The publisher of Ms. Bellamy's Pink Steam, she said, "is located in the Mission. They're a small, queer press. They've been around for a few years, and they're doing more porn and moving more toward literary-type stuff. They're actually going to be publishing a lot of people that I'm involved with. They're going to publish Kevin's Arctic Summer, that's been out of print. They're going to publish a newly edited version of Sam D'Allesandro's collected stories, edited by Kevin because we're his executor. They put out that anthology I Do, I Don't on gay marriage. They're getting a lot of attention because of that.
"I put Pink Steam together for them. I didn't have a book that I was shopping around, but they were interested in the book that I've been writing for ten years that isn't done. I didn't want to do some boring collection -- those books where people have their book reviews. I wanted a collection that actually held together the book. So I pulled the stuff together."
I asked about Kathy Acker's influence on Ms. Bellamy and other avant-garde writers.
"Well, work needs to be done to maintain her status. I'm friends with her executor. People are forgetting. We must have such a short memory. There's going to be an anthology of critical essays about her. She took sex seriously as a topic, you know. Not like Fear of Flying. She took sex as a serious topic, and she also brought sex into experimental writing, like gay men were doing. And she made herself a pop icon. Her personality had a lot to do with it. I have had a long relationship with her work, and I've grown to appreciate her more and more."
Ms. Bellamy, as a young student, with great interest, read Virginia Woolf. "True, I discovered Virginia Woolf when I was an undergraduate. She was considered a 'minor' author at the time. And then her stock, I think, was rising.
"I'm teaching this class at San Francisco State -- Developing the Novel. And we were looking at To the Lighthouse last night. They were amazed by it. Because it starts out -- the beginning isn't very interesting. But I think if you want to think about how to write about interiority, she's a good person to study.
"What was hard for women writing about sex is that in heterosexual culture the women are the object. So how does the object start speaking? So it requires an incredible psychological shift. So many younger women are doing it now, it's kind of exciting. But in the '80s when I was trying to do it, there wasn't a lot of it going on.
"I think the next book I'm writing has a lot of sex in it, but when I finish that, I'm interested in exploring other aspects of the female body. So I want to stay with the body, but I think other aspects."
"You write about the freedom that queer writers gave you."
"Are you wanting me to say something about that?"
"I'm hoping you will."
"It sort of was accidental in a way. I, when I first moved here, I came looking for my home, and I'd gotten involved with this street poet thing -- which wasn't a place for a young, insecure woman. Then I got involved with the Feminist Writers' Guild. A number of the women there were taking classes at San Francisco State with Kathleen Fraser. I took four classes with her at State. She suggested that I go into Bob Gluck's workshop. So that's when they had all that funding for the arts, and Small Press Traffic had free writing workshops.
"I continued to run a low-cost private writing workshop. Because I could always use some pocket change. But also I believe in having a place where people can come to perfect their craft outside the university system. Because MFA programs have taken over writing, and you get this synthesized version of writing.
"I'm kind of making my living off of it, but I'm deeply critical of it too. It would be nice to get in a situation where you could create an alternative, but it seems the structure is so set.
"I show all my stuff to Kevin. I've got this wonderful editor living with me. But anyway, I think what I got from being in Bob's workshop is that I was writing poetry because I was afraid of prose. I felt it was some kind of straitjacket. I could not see myself sustaining a regular story. And also, I think, from writing essays in college, which I might be good at, but I found them against my nature.
"So I was exposed to alternative forms of narrative and shown that I could do everything I wanted to do in poetry but do it in a narrative way. I was increasingly writing these long, serial poems and putting a lot of narrative into the poetry. So I was yearning to do that. I also got a lot of support for writing about sex. And also another important thing; I got a lot of support about pop culture. That pop culture was not this silly thing. It was valid subject matter.
"I think the kind of gay attitude toward pop culture -- that was a double-edge thing. No matter how playful people will be with it, there's always this acknowledgment that you're also deeply impacted by it. I hate that, when writers act like their subject matter is beneath them. I often felt sorry for the characters in some books. They need an advocate."
"Sometimes it seems to me," I offered, "that what we speak of as popular culture has become what Nature was in Wordsworth's day."
"I think that's true, and it's also very hard to separate this 'I' that you carry around. How can you separate it from the TV and movies and the media?"
We talked a bit about the Bay Area writing community.
Did Stanford professor and poet and critic Yvor Winters (1900--1968) leave his stamp on San Francisco poets?