The Sound of One Fork

My first book of poetry, The Sound of One Fork, came out of the women’s liberation and lesbian/gay liberation movements of the 1970s. I had written poetry in college, and had stopped—when I had married a poet. Like so many other women of my generation, I married the person I wanted to be. But in graduate school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, I got to know feminists and lesbians involved in early women’s liberation organizing. I started to do short book reviews for a local movement publication, the Female Liberation Newsletter. And then I began to write poetry again when I fell in love with another woman, in 1975. I returned to poetry not because I had "become a lesbian"—but because I had returned to my own body after years of alienation. To be a poet, whose raw material is the sensual details of life, I had to be fully alive in my own flesh. In 1979 I became part of the Feminary collective in Durham, North Carolina; we were a group of anti-racist, anti-imperialist Southern lesbians. Others in the editorial collective, during the time I was a member, were Susan Ballinger, Eleanor Holland, Helen Langa, Deborah Giddens, Raymina Y. Mays, Mab Segrest, Cris South, and Aida Wakil.

A direct product of the 1970s women's liberation movement, Feminary was published by a women's collective in Durham and Chapel Hill. Started as a local newsletter (Female Liberation Newsletter) in 1969, by the late 1970s the publication had evolved into a quarterly "feminist journal for the South emphasizing lesbian visions." Its content was largely literary and the journal enjoyed regional and national readership. Members of the editorial collective include North Carolinians Minnie Bruce Pratt, Mab Segrest, and Cris South. In 1985 the journal was passed on to a feminist collective on the West Coast.

Inspired by the national Women-in-Print Movement, members of our collective learned all aspects of book production, from editing to page design and layout to burning text into the metal plates required by our old printing press, from the actual printing to hand-collating, stapling, and trimming the magazines with huge clumsy equipment that we borrowed from Lollipop Power, a feminist children’s press in nearby Carrboro.

(For more on the Women-in-Print Movement, see Kate Adams’ article, "Built Out of Books: Lesbian Energy and Feminist Ideology in Alternative Publishing," in Gay and Lesbian Literature Since World War II: History and Memory, ed. Sonya L. Jones (The Haworth Press).

And some of us, because we had those skills, and were also writers, began to make our own books. In 1981 I published The Sound of One Fork. I did all the production on the book except for the illustrations by local artist Sue Sneddon, the printing by Feminary collective member Cris South, and the typography conversion of my typed manuscript. I did have wonderful help, of course. My favorite memory from making that book is how my two sons, then about eleven and twelve, stood with me in line at a counter, collating and stapling pages; then we took turns swinging the giant arm of the guillotine-like trimmer.

As I traveled around the country doing readings, I took The Sound of One Fork with me and sold thousands of copies. It is now out-of-print. If you have a copy, hang onto it—it’s a collector’s item!

Selections from The Sound of One Fork.
More Selections from The Sound of One Fork are in The Dirt She Ate.
And online in audio at: