Marisa Crawford on WEIRD SISTER
October of 2014 saw the launch of WEIRD SISTER, a website that "explores the intersections of feminism, literature and pop culture." I asked the founder of WEIRD SISTER (and good friend) Marisa Crawford a few questions about her experience curating and editing this space.
JT: What is your vision for WEIRD SISTER? Why did you start it?
Marisa:I really wanted there to be an explicitly feminist space online where writers and artists could engage in conversations about poetry and contemporary literature and other forms of art, along with pop culture and all the various ephemera of everyday life. I read a bunch of feminist blogs and magazines religiously (Feministing, Bitch, Crunk Feminist Collective, to name a few), and I’m always so inspired by the level of nuance and incisiveness that these venues bring to the topics they engage with, but many of these spaces don’t focus much on literature. I wanted there to be a space online that brings that same level of nuanced feminist perspective to literature and the literary world too, while letting in other elements of art, film, TV, and pop culture in its various forms. I’m so inspired by VIDA, Delirious Hem, and other pointedly feminist literary spaces, and I wanted to add on to the vital work that these organizations do to highlight women’s voices and experiences in literary communities. The VIDA Count has brought a lot of attention in recent years to the importance of representing women’s voices in equal numbers to men’s, and this year’s inaugural Women of Color Count highlights the disparities in representation of women of color in the literary landscape. I wanted to create an online venue that not only highlights the voices of women, people of color, LGBTQ writers, and other marginalized groups, but that also highlights specifically feminist work. I also think it’s really important to have archived online spaces where thoughtful, nuanced conversations about gender and multiculturalism can take place as an alternative to the rapid-fire, ephemeral conversations that often happen on social media.
JT: What is a "weird sister"? How does one identify as or become a weird sister?
Marisa: I don’t think of a weird sister as a set or limited identity so much as a name that has a lot of literary, glittery, magic, strange, dark, dazzling and otherworldly connotations. A weird sister can be a witch, it can be a feminist, it can be someone who feels a little out of place or a little extra-awesome in her family or her community or the world. I’ll plagiarize myself here—this is what I wrote about the name “weird sister” in the welcome letter when the site launched: “Shakespeare’s 'Weird Sisters' are witches, of course, and the name points to a specifically female-coded brand of black magic. It reminds us of the 90s goth girls and hippie chicks that we were or could have been. Of placing spells and chanting The Craft-style and reading tarot cards and devouring astrology books and staring into our mood rings and choosing to trust in something beyond logic, something dark and bright and otherworldly as central and important and of great value.”
JT: WEIRD SISTER (WS) is turning 1 year old in October. How do you plan to celebrate?
Marisa: I would love to celebrate our one-year anniversary with a print anthology featuring some of our most stand-out pieces from the year (though how could we possibly choose?). Maybe we’ll have a Halloween party (replete with Caolan Madden’s feminist Halloween costumes!).
JT: One of the things that most interests me about WS is how it publishes a variety of voices on a variety of topics-- I wonder how this impacts you as an editor. Can you discuss 1 or 2 pieces that, personally, either challenged your personal beliefs/ideals but that you still felt compelled to publish?
Marisa: Hmmmm. I feel so incredibly lucky to work with, and am just, like, in awe of, the amazing staff writers at WEIRD SISTER, and our guest contributors too. I’m so happy to have a space where the brilliant, incisive work of, say, Morgan Parker gets to hang out alongside the hilarious, energetic, whip-smart personal narratives of Juliana Delgado Lopera, or the beautiful, feminist, 90s-inspired artwork of Forsyth Harmon, or your powerful, gut-wrenching essays, JT. I could go on—can I just say awesome things about all the amazing WEIRD SISTER contributors please? I love all of these amazing writers and artists so much, and I deeply value their ideas and opinions and perspectives. Sometimes there are things published on WEIRD SISTER that I don’t necessarily personally 100% agree with, but I enjoy being challenged by work that, even though I might not completely agree with it, is carefully thought-out, artfully expressed, and rooted in feminism and intersectionality.
JT: What do you want to see more of on WS?
Marisa: When Becca (Klaver) and I started the blog, we were thinking a lot about two ideas: 1) work that connects “high” and “low” culture (I use those terms in extreme scare quotes while giving a middle finger to the arbiters of culture) in unexpected ways, through a feminist lens, and, 2) work that engages through a feminist perspective with conversations that are happening within contemporary poetry, literary and artistic communities. I think WEIRD SISTER has already been doing all of this, but there’s always room for even more: more people’s voices joining the conversation, more diversity, more feminisms, more mixtapes, more comics, more humor, more rants, more weird, bold connections between literature and pop culture, more ranges of opinions coming together in varied, respectful dialogue. I’m excited for all of it.
JT: How can poets/poetry communities or scenes support WEIRD SISTER—aside from reading and re-posting?
Marisa: They can make a donation, which will go toward paying our writers and maintaining our site. If you’re a feminist writer who’s passionate about the intersections of literature and pop culture, you can submit your work. And yes, just reading, and sharing, and commenting, and engaging in conversations online (and off) about our content that you find interesting!
Marisa Crawford is the author of the poetry collection The Haunted House (Switchback, 2010), and the chapbook 8th Grade Hippie Chic (Immaculate Disciples, 2013). Her writing has recently appeared in Hyperallergic, The Hairpin, Bitch, and The &NOW Awards 3: Best Innovative Writing (&NOW, 2015), and is forthcoming in Electric Gurlesque (Saturnalia, 2016). Marisa is founding editor of the feminist website WEIRD SISTER, and lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Jennifer Tamayo is a Colombian-born transnational artist and activist based in New York City. She earned a BA from the University of Chicago and an MFA in creative writing from Louisiana State University. She is the author of the collection of poems and art work, Red Missed Aches Read Missed Aches Red...