Females take The show on the road

    Sometime in 1993, a curious scene unfolded outside San Francisco’s Coco Club on 8th Street. One woman was reportedly running down the street carrying a pig’s head, while another woman chased her close behind. The woman who had the pig’s head was trying to save it from further mutilation; the woman in pursuit had brought the head into the Coco Club earlier that night, along with a chainsaw and several trash bags, which she had taped to the walls. As people began to enter the club for the scheduled poetry open mic, one woman – an animal rights activist – saw the setup and, realizing that the pig’s head was headed for doom, stole it from the stage.

    Will Parson/Guardian

    Sister Spit: The Next Generation can trace its heritage back to these off-color beginnings. The reading, which features five gay female writers from all over the United States and Canada, is the newest iteration of the Sister Spit Ramblin’ Roadshow, which started in 1997. Sister Spit: The Next Generation performed in the Visual Arts Performance Space on April 13, joined by UCSD literature professors Eileen Myles and Ali Liebegott, who were part of the original show back in 1997.

    Back then, the group was formed out of necessity. According to Myles, the San Francisco poetry scene was dominated by men.

    “”There was a real boy’s scene in San Francisco,”” she said. “”The women didn’t really feel welcome.””

    So the women decided to have their own poetry open mic. The founding members soon discovered that there was a much larger audience than they expected, all waiting for just that kind of opportunity to express themselves. (The pig’s head was eventually returned to the stage, where it was chainsawed.)

    Soon, the group applied to perform at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. When it wasn’t accepted, the group’s road show was born.

    The original show traveled all over the country, from northern cities like Boston and Baltimore to Austin, Texas and New Orleans, and even to Las Vegas and Tucson, Ariz. The reception was good one day, bad the next – mostly unpredictable. The sleeping arrangements varied from squeezing into a Comfort Inn room to crashing at a “”spacious”” projects apartment offered by a fan.

    Soon, Sister Spit became well-known, serving as a launching board for other similar groups in the cities that the ladies had visited.

    “”It has operated like a magnet,”” Myles said. “”Every town that Sister Spit has been to, it has become a magnet for girls like them.””

    Myles, who Bust Magazine called the “”rock star of modern poetry,”” will perform with the new show over the next few months when she is not teaching at UCSD. For Myles, the show allowed her to see her audience face to face.

    “”I had connected with an audience I didn’t know existed,”” she said. “”I was writing the work I was writing since the ’70s, and often I didn’t know who I was writing for. When I connected to Sister Spit 20 years later, I was like, ‘This is who I was writing to.'””

    At the April 13 show, Myles read a poem from her book “”Sorry, Trees.”” The work is a quasi-memoir about Myles’ move to San Diego (including her memories of her dog and her experience in New York during the 9/11 attacks before the move). Liebegott, who will also travel with the new crew, read a section about petting deer from her recently released book, “”The IHOP Papers.””

    Myles, Liebegott and fellow literature professor Anna Joy Springer, who has also been involved with earlier shows, frequently commented on the strange blurring of the boundary between UCSD and Sister Spit. When asked to come up and share an old tour story, Springer responded that she had to be selective, given that several of the people in the room were her students. Later on, when Liebegott was midstory, she said, “”It just occurred to me that I work here.””

    The new Sister Spit lineup, which has evolved from the original focus on poetry, features memoirs, fiction narratives, poetry and visual aids in the form of a slide carousel. Cristy C. Road, a 23-year-old writer and illustrator from Miami, read some poetry while showing sketches of cityscapes and a caricature President George W. Bush, which coincided with the phrase “”sheepish murderer.””

    Tamara Llosa-Sandor then read a narrative about a trip to the Philippines, trying to rapidly learn Tagalog, and the importance of fruitcake.

    After that, Rhiannon Argo spoke of a seedy queer striptease joint. The night went on with much applause and laughter as Nicole J. Georges read about calling in to Dr. Laura to settle a dispute over her parentage, which began when she was told by a fortune teller that her real father was still alive. All this was accompanied by slides of animal portraits, one of Georges’ other skills, including one that compared Dr. Laura’s portrait to that of Fran Sinclair, the mother from the early-’90s show “”Dinosaurs.””

    Not all of the performances were meant to be funny or visually appeaing. Robin Akimbo’s poetry was read simply – with a mic in one hand and her scrawled notes in the other.

    Michelle Tea, co-founder of the original Sister Spit and the event’s emcee, broke up the readings with anecdotes about the show and advertisements for the merchandise collected at the side of the room – called the “”Sister Spit Mall.”” At one point, Tea brought up two shirts with similar logos but opposing colors.

    “”One for the more manly side of you,”” she said, holding up a brown shirt, “”and one for the less manly side of you.””

    The mall also had copies of the writers’ chapbooks and the anthology “”Baby, Remember My Name: New Queer Girl Writings,”” which features work by the Sister Spit crew.

    Tea also passed Liebegott’s hat around the room to collect money for gas, food and other necessities. The hat quickly filled with ones and fives (the show was free, so this impromptu method no doubt funds most of the crew’s costs).

    Sister Spit: The Next Generation performed at The Freakin’ Frog in Las Vegas on April 14, and will be heading east from there. Myles said she is happy to see such an important group on the road again.

    “”What’s good is that it’s a very distinct community of women,”” she said. “”It’s a liberating show, for women and men, to see a great array of different approaches to writing and living and art.””

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