BOAS began when Jean, Nicole, Lauren, Erin, and Stefani met in an MFA poetry workshop at San Francisco State University in the fall of 1997. Because the class and the work they did together was so inspiriting, at the end of the semester, someone proposed meeting to continue discussing poems. The women from the original workshop, along with Elise, Sarah, and Tsering, also MFA students from SFSU, began meeting in 1998. They went by the moniker GOS (Girls of Summer), as it was summer. When winter came, the name turned to WOW (Women of Winter). Finally, the group decided on BOAS (Bitches of All Seasons), which was coined by Mark Latiner, a Bay Area writer. For the last three years, the group has met on Sunday afternoons, sometimes once a month, sometimes more, sometimes less, and eaten good food, chatted, and discussed writing and the writer’s place in the world.
I’ve always been taken by publications produced by writers’ groups, and there are more than you might think that attempt turn out writers of serious anything, as opposed to basement groups that never manage to make it out of the basement, from Vancouver’s informal TADS and even earlier TISH, to the Burning Rock collective (Michael Winter, Lisa Moore, et al) producing their first anthology in 1994, Extremities: Fiction from the Burning Rock (Killick, 1994), and even our own irregular The Peter F. Yacht Club (originally based on the irregular TADS). Despite being a few years old, something that recently made its way into my mailbox is the anthology hinge, a BOAS anthology (Emeryville CA: Crack Press, 2002), that collects the work of Jean Lieske, Elise Ficarra, Stefani Barber, Lauren Schiffman, Sarah Rosenthal, Erin Wilson, Nicole Stefanko and Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, an anthology of their writing group, well before any of them had done any significant publishing; where have they gone since, you might ask? Perhaps you already know.
I think bombs she thinks birththe pulse of it
shape of city or sky
sun streaks reverberatesinternal timbresnare drum measuring
time or space
ideas manifest as edifice or informed voters
if air, air plane, but no airif sky without people, scorchedfrom a distance, sweating
how dare you not, she said, how dare you not? (Elise Ficarra, “from the dog letters”)
I’ve always been taken by publications such as these, and the annual headlight anthology out of Concordia University, say, for the fact of discovering certain authors before they apparently “come out of nowhere” with a first or second collection. Did Lauren Schiffman ever publish a book-length version of her “Mirror Mirror: The Cock Poems”? Did Elise Ficarra’s smart and lingual “the dog letters” appear either, or as well? Or Nicole Stefanko’s “Manta Ray,” that includes:
The waterside. A man smiles and waves you in. You walked into it pooling around your ankles. He’s handing them to you faster than you can take them from a bag submerged under water, snuffling and wet. His red shirt soaked through. He’s a chatterer, says it’s fast work—like throwing loose socks into the laundry. Turns out they’re bull puppies and you’ve arrived just in time. There must be a pocket of air in the ballooning sack: they’re not dead. Round brown eyes speckled with bubbled droplets, blinking and mewling. All these spotted pelts pulled from the pale, indifferent stream. All these dogs, more than you can carry. You don’t know who you are in this event only that he occupies two positions, villain and hero.
The murderer and I stand nearly nose to nose, grinning, an armful squirms between us.
This bed floats/ what petals spellCosmos, dahlias rageInfants carriedoff
Still, I wonder why none of the “working notes” by this group of poets (I’ve always been a fan of statements as well, even if just for the sake of the author forced to self-clarify) note the fact that all are working on seemingly book-length projects? Is the idea of the long poem and/or the book-length project simply taken for granted? How do individual poems, individual pieces, become books?
Admittedly, the only author I was previously aware from this collection is Tsering Wangmo Dhompa, from her magnificent first collection on, and leave you with part of her “working notes” that end her small section, writing:
We are also heart things. We are nerves and of desire. So our writing is of it. If we allow for it—that we should question its worthiness as a subject is another irony. That we should separate our words from our breathing. So in that sense, these began as tests to see how I inform the world around me, which begins with feeling, which then becomes words and the way I am informed by it. The signifier and its text coming from hourly, minutey things. I am never resolute but in knowing that there are few absolutes. But life we are living. What better place to begin there? Even as we “open” computers, “put on” glasses, and “take off” coats. And for the existence of desires and the heart activities that are always existing. Why not that too?