my whole life, now intensified by this great distance from my historical home. I fool myself, this loneliness is in my bones.
A wonderful Visit with Morgan and Saskia, 2017

Thursday, March 8, 2018

My Australian Reading List--How I Learned about My New Home, Compiled in 2008


"You were born here. I come for the first
time in my life: a sort of pilgrimage
to find some relic, read an earlier page
than the known text..."

From "Another's Childhood," by Gwen Harwood, as Miriam Stone

On my first extended visit to Melbourne in 1998, I hunted my partner's book shelves to read all I could about my new geography. I have never stopped my search for  Australian texts that would help me read this land, these histories. Here are a few books, some old, some new, that have given me insight and  pleasure. [Given out at my first Brunswick Library talk about home and exile.] 

Armstrong, Diane. The Voyage of their Life: The Story of the SS Derna and its Passengers, 2001.
Astley, Thea. It's Raining in Mango, 1987.
Australian Gay and Lesbian Writing: An Anthology, ed. Robert Dessaix, 1993.
Australian Short Stories,  ed. Kerryn Goldsworthy, 1983.
Bail, Murray. Eucalyptus, 1998.
Cornelius, Patricia. My Sister Jill.
De Kretser, Michelle. The Hamilton Case, 2003; The Lost Dog, 2007.
Gardner, Helen. Monkey's Grip, 1977.
Grenville, Kate. The Secret River, 2005; Searching for the Secret River, 2006.
Growing Up Asian in Australia, ed. Alice Pung, 2008.
A Guide to Gay and Lesbian Writing in Australia, ed. Michael Hurley, 1993.
Harwood, Gwen. Collected Poems (1943-1995), 2003.
Hazard, Shirley. The Great Fire, 2003.
Hewitt, Dorothy. Everything I could find. Wild Card: An Autobiography-1923-1958;Collected Poems, 1995; The Chapel Perlious, a play, 1972; Bobbin Up, 1959; The Toucher, 1992;Neap Tide, 1999. Wrote an essay on Ms. Hewitt's work for the American The Women's Review of Books. Honored to have spoken to her on the phone.
Hughes, Robert. The Fateful Shore.
Langford, Ruby. Don't Take Your Love to Town, 1988.
Miller, Alex. Journey to the Stone Country, 2002.
Modjeska, Drusilla. Stravinsky's Lunch, 1999.
Morgan, Sally. My Place, 1987.
Moorhouse, Frank. Days of Wine and Rage, 1980.
Park, Ruth. The Harp in the South, 1948Aand all else I could find of hers.
Patterson, Banjo. Collected Poems.
Prichard, Katharine Susannah. Coonardoo, 1929; N'Goola and Other Stories, 1959.
Summers, Anne. Damned Whores and God's Police: The Colonization of Women in Australia, 1975.
Temple, Peter. The Broken Shore, 2005.
Tsolkas. Christos. Loaded,1994; Dead Europe, 2005.
White, Patrick. The Tree of Man, 1955. I can still hear the creaking wagon wheels of the opening paragraph.
Winton, Tim. Cloudstreet, 1991.
Wright, Alexis. Carpentaria, 2006. An epic writer, not only of Australia but of the world. Her language is the living hope of the oldest people speaking, waiting, for a moved white heart.
Wright, Judith. Collected Poems, 1994; Half a Life-Time, 1999.

And so I started my 20 year sojourn in this wide brown land.



Earning My Keep, Melbourne, 2003

Many thoughts set off by Megan Marshall's Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast.  How do you begin another life in a different geography, what is the meaning of traveling and how does one earn this second chance. And so many other reflections and sadness too. My desk being put in order because two old NY friends, Morgan and Saskia, are coming for a three week visit. All my tumbled papers must be given some kind of order. One fell to the floor.

                                                                                                                 November 4, 2003
Dear Peter,*
I just wanted you to have a more formal sense of what I have been doing during my honorary fellowship in addition to my writing and research. Before I begin my list, I want to thank you and every one in the English Department, Cultural Studies and Creative Writing Programs that have so warmly welcomed me.
1. Met with students approximately once a week to discuss their work.
2. Reading with Andrea Goldsmith and Lisa Davis, "Writing Live," at the Lesbian and Gay Cultural Festival, Adelaide, November 2003.
3. Department slide show and talk, "Where Do Stories Come From: The Creation of the Lesbian Herstory Archives in New York City," March 26, 2003.
4. Involved students in a public reading, "Personal Dispatches: Writers Confront War," Builders Arms Hotel, Melbourne, march 16, 2003.
5.Held small seminar in reading a text from my book, Persistent Desire, February.
6. Spoke at premiere showing in Australia of "Hand on the Pulse: The Life and Times of Joan Nestle," by Joyce Warshow, Sydney, February; Melbourne, ACMI Cinema, March 19th; Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand, May 30-31.
7. Reading, "Beyond the Primary," Builders Arms Hotel, Melbourne, April.
8. Talk and slide show, "Images from the Margins," Victorian College of the Arts, Honors Seminar, May 14.
9. Co-facilitated Gender Workshop for the Gay and Lesbian Switchboard, May 6.
10. Met with book club reading A Fragile Union, June 4.
11.Gave an hour lecture in Prof. Stiben's Gender, Sex and Power class, University of Melbourne, October 15.
12. Keynote speaker at the 25th anniversary dinner for the Australian Lesbian and  Gay Archives, October 25
13.Wrote essay, "Wars and Thinking" to be published in the American Journal of Women's History, spring, 2004.

I hope to have the opportunity to continue my contributions to the educational community at the University next year. Happy holidays,
                                                                              Joan Nestle

* Peter is my partner's brother who is a distinguished professor in the Univ. of Melbourne's English Department. No pay is involved in being an honorary fellow but my appointment did help me win the right to stay in Australia for six months, to be with Di. I was awed by the appointment and felt very much I had to deserve my time here. The reading against war came about after Barbara Bush banned the reading of American poets Walt Whitman, Emily Dickenson, Muriel Ruckeyeser and others in a Washington D.C. literary event because she considered their work too anti-American.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Anna's Touch

She came to the door. a small loaf of her oven baked bread in her work worn hand.

Monday, February 12, 2018

In my hand...

I know. I have been away for along time. Using face book to tell the story of my days and heart's doings, of my love and loved friends. but I am back. Getting my papers together for their voyage back to LHA, working on two boxes of my writing self. I come across 6 yellowing index cards " from 1963. My first woman lover, the first woman I loved, not always the same thing, is dying of ovarian cancer, so young, so wanting to live. I wrote these in the shortest form I knew of, haiku, but more, because the pain was too deep for more.
                 1--Reductions
The illness of my young friend
Makes me a dry pod
In an autumn field.

Her death snaps me.

                2
The poet slept with song
And sucked her swollen breast
The poet walked with night
And stared (not finished)

                 3
Winter tiredness
Oceans heavy with grey
A silent gull
Carries my strength away.

               4
The human body
falls into disrepair
The soul takes up residence
between a sunrise and a tear


My dear dear Carol, all these years I have carried your image with me, the photo of you golden against a blue sky, with the words you wrote to me, in that small, tentative script--"To Joan, who make me feel big enough for all." All these years I have felt your lips on mine.