Published on September 20th, 2012 | by Elizabeth Coleman0
Review of Sister Spit: Writing, Rants & Reminiscence from the Road
“If my crappy punk band could go on tour, why couldn’t a bunch of poets?” queries award-winning author Michelle Tea in her introduction to Sister Spit: Writings, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road. And so Sister Spit, a traveling group of feminist and queer writers, was born.
Writings, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road is the first imprint of the new partnership between City Lights Publishers and Sister Spit, and is an anthology collection of poetry, fiction, art and personal narrative from the writers who have been featured in the Sister Spit tour over the last 15 years. Contributors include Ali Leibegott, MariNaomi, Beth Lisick, and Eileen Myles. The anthology is comprised of travelogues from the tours, as well as the pieces they shared with the audience, giving the reader a taste of the true Sister Spit spirit.
Indeed, the anthology is a roller-coaster of a ride. I couldn’t help but admire how far Sister Spit has come. In the introduction, Michelle Tea chronicles the early days of the tour: writers crammed in a barely-running, often over-heating cargo van with no seats, driving from town to town with no place to stay at the end of the night and relying on audience members to put them up in often undesirable circumstances. (“Another time Sister Spit performers fell asleep on a stranger’s futon only to be woken up at six in the morning by a couple of skinheads who’d come to repossess their sleeping furniture.”) Nowadays, the writers participating in the tour actually receive a stipend for the month, enough to pay for a rental van and hotel room.
As a whole, the collection is honest, funny and, at times, unabashedly vulgar and raw. Many of the pieces candidly sprinkle in substance abuse and sexual encounters (“Straddling one or the other, I thought, huh, so when the last of bit of my flesh chars in the crematorium, I will have been a woman who helped a mediocre man live out a classic scenario from Penthouse Forum,” says Beth Lisick in her selection from “Yokohama Threeway”). While sex, drugs and booze are common threads in many writers’ work, I had the sense that these gals could go head-to-head with likes of Bukowski. Ironically, Michelle Tea mentions that she started Sister Spit because all other open-mics had a wild west saloon vibe and were frequented by “bros,” guys who would “place their beer cans at the altar of Charles Bukowski” and who “ripped off their shirts and hollered their poems in homage to Henry Rollins.” But the assertive, dominant, unapologetic spirit that pervades the anthology makes me think that the women of Sister Spit are closer to these wild “bros” than they think; for even the most vulgar stories seemed sugar coated, as though a darker, more debaucherous side was intentionally left out of the anthology.
Despite this, however, the anthology certainly does a fabulous job highlighting the humorous nature of the group and their ability to laugh at ridiculous situations. One story in particular that stood out to me in its unabashed humor is Kat Marie Yoas’ “Training for Goddesses,” a personal account of her attempts at learning to be a professional dominatrix in a Pro-Domme class. I literally laughed out loud at her descriptions of trust exercises with her “Jeff,” the name used for willing “slaves,” where each of the mistresses in the class had to tease their respective Jeff’s nipples while maintaining eye contact.
“I reached my very deliberate hands towards his chest,” writes Yoas. “I raised an eyebrow. I went in for the kill. I missed. I missed Jeff’s nipples. I missed them by a lot. But, as a Priestess, a Pro, I didn’t look away. I maintained eye contact. I studied his look of surprise and unexpected pain as I rifled around his chest blindly. Like a raccoon in a trash can.”
I can only imagine the laughs this story would garner at one of the live Sister Spit performances.
Woven into the humor are genuinely beautiful excerpts of writing and honest, soul-bearing narratives. One of the more touching pieces is Christy C. Road’s “Where is My Soul?” in which she struggles with queer identity issues.
“I think this was the first time that being in the closet to my family didn’t feel isolating and cowardly, but cultural and human,” Road writes.
The anthology’s sincere moments deftly intertwined with raunchy humor took me on an emotional ride and left me with the feeling that they had just shared something highly personal and important. Ultimately, Sister Spit: Writings, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road is a genuine, honest and funny collection of stories. It captures the provocative, brazen and high-energy nature of Sister Spit, though it reads like a personal journal. Like its authors, each piece has the ability to stand on its own, but read in the context of the other stories, paints a humorous and beautiful picture of the revolutionary group that Sister Spit has created.
Summary: Ultimately, Sister Spit: Writings, Rants and Reminiscence from the Road is a genuine, honest, and funny collection of stories.