Margaret Randall’s generation yielded up plenty of revolutionary writers, a veritable plethora of wild-eyed subversives loading their free verse and prosaic monologues with anti-authoritarian invectives. But where many are radical on the page, few actually imbue their lives with those portents of rebellion beyond the sphere of literary pontification. “Revolution is not something fixed in ideology,” the young Abbie Hoffman said, “nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit.”
For Margaret Randall, revolution, whether inward or outward, is a perpetual process and one deeply embedded in both her spirit and her poetics. For much of her life she was active on the physical fronts of social change, first in the student movement in Mexico, then Castro’s Cuba, followed by the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Nicaragua. Not content with singular and restricted change, hers was a fight for a revolution within revolution, seeking the liberation of women within the masculinist socialist framework. In a review of her work, To Change the World: My Years in Cuba, Mickey Ellinger and Jody Sokolower surmised the following: “Margaret Randall has always been too much of a feminist for the socialists and too much of a socialist for the feminists. She is one of the foremost oral historians of recent revolutionary history and, more specifically, of the history of women in revolutions.”
Such uncompromising zeal led to many socio-anthropological gems such as Cuban Women Now, When I look into the Mirror and See You, Hunger’s Table, Sandino’s Daughters, Our Voices/ Our Lives, and Risking a Somersault in the Air. But the convictions of this true revolutionary also led to many hardships, including the now famous 1984 debacle when she was served with deportation papers while trying to gain re-entry into the United States, a battle she finally won five years later. By 1990, Randall began to see some recognition for her stand when awarded the Hellman/Hammett grant for writers victimized by political repression. This was followed by the PEN New Mexico’s Dorothy Doyle Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing and Human Rights Activism in 2004. Much of her activism is also celebrated in the Cinema Guild documentary, The Unapologetic Life of Margaret Randall.
The story of the feminist social activist, impressive as it is, is only a partial one for there is much more to tell about this amazing artist. Margaret Randall is also an award winning photographer, skilled essayist, and visionary poet. Dancing with the Doe, This is About Incest, Where they Left you for Dead, Narrative of Power, Into Another Time, Stones Witness, Their Backs to the Sea, First Laugh, My Town, and As if the Empty Chair activate inner revolutions to rail against the displacement of indigenous peoples, the abuse of children, environmental destruction, familial breakdown, mass media control, cultural memory erasure, and the repression of alternate lifestyles.
Skylight Press is honoured and proud to publish Margaret Randall’s new collection of poems, Something’s Wrong with the Cornfields. In Margaret’s own words: “I think of these as my ‘impossible poems,’ poems made from the battered language they are leaving us with, the torn and devastated language, the words twisted to mean the opposite of what they have always meant… turning language back on itself, as if going home…”