The Editor’s Plight: One Issue, Then Another and Another

The title is perhaps melodramatic—but publishing a quarterly periodical means that occasionally there is scrambling to pull together an issue. This is particularly true when the journal, like Sinister Wisdom, is an all-volunteer enterprise.

The summer issue of Sinister Wisdom, “Radical Muses,” is the result of some scrambling and some auspicious surprises. Two pieces arrived at the last moment; they fortuitously helped this issue become the Radical Muses that I envisioned for it—and, honestly, for all issues of Sinister Wisdom that I edit and publish.

At some point in late 2018 or early 2019, Yael Dekel called me from Israel. She and a group of women in Israel had translated poems of Pat Parker, and they were looking to secure the permissions for a printed edition of the book. We handled the business details of the conversation; then, I asked Yael if she might write something for Sinister Wisdom about reading and translating Parker into Hebrew. She did, and you’ll find her essay—and her tribute to her co-translator, who is now of blessed memory—at the end of this issue. 

Pat Parker is having a renaissance in the moment. Solange sampled part of Parker reading a poem for her new album When I Get Home, which explore Solange’s hometown of Houston, Texas—where she and Parker grew up in the same ward. Though Parker and Solange are a generation or two apart, the city of Houston shaped both of them in powerful ways.

The book Sister Love, collecting the letters between Parker and Audre Lorde, also continues to circulate in interesting circles of readers and writers and appreciators of these two women’s work, most recently making an appearance on the New York Public Library podcast.

These local engagements with Parker complement the international engagements, and remind us what a powerful voice Parker provided—not only to lesbian-feminists, but also to the world. 

The other piece that came across my desk late for this issue is an essay, now nearly a decade old, by one of the founders of Sinister Wisdom. Harriet Ellenberger (Desmoines) first wrote “Some Reflections on Lesbian Culture, Feminist Thought, Jazz and Love” on Valentine’s Day in 2002; it circulated modestly at the time, but seems particularly powerful and relevant today. I have reprinted it at the end of this issue, hoping that contemporary readers will find it meaningful and relevant.

In the midst of scrambling for this summer issue of Sinister Wisdom, I also cooked up a special summer surprise: a blank book. An intrepid group of interns and volunteers helped to create Notes for a Revolution, filled only with inspiring quotations—and with lots of space for women to do their own creative writing, list making and memory collection.

Notes for a Revolution is available to all for just $14 plus postage of $2.75. Just what you need for some languid days in the sunshine!


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.