Poetry, Mysticism, and Feminism

Poetry, Mysticism, and Feminism from the nave to th’ chops, an interview with Barbara Mor by Charles Cantalupo, Spectacular Diseases, 1995, ISBN 0 946904 82 0 c/o Paul Green 83(b) London Road, Peterborough, Cambs., PE2 9BS, England or from BullHead Books, 2205 Moore Street, Ashland KY 41101, price: $5.00.


Writing this little essa is a conflict of interest since I am the North American distributor of this book for Spectacular Disease, but it is not much of a conflict since there is probably not much interest. But there should be. Barbara Mor’s Great Cosmic Mother, published in 1987 by HarperCollins, temporarily cracked the hegemony the Established Order has constructed to defend itself from serious challenges such as those made by Mor’s writing. Mor’s GCM distinguished itself from the flood of Goddess books that washed their way into book stores in the late eighties. Mor’s book was not a white-wash of the political and social realities that marked the other goddess books.

The Great Cosmic Mother is a political book like few others. It is radical, goes to the root of political oppression. Since Mor is a poet, she goes also to the root of the oppression we tolerate in our literature. Here is one sample, of hundreds, of how The GCM makes the past contemporary, forces us to re-examine all that we would otherwise see as natural. She points to the Gilgamesh Epic, nearly 4,000 years old, the founding model for Western literature, and shows it for what it was and the consequences for us all:  "This new individuality, mocking, arrogantly alienated ego of Gilgamesh, established in defiance of the Old Religion of the Goddess and the earth, becomes in Western religious and secular history the ego of man” (p. 246).  If the political writers, the feminists, New Age goddess worshipers refuse to face up to the power of the language of this book, the poets must not be silent. I know of no other book of the last several years that places on us such great demands that we as poets and writers must read it so passionately and to which we need passionately respond.

And yet Mor has been silenced, or nearly so. In spite of a 1991 2nd edition, put out reluctantly by a once fine press that is now the intellectual toy of Rupert Murdoch, Mor’s critique is seldom heard. The support from the academic feminists has withered behind the current PC orthodoxy, and the small presses seem to be oblivious to Mor’s poetry. If you know Barbara Mor’s poetry (poems recently published in Sulfur and BullHead) or prose, you should be hungry for this interview conducted by Charles Cantalupo. Mor recounts her relationship with publishers, specifically Ms magazine, with academic feminists, with US society in general. She gives us a glimpse into her life on the streets as a homeless person, her life as a mother and how that informs her poetry, her life as a poet, our life as poetry readers. If she is so good, why hasn’t Mor’s work been more available? Find out why by reading this interview conducted by Charles Cantalupo with Barbara Mor; it is like listening in on two excellent contemporary poets talk candidly about things that matter to them and should matter to us all.