"A Writer First, A Woman After" --Katherine Mansfield

Honestly, I do not know what possessed me to attempt to tackle this topic, but here it is: there is no essential difference between male and female poets. In fact, I would bet dollars to doughnuts that in a blind taste test, it would be nearly impossible to accurately guess the gender of any given poet by the poem alone.*** The range of approaches and poetic concerns within each gender grouping are just too vast; in other words the category "women poets" is so broad as to be nearly meaningless.

 
The point I'm trying to make here is that we need to get past the culturally pervasive "battle of the sexes" mentality. The old Yin/Yang, Man/Woman construct is fundamentally flawed. Look around you; gender identity is a spectrum not a dichotomy. Yes, there are manly men just as there are girly-girls, but most of us fall somewhere in between. The great majority of us reside somewhere along a continuum between testosterone-dripping insufferably macho and some earth-mother-June-Cleaver-Marilyn-Monroe-mutant archetype. Some people of both sexes are closer to the feminine end of the scale, and some of both sexes closer to the masculine one, and some presumably fall smack dab in the middle. 
 
Publishing houses will continue putting out anthologies of women poets. Harris County Public Library has a good selection of them and it should. The redress of centuries of systematic exclusion, especially when it brings to light writers who were relegated to the shadows is a very good thing. Furthermore, there are topics which are and should be the exclusive purview of poets who are women. And certainly, there are and will be poets whose central concern--whose motivating theme--is the experience of womanhood and that is as valid as any other, but to pretend that all women poets write in that vein all the time is silly.
 
***Take the Quiz! I have created a ten question quiz. It is wholly unscientific and doesn't prove anything, one way or another. Take a shot and I will publish results in a future post--just aggregate data, no names, identifying marks, etc. Once you have taken the quiz and would like to know the poets and titles included, open the Gender Blender Quiz Key attachment at the bottom of the post.

Okay for all that. What is important here is that I get to provide links to some of my favorite poets in the HCPL collection who happen to be the owners of two x chromosomes.

A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now / edited by Aliki Barnstone and Willis BarnstoneCover Art: The Beauty of the Husband by Anne Carson
A Certain Attitude: Poems by Seven Texas Women / edited by Laura B. Kennelly
All of the Above / Dorothy Barresi [ebook]
Ash / Sharan Strange [ebook]
The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos / Anne Carson
Classical Women Poets / translated & introduced by Josephine Balmer.
The Collected Early Poems: 1950-1970 / Adrienne Rich.
The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 / Elizabeth Bishop 
The Complete Poems / Marianne MooreCover Art: The Dream of the Unified Field by Jorie Graham
The Complete Poetical Works / Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Connecting the Dots / Maxine Kumin
The Dream of the Unified Field / Jorie Graham
Elegy: Poems / Mary Jo Bang
Evening Train / Denise Levertov 
Half Way Down the Hall: New and Selected Poems / Rachel Hadas
If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho / translated by Anne Carson
Late Wife: Poems / Claudia Emerson
Lucifer at the Starlite / Kim AddonizioCover Art: Monologue of a Dog by Wislawa Szymborska
Monologue of a Dog: New Poems / Wislawa Szymborska
No More Masks! An Anthology of Twentieth Century American Women Poets / edited by Florence Howe
The Penguin Book of Women Poets / edited by Carol Cosman, et al.
Poems: New and Selected 1957-1997 / Wislawa Szymborska
Selected Poems / H. D. 
These Are Not Sweet Girls: Latin American Women Poets / edited by Marjorie Angosín
Versed / Rae Armantrout
Victorian Women Poets: A New Annotated Anthology / edited by Virginia Blain
The Wild Iris / Louise Glück.
The Works of Anne Bradstreet /

 
The opinions expressed above are mine and mine alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Harris County Public Library, Harris County, my supervisors and the person who cuts my paycheck.
Send hate mail, comments and suggestions for future posts to me via the comments link. Thanks again for reading.
 

 

 

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Gender Blender Quiz Key.pdf42.14 KB