With the recent death of Barbara Mor (1936-2015), the world lost a uniquely principled, learned, and powerful feminist thinker, writer, historian, observer—and poet. Mor was—and is—best known to readers as the author of last century’s extraordinary (1987) landmark classic, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth. Mor, indeed, was gifted, encyclopedic, and ground-breaking as a scholar, but she was also a poet—and one of the very first order. In 1911, The Oliver Arts & Open Press published her earlier collection, The Blue Rental. And now comes the last of her works, the extraordinary and mesmerizing long poem, The Victory of sex & Metal.
And what is this poem, exactly, or what is it like? In its passion, it’s like Howl, in its grit and power, it’s like Paterson, and in both its learnedness and in its unflinching gaze as it looks out at the end-time of American civilization and culture, it’s like The Wasteland.
As you will learn in Edgar Garcia’s revealing Foreword to this edition of the poem, James Dean said to Barbara Mor when she was all of nineteen, “It’s important to me that you write.” Six days after that, James Dean met his death; and now, after another fifty-nine years, we are without the writer herself, but we do still have her work. And what work it is. A passage from The Victory of sex & Metal shows the poem’s intensity, range, complexity, and intellectual breadth:
women in particular the decorative sex if human hair long female hair drifts from their antennae like flags or labia spread open on chrome grills a slick trophy or confetti of skin drifting down on us as dust we thought it flattery as girls so manufacturd and cool we cannot think cannot speak face in a mirror construct of oil it cannot care as the ship naglfar compressd of dead metallic fingernails once clawd guitars as erotic flesh and riding the gorgeous back of the sea it takes her down
memorys body as
all the beasts convergd in catastrophic metals is a stuffd mouth all knowledge shutup beaten down inside is hard rock absoluteTime nothing speaks until earth speaks or mantic utters spoils of war&warriors speak their engines of awful groins humming or purring or rumbling and slow haunches more beautiful than women their animal eyes seek nothing but are terrible lights some voluspa growl or howl of extinct things or death orgasm that is not me
this is history is history of my body
CLICK HERE to re-read this passage with font, spacing, spelling, and capitalization precisely as the poet wrote and intended them
CLICK HERE for “Some Thoughts on the Significance of Barbara Mor’s The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth”
CLICK HERE for Barbara Mor on Writing Seriously in the World of Today