Recently there have been flames and responses to events occurring on the Book Thug reading tour of Ottawa and Kingston. On Stuart Ross's Small Press List Serve, subscribers were provided with an open letter posted by Maggie Helwig on behalf of a number of writers. Many of you have been asking me what has been going on and I would rather not add fuel to the fire with my own inappropriate and only partial knowledge. Yet because I feel strongly about the subject of sexism, something that a few of the writers in question have been accused of, I felt it was necessary to write some kind of comment. If you haven't seen the Open Letter and are not subscribed to either the Small Press or Lexiconjury list on which it appeared, you can find it here on Gregory Bett's blog: http://funnomad.blogspot.com/
Here's my own two cents for what they're worth:
I am against sexism, but find that it is a very loaded term and would be very careful before labelling anyone with it. While I was at the Ottawa poetry reading in question, I saw nothing that I would label as sexist happening and I was awake and sober for the entire reading, present for most of it. The reading was very unusual and I found it entertaining and provocative.
While my sympathies are with Ms. Rawlings, (the person who has apparently been defamed), who I don't know personally, but have had the pleasure of hearing read a few times, I suggest that the items referred to in Ms. Helwig's open letter should be addressed by the parties involved. If I were someone being accused of something, I would rather my name be used, so that I could address my accusors.
In conflict resolution, people are brought together to talk about the issues. The Internet is a poor method for conflict resolution. My advice to all parties involved is to sit together over a few drinks, or perhaps tea, a less volatile libation, and have a chat about what went on. From an outsider's persepective, it seems that things have been bubbling in the Toronto literary community for a while now, getting it out in the open is a healthy step forward, but signing e-mail messages which accuse and convey innuendo and take sides, no, that isn't healthy.
Amanda (who is at the moment happy to be in Ottawa, where things literary are less volatile)