Every week, I’ll be doing a mini feature on my site (& blasting it on social media) on activists, artists, and educators who are doing important things in the world. Like Levar Burton says, the only thing these folks have in common is that I like them, and I hope you do too.
Today’s feature is Lisa Bowden.
Lisa is truly a force to be reckoned with. She writes, she edits, she advocates, she parents, she shape-shifts, she creates community. She not only believes in the fierce power of art, she also actively works everyday to make space for the most powerful art to exist and thrive. She truly lives the things she believes in, and is not only an idol of mine, but also someone I’m lucky to call a friend, mentor, and colleague.
Where can we find your work?
My organizationally creative / curatorial, publishing-activism and editing work is found at korepress.org.
I have a some creative writing work that might still be floating around out there at backroomlive.wordpress.com, Spiralorb.net, and thedrunkenboat.com.
What themes or ideas do you feel your work engages with?
Well, intersectional, revelatory, liberatory, racial & gender justice, youth empowerment, imagining freedom for all and speaking the truth.
What were you like as a child?
Fiercely loyal, brooding, introspective, athletic, hungry, sensual, voracious (in reading and other habits), lonely, creative, curious, quiet, furious, unguided, justice-seeking, dissatisfied, a burden carrier for others.
Can you remember the first piece of art– performance, literary, fine, street–you saw/read that wowed you?
Oh, man, hmm. As a kid, it was through the radio, museums or theater, so, probably Michael Jackson / the Jackson Five (I’ll Be There)–it fit my sense of longing and loneliness within a big family and as an emotional outcast in a pretty conservative community.
What work do you do in the world that you feel proud of?
Bringing folks together who might not otherwise sit in the same room and listen together, and crack open. Most recently, the Letters to the Future: Black Women / Radical Writing project, which we are just beginning to bring into the world in publicly creative ways. The most important work I’ve done in 25 years, and, there’s been a lot of important work done at Kore Press.
What’s keeping you embodied right now?
My 6 year old’s love and needs! She is open-faced and capaciously-hearted. She grows and changes every day, and I sometimes miss it. She stuns me back into my skin.
Tell us a story.
I’ve been thinking about some of the characteristics of myself as a child that I relayed to you, and realize I am still a lot of those things, for better or for worse. The fierceness is useful but also can be misplaced or misused at not so appropriate times. Choose your battles. It’s a good phrase, esp as a mother and as a nonprofit leader and activist. Sometimes the bitch card just needs to stay in the back pocket until it’s really, truly needed. Otherwise, there’s cleaning up to do after the fact, and there’s the lost opportunity to shift karma, or for grace. I am still learning.
One can be easily triggered into a trigger happy MO in these times, which are stressful to say the least. Plus, life. Plus life with a kid and mega-consuming job and and and.
I started Kore Press during my first Saturn return when I divorced my then future X-Husband and starting dating women—I was just tired of reading and listening to straight white men and their scholarship and opinions and writing, honestly.
When I was in high school I always stood up for other teens, esp other girls who were getting an unfair ration from another teen. I jumped on a guys back at a party to break up a fight (I felt sorry for the little guy bc the other dorks were poking at his emotional low that night, bc unmanly). I checked a super perky cheerleader girl who was over gloating about how unbelievably happy and in love her parents were as a response to another girl’s sharing of being sad about the hard time her parents were having. There’s a photo of me on the beach at sunrise on the first day of my senior year with champagne and a box of Dunken Donuts, in front of the sea wall, flipping off the camera. So, that kind of fury has mostly composted into a more productive, graceful expressions, but I really need to write for myself in order for that to keep happening.
It’s an ongoing challenge.
Lisa Bowden, Publisher and Co-Founder, is the editor of Autumnal: A Collection of Elegies, co-editor of Powder: Writing by Women in Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq, and co-adapter and director of Coming in Hot (a play based on Powder). She has developed Kore’s 25-years long list of titles and artists, and award-winning community programming as a Publisher, literary activist, artist, editor, and intersectional feminist culture worker. She is the 2018 University of Arizona English Dept Alumni of the Year, a recipient of the Maryann Campau Fellowship for poetry from the University of Arizona Poetry Center, and a Woman on the Move Award from the YWCA. A poet who has worked with an improvisational ensemble of dancers, writers, and musicians, Lisa studied English and Philosophy at the University of Arizona and in London. She lives in Tucson with her partner Eve and daughter Djuna. Her poetry can be found at backroomlive.wordpress.com, Spiralorb.net, and thedrunkenboat.com.