Starr Goode is a California-based writer and teacher and expert on all things Goddess-y! This week she spoke to me for "Writer to Writer".
JD: So you recently had a publishing success -- do tell us about it!
SG: Just this week, the 3 volume encyclopedia, Goddesses in World Culture,
was finally published; I have an essay in it, "Sheela na gig: Dark
Goddess of Europe." As it says on the back cover: this collection of
accessible essays relates the stories of individual goddesses from
around the world, exploring their roles in the cultures from which they
came, their histories and status today, and the controversies
surrounding them. My article considers the image of the Sheela na gigs,
stone carvings of nude supernatural females exposing themselves on
Medieval Catholic churches. They are powerful and radiate menace, and I
must say, I love them. But where did they come from? What are they doing
up on these churches? What essence makes the image endure over
millennia? I'm thrilled to be part of this groundbreaking work.
JD: What themes have you been obsessed with as a writer, over the years?
SG: I began writing about empowering women in the late 1960s when, with a group of women in Berkeley, we started the first underground feminist newspaper, "It Ain't Me Babe." A theme in my poetry and essays has been the return of the Great Mother, an energy long exiled in our Western patriarchal consciousness. But She's back now, out of necessity for our survival. We see a new reverence (which ancient people had) for mother earth. Another theme in my work is about having fun. I wrote a long essay "The Art of Living: Falstaff, the Fool, and Dino" which takes the archetype of the Fool and analyzes it through the literary character of Falstaff and a once living Fool, the comedian/singer Dean Martin. These highly intelligent Fools are free from the repressive constraints of society through their insistence on living with the spirit of play. They obtain a freedom through their wit. Because of its length, I had to break it up into 3 parts which have been published separately. But my dream is to see the essay published as a whole with lots of graphics.
JD: How do you juggle teaching and writing?
SG: Well, they do feed each other except when you have a mound of papers to grade. I empathize with my students' struggles with writing; we're all in the same soup. I've decided to quit telling them how hard writing is and take the more cheerful tack of, "It's a voyage of discovery."
If I'm on fire with some writing piece, if I have that kind of energy, I can juggle writing and teaching for a while. Much as I hate to say it, deadlines can help. I don't have to teach every day, and I do get months off in the summer and the winter—this is of immeasurable help.
JD: How do you think readers have changed over the last several decades?
SG: What a question! We certainly hear laments about ADD in our children perhaps caused by video games (or perhaps caused by the utter boringness of school) or that readers because of the speed of the Internet, the brevity of emails, and the oppressive amount of information instantly available to us, cannot concentrate anymore.
Call me a romantic, but I still hold the view that readers can concentrate on what they are interested in, in what they have affinity for. This question of attention span in readers has been around for a while. Almost two centuries ago, the poet William Wordsworth complained in a preface to one of his books that people can't read with sustained attention anymore because of being corrupted by all those racy German novels. Is a current symptom of this to be found in the popularity of Keeping Up with Kardasians?
Perhaps what readers are interested in has changed. Creative non-fiction has opened up as a genre of literature. To me, its roots go back to the essays of Montaigne. There is a wonderful new book about him, How to Live or A Life of Montaigne.
JD: What is it about the essay form that you find the most compelling ...and challenging?
SG: As in any writing, to speak from that inward center of authority. I like to make sentences and to range in my cultural references from highbrow to low, from impersonal to personal. I can't make up plot or characters so I'm stuck with my obsessions, that is, my attractions and repulsions. And best of all, what grabs me unexpectedly from the beyond.
What challenges me the most is to keep the eros in it—not become too dry and finger-wagging opinionated.
JD: Thanks so much, Starr! And for more on the craft of writing, please check out my book, Bang the Keys and my website www.bangthekeys.com. And until next week please let me know what are your most notable writerly attractions and repulsions?
Peace on earth out!