2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Belladonna* mission to promote the work of women writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, impossible to define, unpredictable, and dangerous with language. Belladonna* has featured nearly 300 writers of wildly diverse backgrounds, writers who work in and between multiple forms, languages, and critical fields. As performance and as printed text, the work gathers over time and space, forming a conversation about the feminist avant-garde, what it is, and how it comes to be. Belladonna* is committed to building publication and literary community between women-identified and genderqueer writers who write off-center—poetry and prose that is political and critical, that is situational rather than plot-driven, that is inter-subjective or performative or witnessing rather than personally revelatory, that reaches across the boundaries and binaries of literary genre and artistic fields, and that questions the gender binary.
Belladonna* is a feminist avant-garde collective, founded in 1999 by Rachel Levitsky. Belladonna* started as a reading and salon series at Bluestocking’s Women’s Bookstore on New York City’s Lower East Side. In June 2000, in collaboration with Boog Literature, Belladonna* began to publish commemorative “chaplets” (defined as short chapbooks of immediate writing or work-in-progress) of the readers’ work. This series continues today and has reached well beyond #200.
In celebration of our ten year anniversary in 2008-2009, Belladonna* started producing beautiful multi-authored full-length volumes, beginning with The Elders Series, which highlights the continuity and transformation of the poetics, ideas, and concerns of feminist writers by staging conversation between some of our favorite writers and those who have inspired and influenced them. Soon after, Belladonna* expanded to publish single-author perfect-bound editions, including the Germinal Texts Series.
The organizational principle of the group is feminist in the third-wave feminist sense, allowing for creativity to take leaps and to meander, rather than following a top-down hierarchical structure. Instead of holding contests or having regular submission periods, we promote feminist literary community among those with a shared (and ever-evolving) poetics. For the most part we develop our reading series and publication list through affiliation and invitation. We work with poets with whom we are collectively in conversation; we look for new authors who are doing what we think is resonant and interventionist. In this manner the collective expands as new writers join our conversations, often volunteering to help with our projects. Anyone who feels aligned with what we are doing can participate, volunteer and contribute to what Belladonna* is becoming. Writers who are published by Belladonna often participate in the process of publishing their work and the work of others, and then become involved in the collective.
We collaborate with performance venues, academic institutions, arts and literary organizations, including Abrons Art Center, CUNY Graduate Center (where we co-sponsored the Adfempo conference), Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Art Library, Brooklyn Public Library, Dixon Place, the Institute for Arab and Islamic Art, McNally Jackson, Pioneer Works, Poet’s House, the Poetry Project, Printed Matter, Queens College, Spoonbill & Sugartown, Unnameable Books, and more. We have co-published with other small presses such as Litmus, Dusie, Futurepoem, and Ugly Duckling.
Board of Directors
Erica Hunt (President) | Melissa Levin (Secretary) | Emilie Clark | Jennifer Firestone | Mimi Gross | Judy Hussie-Taylor | Kyoo Lee | Cheena Marie Lo | Bill Mazza | Lila Zemborain
Diana Cage | Chia-Lun Chang | EC Maxe Crandall | Caroline Crumpacker | LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs | R. Erica Doyle | Marcella Durand | Jennifer Firestone | Tonya Foster | Ariel Goldberg | HR Hegnauer | Karla Kelsey | Krystal Languell | Jean Lee | Rachel Levitsky (founder) | James Loop | Bill Mazza | Poupeh Missaghi | Saretta Morgan | Akilah Oliver (in memoriam, 1961 – 2011) | Ana Paula | Nina Puro | Sarah Riggs | Emily Skillings | Asiya Wadud | Lindsay Willemain | Rachael Guynn Wilson | Lila Zemborain
Cara Benson | Mia Bruner | Ari Cameron | Jae Cornick | Muggs Fogarty | Jolene Gurevitch | Barbara Henning | Liat Kaplan | Jane Kennedy | Chelsea Klopp | Becca Liu | Ashley Mansi | Emma Lu Marshall | Katelyn Peterson | Alexis Pope | Kristin Prevallet | Ra Ruiz | Amber Short | Jen Stacey | Kylee Weiss | Audrey Whitesides | Jamila Wimberly | Anastasio Wrobel