The Victory of sex and Metal

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

READ a powerful, incisive, penetrating review from THE DRIFTLESS AREA REVIEW



About Barbara Mor

Barbara Mor was born October 3, 1936, in San Diego, California. Her mother died when Mor was twelve. The young girl lived with her father and step-mother, leaving home immediately after high school. Attracted by the Beat Movement of the late 50s and early 60s, she lived and wrote in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Baja California, and Los Angeles before returning to San Diego to attend San Diego State University. In the late 60s Mor became involved with the Feminist Movement in San Diego. She taught poetry, gave readings and lectures, and helped compile local, limited-run poetry anthologies. Mor spent the mid-1970s in Taos, New Mexico, before moving to Albuquerque in 1979. During this period she published Bitter Root Rituals (WomanSpirit, 1975), Mother Tongue (Athena Press, 1977), and Winter Ditch (Second Porcupine Press, 1982), and began work on The Great Cosmic Mother (Harper & Row, 1987), widely considered among the great American feminist texts of the 20th century. Mor moved to Portland, Oregon, in the late 1990s, drawing on her experience in the Southwest to forge a prose style that is as innovative and demanding as it is compelling. The Blue Rental, a collection of these prose texts, was published by The Oliver Arts & Open Press in 2011. The Victory of sex and Metal (The Oliver Arts & Open Press, 2015), completed during the Spring of 2014, marked Mor’s return to poetry and her stark vision of the American Southwest. Barbara Mor died on January 24, 2015.