More Sinister, More Wise

Nine is a magical number. In Greek mythology, there were nine muses; cats have nine lives; there are nine circles of hell in Dante’s Inferno.

2019 also marks the beginning of my ninth year editing and publishing Sinister Wisdom.

I took on the project of editing Sinister Wisdom as a labor of love, beginning with the fall 2010 issue, Sinister Wisdom 81: Lesbian Poetry—When? And Now! At that time, I did not understand fully what being an editor for a periodical entailed. What I understood was that I loved Sinister Wisdom, and I wanted the journal to continue to publish and thrive.

A few years later, when Susan Levinkind, now of blessed memory, could no longer do the administrative work of the journal, I took that work over becoming both editor and publisher of Sinister Wisdom

I have now published 32 issues of Sinister Wisdom, inching up to a total of a third of all issues published. When I look back on the published issues, which I can see easily from desk on a special shelf in my office, I am proud—extraordinarily proud—of what I have accomplished with the journal and with an array of guest editors, volunteers and dedicated dykes. I enjoy publishing Sinister Wisdom; it is one of the great pleasures in my life.

But nine years since this odyssey began, I still am not sure I fully understand the breadth and depth of the work of being an editor and publisher of a quarterly periodical.

In the past six months, more people have been writing to me about the journal—its contents, the quality of its contents, the substance of its contents. Lesbians agree with particular pieces and writers, and they disagree with other pieces and writers, and they all talk about it. Passionately. This observation will surprise no one who has been around lesbian communities for a while: Lesbians have a lot of opinions, and they are happy to share them!

It is a delight to hear from readers of and subscribers to the journal. In addition to the private conversations that people have with me on email and through snail mail, there are lively conversations on our Sinister Wisdom Facebook page.

The discussions that are unfolding feel like a new development in my stewardship of the journal. Perhaps more women are tuning into our work? Perhaps the next incarnation of passionate and intense lesbian literary and political activism is brewing? I hope so! I hope Sinister Wisdom will be an important part of the mix.

Our most recent issue, Sinister Wisdom 112: Moon & Cormorant, brings together fantastic writing from lesbians around the globe. In these pages are some poems by two of my favorite poets—Marilyn Hacker and Minnie Bruce Pratt, long-time friends of Sinister Wisdom—as well as work by new writers who excite and energize me.

The issue also includes a special tribute to Michelle Cliff, who edited Sinister Wisdom and brought her literary expertise and business acumen to the project for a few years in the early 1980s and died in 2016. I am honored to reprint one of her influential essays alongside a few tributes to her and her work.

After nine years of publishing Sinister Wisdom, I remain engaged and committed to the work of the journal, particularly as we march to our 50th anniversary in 2026. Am I more wise? Of that, I am unclear. But I do believe that after nine years, I am more sinister!


Julie R. Enszer is a scholar and poet. She's currently the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. Julie's research has appeared or is forthcoming in Southern CulturesJournal of Lesbian StudiesAmerican PeriodicalsWSQFrontiers and other journals; she is the author of the poetry collections AvowedLilith’s DemonsSisterhood and Handmade Love and the editor of The Complete Works of Pat Parker and Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry.