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Feminist Lit Takes Flight

UC San Diego Writer Invents Stories by Mixing the Sacred and Profane

  |   Associate Professor of Writing, Department of Literature

Blend world literature and culture and the University of California San Diego Department of Literature emerges. Add experimental prose, feminist ethics, graphic texts, Buddhism and punk rock and associate professor of writing, Anna Joy Springer, comes forth.

A singer/songwriter-turned-academic, Springer once led the punk band, “Blatz,”—a group that sprung from The 924 Gilman Street Project and Lookout! Records, along with Green Day. She even sang with The Gr'ups and Cypher in the Snow, and she toured with Sister Spit, a bold, spoken-word group of female writers. Her credits also include publications: “The Birdwisher,” (Birds of Lace Press, 2009), “The Vicious Red Relic, Love” (Jaded Ibis Press, 2011) and published excerpts from, “Thieves with Tiny Eyes.”

An artistic prose writer, Springer is known for creating “grotesques”—hybrid texts that mix the sacred and the profane to elicit intense reader experiences.

“I’m not here to lighten it up,” she said in an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That’s what literature is for—to explore the profundities of the human experience, the depths of grief and love and how difficult it is to be fully human with each other.”

Springer’s “The Vicious Red Relic, Love,” for example, is a series of connected stories and drawings about love and loss, and trauma and forgiveness. It is what American Book Review calls, “a trauma memoir of losing her bipolar lover to AIDS and, in so doing, creates a unique literary form, one that ignores the often fraught line between truth and fiction in pursuit of something more elusive."

According to Project Muse, Springer’s text criticizes the traditions of both memoir and fabulism while revealing the ways we use myth to control the chaos around us. Part training/survival guide and time machine, the story, set in 1990s San Francisco, mixes feminism, deviance, punk rock and Sumerian literature into a brew of post-Reagan/Bush neoliberalism and AIDs sorrow. It is what Lambda Literary, refers to as “a hauntingly important contribution to LGBTQ literature that chronicles a time and place in truly innovative ways…a marvel of contemporary queer literature.”

“The Birdwisher,” another example of Springer’s innovation, is a novella about the adventures of a gumshoe pigeon who tries to solve the mystery of the murderous mutilation of several birds. “Strange, grotesque, noir and rendered in gorgeous inventive prose,” according to GoodReads, the story opens with a young woman cutting herself with corroded scissors, followed by a bird that flies into her window and dies. The narrative then explores the events that led to the characters’ encounter at that moment.

“The very best life writing lives in uncertainty, within the raging heart of a great and terrible doubt,” Springer has been known to say.

Anna Joy Springer received her MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and truly loves teaching courses in experimental writing, graphic texts and postmodern feminist literatures at UC San Diego.