Sunday, March 18, 2007

Women's Medical Drawings & Poetry by Leslie Adrienne Miller in KC

From the New Letters Events Page for Tuesday, March 20,
Award-winning poet Leslie Adrienne Miller reads from her newest collection, The Resurrection Trade, which explores explores the marriage of science and poetry. Miller will read in the University of Kansas History and Philosophy of Medicine Luncheon Seminar Series at the Clendening History of Medicine Library and Museum (3901 Rainbow Blvd., Robinson Building, First Floor, University of Kansas Medical Center campus, Kansas City, Kan. / 913-588-7243). Accompanying the reading will be a slideshow of antique medical images of the female anatomy. Lunch will be provided and the event is free and open to the public. RSVP at

Leslie is a professor at St. Thomas in St. Paul. She has an MFA from the U. of Iowa and a Ph.D. from the Univ. of Houston.

I saw Leslie read from this book a few weeks ago, and she has original, provocative images that suggest the historic and ongoing medical misinformation about women's lives. The medical drawings are a cultural cartography, which she interposes within her own textual frame.

In this March 20 reading she will show slides with the poems. If you can make this reading, it is really worth the effort. In Atlanta, where I saw her read, her books sold out before I could buy one. She read in Kansas City about 4 years ago for the Writers Place readings at the Johnson County library, where she read from Eat Quite Everyting You See. This is a poet to watch. Her work is solid, and her career is progressing. She has important commentary on the gendered experience of culture. I predict you'll see her name in even higher circles of Poetry Paradise.

And if you think women's issues are stale, I found a hatchet job on Miller as I was working on this blog by a male reviewer that reminds me, almost word-for-word, of ones I saw in the 70s about women's wiriting.

Here is a poem reprinted from Poetry Daily:

Wandering Uterus

Leonardo believed that semen came down

from the brain through a channel in the spine.

And that female lactation held its kick off
in the uterus. Not as bad as Hippocrates,

who thought the womb wandered the ruddy
crags of a woman's body, wreaking a havoc

whenever it lodged, shoving aside
more sensible organs like the heart.

All manner of moral failings, snits,
and panics were thus explained, the wayward

organ floating like Cleopatra's barge
down the murky canal of any appendage

or tying up at the bog of the throat.
One can't help but imagine a little halved

walnut of a boat like that in Leonardo's
drawing, the curled meat of the fetus

tucked inside, harboring near a naughty eye
or rebellious ear that never can hear

what a man might mean when he says yes
or always. It's all still beautifully true

what these good scientists alleged: the brain
is as good a place as any for the manufacture

of evanescence, and why not allow
that the round and sturdy skiff of the uterus

may float and flaunt its special appetite for novelty,
even if we dub it dumb, lined with tentacles,

many-chambered, and errant as the proverbial knight
seeking out adventure, but loyal to one queen.

And I'm posting my photo of Leslie, copyright Denise Low.