Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Has Anyone Seen My Uterus?

An interview with the traveling poets of the Morrigan.

By Rebekah Gleaves

JUNE 26, 2000:  Nothing says poetry like an aimlessly meandering uterus, at least if you ask members of the Morrigan, an all-female performance poetry troupe.

Currently on its "Wandering Uterus" tour, the group takes its name and anatomical ties from the Morrigan of Celtic mythology fame.

According to the myth, the Morrigan was a Celtic goddess with the ability to both panic an entire army or to simply appear as a beautiful woman. Carrying the mythology thing a step further, the group named this tour after a belief in ancient Greek culture that a woman's hysterical fits of emotion could be blamed on a wandering and discontented uterus. (One can only imagine how the Greeks would explain bloating.)

The Morrigan is touring the country, spreading slam poetry, and, er, their uteruses into venues that are both familiar and unfamiliar with the genre. They will hit the road for six of this summer's hottest weeks, beginning in New York City and concluding in Dayton, Ohio, with stops most every other night in the cities in between.

"We looked at cities that had slam poetry venues," says Morrigan member Marty McConnell. "We have shows scheduled almost every night. There are two shows in Dallas, but mostly we'll be in a different city every other night."

McConnell along with the two other founding members, Andi Strickland and Heather Gawronski, are cramming themselves into a 1988 Ford van for this summer's trek. This is their second time out. Last summer's tour took the troupe and the van over 16,000 miles of American roads.

"I figure, if the van can survive, then I can too," says McConnell.

But surviving a summer spent living in a van with two other women seems a feat not for the meek or feeble. The Morrigan seem to recognize this fact, and this summer, like last, each member will chronicle her thoughts and experiences in an online journal found on the group's Web site (http://www.theMorrigan.com).

The site lists the group's mission as being to "wake the sleepers, stir the sitters, and speak what is not often spoken, or not spoken of often enough." If the poetry on the site is any indication, then "what is not spoken often enough" likely includes issues of particular interest to women and feminists.

We are the word made flesh
We are the sound gone bone -- on this stage we are
harlots, messiah, fallen
& risen, bleeding ecstasy
& revelation into the throats
of strangers,
but sleep alone
even in the grip of lovers
whose fury matches our own.
-- Marty McConnell

But the group's members insist that they are not solely feminist poets.

"We can't get away from feminism -- we all come from a feminist standpoint and there's a definite reason for that," says McConnell. "We have no problem with the word feminist, but mostly we just feel that it is really important for people to see a group of women together."

As the tour progresses the three founding members will rotate in and out with two alternate members, Celena Glenn and Yolanda K. Wilkinson, on varying dates. Like the members, the format for each show is subject to change.

"It will all be original work," says McConnell, "with mostly individual and some multi-voice pieces."

While the majority of the shows will feature performances at poetry slams and regular poetry readings, the group has scheduled some shows in venues that do not regularly feature poetry in an attempt to broaden the audience for performance poetry.

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