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.
Belladonna* promotes the work of women and feminist writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, impossible to define, unpredictable, and dangerous with language. Belladonna* is committed to publishing and building literary community among women-identified and LGBTQIA+ authors who write off-center, producing work that is political and critical; situational rather than plot-driven; inter-subjective, performative, or witnessing rather than personally revelatory; work that reaches across the boundaries and binaries of literary genre and artistic fields, and that questions the gender binary.
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.