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« Notes on the Birth of My Daughter (& Poetry) [by Sandra Simonds] | Main | Shouldn't The Sonnet? [by Sandra Simonds] »

August 14, 2012


I loved listening in on this discussion. So many thoughts popping up, in response to these ideas...

One comment about commenting (in a comment on a blog, no less!)....I would say that as a whole, blog comments have been declining recently (in the last 6 months). I notice myself commenting less, although I still read plenty of individual posts on blogs.

One reason is Twitter/FB/etc. If a friend (or "friend) has shared an article, I tend to want to interact with the person who has shared that piece (as opposed to the original author of the piece). This isn't always true, but more and more, the culture of sharing and resharing has influenced me (and us).

Also, because I can connect with bloggers through Twitter or FB, that is what I will usually do (Twitter is my preferred method--it lets you have short, sometimes meaningful exchanges in a public setting).

Thank you to all of the poets for sharing their thoughts.

Thank you for this discussion.

I am reminded of a Arts Council meeting I went to years ago. In attendence were mostly men. They talked all the time, often interrupting others. Before the meeting ended, the director asked for input from those who had not yet spoken - all women - who then spoke up. I asked the director about her strategy of asking the quiet ones to speak. The director, with a degree in Women's Leadership, explained that women often wait for an opening, such as a pause in the conversation, which differs from men's more interruptive style.

Love. More, please.

What a pleasure to read this conversation among women whose opinions matter to me. I'm happy to read the talk about physical beauty and aging. As a former hair poet, I spent an embarrassing amount of time worrying about crossing over. Going gray helps. Why not be honest? So does the sense that (if we're lucky) we spend far more time menopausal than we do being beautiful-and-worried-about-the-nature-of-the-attention.

I've wondered about the dearth of women who write criticism and hope that it's partly due to demographics that are not yet in place. There's a generation of well educated literary women who are now raising children and who simply don't have the time/energy at this point to wear that hat. I feel confident that, ten or fifteen years hence, we'll be noticing that shift. And our literature will be the better for it.

I am a poet who has never had the confidence to write a single poetry review—this after almost two decades spent writing film and fiction/nonfiction reviews, as well as ghostwriting a nonfiction book and helping edit three literary magazines and one alternative weekly. I've written music reviews and profiled every conceivable stripe of artist. But never have I been able to say what I think about a book of contemporary poetry.

A long time ago, as an undergrad at a women's college, I took a literature class from a famous poet. I noticed that in almost every class, he would ask a question, I would formulate an answer mentally but convince myself that it was too banal or simplistic to be uttered aloud, and then one of the visiting male students would answer the question in the same way, and be praised for his response. I told myself: You must speak what you are thinking. But I did not.

I am currently working on my third graduate degree in poetry and to this day, whatever kind of response to a book of poetry I find myself having, I attribute it to my ignorance.

This is all very interesting, and I have no personal solution. I suppose I will die without one. Primarily I am glad that there are women poetry critics, and I read your books with admiration and gratitude. I apologize for not helping.

Is it possible that the focus on a fixed measure of gender identity might actually put up a barrier to the writing of criticism? I mean it's a sort of actuarial, statistical thing. It might also get in the way of responding to poems as POEMS. So this is potentially a double barrier to the production of criticism - & sort of a double bind here (since you frame the topic as "why aren't there more..."

Just trying to be my usual comment-box adversarial dastardlty male persona...


If she had been doing them at the time we were talking about all this, I would have pointed to K. Lorraine Graham's blog reviews. But we had this conversation several weeks ago. Anyway, here they are:

I also like to interact with my friends who share articles etc on Twitter. Sometimes the interaction includes the original author, but usually never does.

A similar situation the National Poetry Foundation's conference in Maine that I attended four years ago. Great conference but I lamented the fact that the conversations were dominated by men. (Also, seemed that there were wayyyy more men than women). Hope that changed this year. I really want to attend the next one (4 years from now) partially to see if this dynamic has at all changed.

Thanks! Looking forward to reading with you in the fall.

Awesome poet too. Everyone, check out Lorraine's poetry too.


I agree that there's a time issue with women who are raising children. (baby is crying right now in fact. Do I finish writing this reply or do I respond here?) All of these little choices pile up on a daily basis. Adrienne Rich is so good on this subject. Criticism takes such a sustained effort in terms of time (at least for me) that it's much easier to just not do it. Poetry, I can write much more quickly.

I know what you mean, to some extent. I feel very nervous every time I push the "publish" button on here. I think it gets easier the more you do it though. Maybe? Also, trying not to obsess over the idea of failure. Like what you say doesn't need to be perfect? I think that this way of thinking takes practice. I definitely need to work on it. Thanks for your honesty.

Would you like the opportunity to do so? I will read your review and offer comments. It's a muscle, like any other writerly muscle: it gets better when flexed. No mystery to it.

I think Shana used a telling word, "protected." It seems women need a room... a welcoming space of their own that is protected for voicing up. It was this absence that got so many women off the EPC list onto a separate one.

JSA Lowe, I've been in the situation you describe and have had to practice volume. Seems that we all need to take responsiblity in recognizing communication differences and look for a way to bridge the gaps.

Thanks for this blog topic and all those voicing up.

Does anyone really care what Ron Silliman thinks?

Of course. Ron's contributions to poetry and thinking about poetry have been invaluable.

What a way to pen down the feelings!

Poetry always creates an impeccable magic on its readers.

I loved the conversation between ladies...

She's an author who possesses great courage to go against all odds! She's not even thinking the boomerang of all this poetry making. Anyway, she is still a woman of great courage!

There are and will always be great critics, male or female. Consider Louise Bogan. Lee Upton. As for Ron Silliman, he is a silly man.

Your article is the best one I have ever memorized. It is even better than Macbeth's "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tromorrow" speech.

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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