Today has been yet another laurel in the wreath of my life spent in the sunshine smelling roses and honeysuckle with my strawberry girl grandma. This morning I helped her shop at Waitrose; made sure to put the sugar snaps on top of the tins and the mint leaves above all else. Then we drove down to Morden Park in her car Freddie.
There was a bookshop there, and I did damage! YAY ALWAYS SPEND MONEY ON BOOKS IF ANYTHING AT ALL!!!! I brought a novel by Eurydice about the loss of her sexuality in Manhattan and how she must reclaim it; a book by a native American woman of poems and stories about her Arizona planes and heart aches; and finally, the Penguin Book of Women Poets.
Reading the Penguin introduction, something inside me twisted a pale knot of shame to know some women poets loathe to be called a ‘poetess’, and refuse to be put in all-female anthologies due to fears of being over-romanticized into fragile dilettantes.
Yes- I totally understand the frustration and complications of trying to reach the truth of emotion and feeling in poetry without anxieties of being labelled as cliched, love-lorn and over-sentimental. Let alone actually trying to get people to read the actual poems themselves, and not my ego without getting fraught up in generalizations of gender- that all woman poets tackling the erotic are somewhat too sluttish to prudish men whose dicks are as uninspiring as their grey pencils; or women writing of war as being purely fantastical- for, how could a women know anger and pain the same as man with a nation’s blood in his hands and ready to press the nuclear button?..
NEWS FLASH!!!! THE FEMININE DOES TOO!!! THE ONLY DIFFERENCE (in my opinion) IS THAT FEMMES ARE TAUGHT TO EMBRACE AND ACCEPT THE CONCEPT OF FORGIVENESS AFTER HURT A LOT MORE THAN THOSE ALIGNING WITH MASCULINITY ARE!!!!!
I have no qualms being called a poetess- i fucking love that beautiful word; it’s “ess” a kind of flowing robe of flowers or claret silk to its blunt, yet essential prefix. If people want to reduce the soul of a poem into merely human attributes and labels, then I shall let them do so. But, the life span of poetry is so much stronger, so much more mutable and deep than one single author’s gender identity could ever contain, be them poet OR poetess.
I know all my views are coming from the ‘luxury’ of my 21st century western and liberal education- but no one can lie, gender bias in all sectors, not just the arts still dominantly prevails :((((
ANYWAYS!!!!! Today’s poem is from the penguin anthology. I just felt such a tender entwining of moth in my rib cage that the writings of women, from across the globe and still centuries ago could reach out to me now; with iphone fuckboys replacing gallant knights, and words inked on blanched paper, not papyrus xoxoxox
What She Said to her Girl-Friend
On beaches washed by seas
older than the earth,
in groves filled with bird-cries,
on the banks shaded by a punnai
clustered with flowers,
when we made love
my eyes saw him
and my ears heard him;
my arms grow beautiful
in the coupling
and grow lean
as they come away.
What shall I make of this?
translated from Tamil by A.K Ramanujan