FLORENCE HOWE

activist, writer, and founder of the Feminist Press




Florence in Words

The Walkers

July 7, 2015

Last month I asked, “What is it I need to recover my ability to be independent, cheerful, and mobile?” Yes, I talked about this as I was preparing for bed, alone in my apartment, in one of those conversations with myself that I’ve written about in a poem published here. And I hit on the idea of “walkers,” individuals who might have a free hour or two each week to walk with me in exchange for my helping them perhaps with writing poems or prose. When I told Ellen Bass about this idea, she moved swiftly to put it into action. She wrote to four poets in New York and told them what I needed, and pronto, there was Scott Korb, professor at NYU, sending me Melissa Sakow, new M.A. who had studied prose writing with him. We’ve had several walks and talks, and we’ve been working on a piece about Melissa’s undergraduate college.

The second person to call me came from Ellen’s magnificent mailing list, though Briana Rose hasn’t seen Ellen in years, and has stopped writing. Briana has, instead, become a dance movement teacher and practitioner, who has recently moved from the Bay Area to New York, quite close to where I live. We walked once to the postoffice and the bank and talked in part about Ellen, in part about differences between dance and movement.

The third person, Elyse Hilton, who works as a lawyer, has recently been Ellen’s student at Pacifica where she is enrolled in an M.A. Writing program. And though we have walked only once, we have already exchanged poems, and I’ve discovered that not only is Elyse a fine poet, she is also a fine critic who demonstrated her talent by critiquing the poem I printed here as part of a blog. I am going to respond to Elyse’s critique by printing a revised version in my next blog and giving her credit for it.

There is a fourth “walker,” unavailable until fall. And in the fall, Ellen will be in New York for a recording session at the New Yorker. (Some of you may know that six of Ellen’s poems have appeared there.) What I’d like to do is plan a party for the walkers and sponsors—Scott and Ellen.

And yes, I feel as though I’ve made progress. To wit: Yesterday, I took a taxi to the JCC, the gym I haven’t been to since the knee surgery in mid-November 2013. And I went to the swimming pool and swam for half an hour, not as vigorously as I once did, but I kept my legs and arms moving, sometimes taking turns. I mean that occasionally I walked the length of the pool; occasionally I used my arms vigorously and my legs laconically. Always, I kept moving, and when I was through, I wasn’t too tired to take myself to lunch in the place I used to frequent where I could have my favorite grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and feel almost myself again.

Yes, it’s the day after, and I am resting. On Wednesday, I am going to a meeting and I am also going to the pool again. And yes, at least one walker on the weekend.

Select Works

"Everyone concerned about global feminism, women’s contributions, and humanity’s future will be enhanced and enchanted by A Life in Motion.”—Blanche Wiesen Cook, author of Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume I and Volume II
Lecture delivered by Florence Howe on January 8, 2011, at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention
“It is impossible to imagine women’s studies without Florence Howe. Myths of Coeducation shows her vision and courage, insight and dauntlessness.”–Catharine R. Stimpson, Rutgers University
A revised and expanded edition of the classic groundbreaking anthology of 20th-century American women's poetry, representing more than 100 poets from Amy Lowell to Anne Sexton to Rita Dove.

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