Saturday, August 08, 2009

thoughts on some thoughts on women's poetry

The Kings are Boring: Some Thoughts on Women's Poetry

I've been mulling over this essay this morning, but can't help but feel like perhaps the author just isn't reading the right books, and is missing out on something rather important by not reading her contemporaries. I agree everyone should read as much across genres/genders/generations as much as one can, but her view of female poetry seems severly limited. That bloodlessness she found could easily be remedied by taking a look around and finding more interesting, daring, and innovative women poets.

While I don't really write reviews, and by nature, think taste in poetry is an altogether subjective thing, I guess I do understand, at least in outside real life, that particularly female pressure be "nice." The idea that maybe tearing down the work of other female poets is somehow a chink in the wall of what we've sought to build. That we are somehow subverting sisterhood by tearing each other part even in the name of critical standards. But then again, that's hardly a reason not to express our opinions on what works or does not work, whether or not the author and I have the same chromosomes.

This however, sort of irks me:

If Glück is right, then to write as a woman is to exile oneself to poetry purgatory.

I've never seen feminine experience as some sort of "other" one writes toward, given that 50% of women poets are writing...well.. as women. How can we write as anything else? And why is the female experience looked at as something necessarily subversive rather than just a frame of reference that happens to vary from the traditionally male. And how can we possibly assume that something written by a woman with a female frame of reference is necessarily only be written for women? How does, as Gluck says, writing as a women poet exile one to purgatory anymore than writing from some other frame of identity--race, nationality, class, dayjob??

Certainly, I don't want to be a poet only women read, and I don't want to read poetry only about the experience of "being a woman" -- whatever that means beyond a bunch of clichés about the Madonna/whore dichotomy, the male gaze, or childbirth."

I have to admit this represents a frustratingly narrow view of the subject line of women's poetry. I can also say that maybe only one of the books dancing girl press has published in the last year has actually dealt with any of these topics and yet I would say 60% are dealing with female experiences, or are "shudder* feminist by their nature. Even the other 40% are, whatever their subject, by simply being written by women, are as well. I continually find it interesting that at least 65 percent of the people who purchase dancing girl titles are men, and we typically have more male subscribers than female any given year.

I doubt any of our authors set out to write feminist, or women-oriented texts, but even so, in the interest of being an example of women's letters, they turn out that way. I think it's impossible to erase, or get rid of that frame of reference nor do I think it's quite so neccessarily desirable to attempt it, even for Virginia Woolf (who couldn't quite wipe away those female handprints as much as she tried.. .)

More on this:
at Bloody Ice Cream


Stephanie Goehring said...

I continually find it interesting that at least 65 percent of the people who purchase dancing girl titles are men, and we typically have more male subscribers than female any given year.

Wow. That's fascinating.

jeannine said...

I rolled my eyes at the way the young writer of that article used "Feminist" as if it were a bad word. Fan-frakin-tastic.

It actually made me angry to read this, because I was not shown any women writers until graduate school and was so excited to read women's poetry - about, you know, all kinds of stuff, not just "the male gaze" or "childbirth" or whatever, but including things like that.

I also find that many folks that write to me about my book are guys. That doesn't shock me, but it is interesting.

Bloody Ice Cream said...

Ha. I just blogged about this too. I also came to the conclusion that she probably just hasn't read enough of those "younger and more experimental poets."

Ross Brighton said...

Jeannine -
I second everything you say.
probably 75% of the stuff I read is written by women, or homosexual men - ie. non-"white male normative" kind of thing. And that's not a conscious decision, it just happens; that's the writing that interests me.

Talia said...

I think all of this is interesting because I'm not very good at putting poets or poetics into classifications and am always astoudned at all the writing and jabbering that goes on about such things. However, my own writing tends to slide into, "women" publications. Certainly it can't be because I'm a woman, but there's gotta be something there.

And I really love the poetry of the author of said article, yet I think she slides right into it as well.

kerri ní dochartaigh said...

awesome post. i really enjoyed reading this.