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Gender & Poetry (Part 1): ‘Why Don’t More Women Do Blog-Oriented Writing?’

By Craig Santos Perez

Blogging, friends, is boring. We must not blog so.
After all, the screen flashes, the great internet yearns,
we ourselves type and yearn,
and moreover Kent Johnson told me
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means there is no

Avant Garde.’ I conclude now there is no
Avant Garde, because I am heavy bored.

*

i hope everyone had an unboring weekend! below you will find my first of two posts on Gender & Poetry. i look forward to your engaging comments and will continue part 2 of this topic on wednesday.

*

one of my favorite unboring woman bloggers–jessica smith–wrote a recent post called “Women in Poetry (Again)“. She claims:

First of all, most of the great poets writing today are women. I am not entirely sure why this is, but I think it is partly because although there is something to be said for experimentation and poetry as an art of using words for things other than self-expression, the work that resonates with me both says things and a new way and has something new to say. […]

Perhaps because women were so long subjected to anonymity, a female experience of the world is still novel. Perhaps because women are still oppressed, the way they think and express themselves is still radical. (Note: these are cultural, not essential differences. Many men are also oppressed, especially if we get into issues of race and class, and indeed it seems to be these men whose words strike me as worth reading.) … This is all to say to the self-effacing women: you may not be the best poet who ever lived, but demographically, the odds are in your favor that you have something to say, so please speak up.

if you read her whole post, she is telling women poets to speak up because she still has a hard time getting work for her women-centered publishing venture, Foursquare (which is a wonderful project):

I do still have problems getting work out of female poets and artists, who despite their obvious talents and needs to express themselves are still caught up in a society that tells them to erase themselves and their work, or deliver it with a kind of rhetorical curtsy.

questions: do you agree that most of the great writers today are women? do you think women have better odds to be great writers because of their past/current anonymity & oppression?

*

Also, Smith links to an article titled: “Do Women Need Self-Promotion Training?”. Even though Smith has been a brilliant self-promoter when her book was first published, her answer to the question only raises more questions:

The answer may or may not be yes. For either cultural or essential reasons, I am not sure which, women’s self-promotion will probably be different from men’s, but I am not sure what it will look like. Step One is just to have confidence in your work and reflect on why you may be shy about sending your poetry out into the world, and do try to send it out so that eager readers like me have something to do.

questions: do you think women’s self-promotion in poetry differs from men’s self-promotion? what do you do to self-promote your work? are certain kinds of self-promotion gendered in identifiable ways?

*

i have many opinions about this–agreements & disagreements–which i will share in the comment field during our conversation. thanks!

*

Comments (116)

  • On January 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    Question set a:Interesting. I’m not sure if pain/oppression is a necessary path to great poetry, but I think there could be something in Smith’s view. As to the likelihood of most of the great poets today being women, well. I think that might be some tricky demographics to work out, but it might well be that women are socially positioned to write more poetry in some way. I can’t believe that quality of work is gender-related, though. That would be strange and frightening (although I did like Oryx & Crake). I do think that some of the best living writers are women, though, and the lesser access women writers have in general to everything from education to market perhaps lends credence to Smith’s general theory (i.e. oppression brings out the best). I also think, though, that really great writers speak the dream that dreams in the abstract sea of all our minds and lives, and cannot stop it, whatever their sex. Doris Lessing speaks the dream.

    Set b: I am totally unqualified to answer that question, as I have never promoted my own work nor studied the work or method of any other single poet (i just read stuff i come across and like – most of my money and time has gone to…other things). I am VERY much looking forward to hearing other people’s responses on that, though.

    Thanks for a very unboring post, Craig.

    PG

  • On January 25, 2010 at 2:45 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    having grown up in a mostly athletic blue collar fraternity house atmosphere, crazy as this is going to sound, i came of age believing that the creation of any art, especially the writing of poetry, is for sissies.

    in other words, real men don’t write poetry, which, in my mind, clearly makes it easier, in this day and age, to be a woman producing poetry, especially when women, for the most part, are not pressured by society to support their families–even though, of course, many do.

    because of my upbringing, i truly believe it’s much easier for a woman to commit herself to a life of art involving very little income and stability without having to worry about some sort of social stigma. a stay-at-home mother can be expected to write poetry in her spare time, while a stay-at-home father feels funny just venturing out to the grocery store during the day.

    it’s also psychologically easier for women to be nurses, librarians, and secretaries. however, just because there are jobs and activities that are viewed and supported by the main steam as gender specific, does not mean that a person of a certain gender will somehow do the job better than the opposite gender.

    i think it follows then, that there is no general correlation to oppression and greatness. was shakespeare and company oppressed?

    furthemore, for every oppressed or depressed writer you name, i could name another fully healthy conqueror of literature. also, who still mentions a measure of greatness when referring to art? seems a bit old-fashioned, no?

    i can prove that seinfeld is great, but i’m sure somebody else could prove that he sucks, which is what makes criticism so irrelevant to the true production and basic enjoyment of primary art sources.

    ms smith is obviously reaching out to potential women writers to join her in her gender specific project, which i find mildly offensive, but easy enough to ignore.

  • On January 25, 2010 at 2:58 pm Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    I always feel ashamed, in my blog (not this one, my other one — see, it feels wrong even to write the name of that other blog!), if I directly mention a publication, or a book that’s come out. “Shame may be fatal.” I feel better mentioning a chapbook project than I do talking about a perfect-bound collection. Is this gender or Englishness? Thank you, Craig, for bringing up such a horribly uncomfortable subject!

  • On January 25, 2010 at 3:07 pm Matt wrote:

    “ms smith is obviously reaching out to potential women writers to join her in her gender specific project, which i find mildly offensive, but easy enough to ignore.”

    jeez louise are you kidding me? what the hell is “offensive” about it? start your own magazine of all male writers if you want. who’s stopping you? do you imagine someone is being harmed in some way? get real.

  • On January 25, 2010 at 3:19 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    matt, i find these gender specific projects mildly offensive, not entirely “offensive.” if you are going to quote me, please do it correctly.

    also, sounds to me like ms smith is having a hard time getting women to participate in her gender specific project. perhaps now would be a good time to invite all comers and not go around making ridiculously provocative pronouncements about women and greatness as poets.

  • On January 25, 2010 at 3:28 pm Joseph Hutchison wrote:

    I do think that the strongest (I don’t know about “greatest”) American poets under forty are women. Male poets are weaker for the same reason that they pee on the rim: they mostly don’t have to clean up their own mess. But seriously, women are writing better and I don’t know why, and I don’t care why, and furthermore wouldn’t believe any explanation put forward for it.

    As for self-promotion, I promote myself by posting my brilliant thoughts in comment streams.

  • On January 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm Anji Reyner wrote:

    Foursquare sounds like a fun project. Thanks for mentioning it here.

  • On January 25, 2010 at 5:48 pm T.R. Hummer wrote:

    Assumptions abound. I find the category “great poet” beside the point. What IS that? And why think that way? Auden said “it’s not a horse race,” and that sounds right to me. There are many worth poets writing–male, female, and other. That makes me happy.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:14 am csperez wrote:

    hey anji, foursquare is an amazingly beautiful project. i own 4 issues and cherish each one.

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:19 am csperez wrote:

    @ joseph: i agree–who needs ‘greatest’–that most of the most interesting poets writing today are women. i mean, just look at the list of finalists for the NBCC. check out this article from poets and writers “Women Writers Dominate NBCC Awards Shortlists”: http://www.pw.org/content/women_writers_dominate_nbcc_awards_shortlists.

    TMI, but i began peeing sitting down and i already feel like my poetry is improving ;)

    oh dear, please let me know when you post one of those ‘brilliant’ comments ;)

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:20 am csperez wrote:

    that makes me happy too.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:24 am csperez wrote:

    @ bhanu: travis stipulated in my contract that i only post about uncomfortable topics. blame him ;)

    i almost always post about my publications (they are so few and far between) on my personal blog. but i dont see that as self promotion (everyone who reads my blog already knows me). instead, it’s a way for me to promote the journal to those who read my blog. there have even been a few times when someone reading my blog learned about a journal, ended up submitting to it and getting published there–and they linked people to the journal thru their blog/facebook–thus, more readers for that journal. yay.

    xo
    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:30 am csperez wrote:

    @ peter, thanks for your unboring response! i agree: i dont think pain is a ‘necessary’ path, but i think smith is right in the sense that difficult experiences often give one something to say (so many contemporary poets have nothing to say).

    i don’t know–i can be convinced (and smith almost convinces me) that the quality of poetry is gender related (tho not gender determined).

    i too am interested to hear about how others self-promote–for the sake of their own work and for the press that put the time and money into publishing books. plus, as a young poet, i’m always looking for some good advice/tips/tricks to get my own work out there.

    hopefully there will be some responses tomorrow.

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:39 am csperez wrote:

    @ sass,

    very interesting to bring up the relationship between masculinity and poetry. tho i also grew up in a working class family (and for the last 15 years a working immigrant family), i never felt the sense that poetry is for sissies.

    it was strange, however, that during my MFA program the ratio of men to women was about 1 to 5. how about other people out there? were your MFAs also gender imbalanced?

    hmmm….your ideas of societal gender roles are pretty traditional. i dont necessarily agree that what you say is still true today.

    yeah, mentioning greatness is a bit old fashioned.

    well, i dont think you should ignore smith’s project! instead why dont you buy a copy of foursquare and see what you think. you will like it i promise!

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:40 am csperez wrote:

    i agree with matt here. i dont think any woman centered or ethnic centered poetry project is even mildly offensive. i think they are empowering.

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 4:46 am Peter Greene wrote:

    @Sass: You said: “…in other words, real men don’t write poetry, which, in my mind, clearly makes it easier, in this day and age, to be a woman producing poetry, especially when women, for the most part, are not pressured by society to support their families–even though, of course, many do.”

    To me, it makes it harder to write when less women OR men are doing it. But I’m confused. I’m also confused by the idea of societal pressures resulting in family support. I’ve always thought it was love.

    PG

    @Craig: 1 man to 5 women? WHY did I EVER leave school?

    PG

  • On January 26, 2010 at 10:09 am mearl wrote:

    Craig,

    I bring up a lot of these issues in a post I wrote for Harriet last winter. It’s in the “Previous Writers” archive under the title:

    A SHORT, HIGHLY PERSONAL OBSERVATION COMPLETELY LACKING IN EXAMPLES WHICH I COULD HAVE NEVER HAVE MADE THIRTY YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS A YOUNG POET STILL LIVING IN NEW YORK, BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW ENOUGH TO KNOW IT WAS TRUE. BUT I DO NOW.

    I hope you can check it out. I also put a comment on Jessica Smith’s blog (which you led me to), since my post seemed to dovetail with the one you mention, though there might be divergence in my reluctance to refer to “women’s poetry” per se…but I argue that issue based on other taxonomies, with which I also have problems. Most important is how my post duplicates J. Smith’s premise.

    Also interesting: the thread to my post was male dominated…which raises the issue of female self-effacement that both J. Smith and I treat in somewhat different fashion.

    Martin

  • On January 26, 2010 at 10:20 am sassjemleon wrote:

    csperez, i usually don’t have a problem with projects such as ms smith’s–or ethnic-centered projects either–but the way ms smith is putting out the call, i do find it offputting.

    in the past, i have also avoided applying for jobs where minorities and women are openly encouraged to apply. not to say i don’t want minorities and women to find work, i just wish the potential employers could be a little more subtle in their tone, a little less offensive to people who have never oppressed anyone except members of their immediate families.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 10:40 am sassjemleon wrote:

    csperez, i’m quite aware of how traditional roles are shifting (i’m living at the forefront of most of them), but they certainly haven’t shifted far enough that a self-respecting, fully employed man would feel totally comfortable at the grocery store at noon with a big cart full of cereal and tampons on a tuesday, when the place is filled mostly with women, children, and blue hairs.

    as for foursquare, forgive me but, for some reason, it sounds exactly like some pathetic grade school game that i shunned for its lack of excitement and contact.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:03 am Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    My son adores foursquare. He started at a new elementary school and for a week or so I watched him just stare at the snowy field/playground he had to cross to get to the door. It was so sad; I drove away once blinking back tears. Then one day he came home and announced he loved foursquare. Since then, everything has been much better.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:06 am Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    Er…”female self-effacement”? Is this some kind of anthropological term?

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:06 am Joshua wrote:

    This is just you, bub. Not the world.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:08 am UHM wrote:

    The reason(s) women do not feel altogether comfortable in public spaces are deep and many, but one of them surely includes that there’s someone usually ready to jump in about how any sort of attempt to ameliorate the imbalances of race and gender privilege is offensive–but I guess it can be tough to see one’s institutional power questioned or subverted.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:20 am mearl wrote:

    Actually it’s right out of Jessica Smith’s thread, one of her comments:

    “But I am gesturing more broadly (ha, pun) at the habit of female self-effacement…”

    Why not pick it up with her?…Though you do hit where it hurts. I’m in the middle of translating a 400 page “anthropological” study of Iberian Nationalism….I hope it’s not rubbing off on me. At any rate, you owed me one…kudos!

    What about male self-effacement?

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:26 am Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    “Male self-effacement?” I believe that’s an over-priced face-wash of some kind, complete with exfoliating beads for those stubborn patches of hardened skin.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:27 am sassjemleon wrote:

    i guess i don’t see how some rag (bloody pun intended) publishing only women writers is subverting anything in this day and age. women have plenty of equal access in the realm of literature, and, as i mentioned, poetry in particular. 30-50 years ago, yeah, perhaps a women’s only magazine might have been an edge that needed serious cutting; but today, to me, that edge is all bled out, thus you are only adding insult to injury, so to speak.

    do i think filipinos are getting equal time in american literary journals, certainly not. women, in general, most definitely.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:36 am Jill wrote:

    Didn’t we already have this discussion (with current backlash males substituted for former backlash males saying the EXACT SAME THING) over the summer?

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:37 am Peter Greene wrote:

    @Sass. Bleeding, cutting edge. Rags, fluttering, blasted by the purple light. Insults are impossible in the real, and I really, really don’t quite get your point about Filipina writers. Perhaps a link to some would be cool, though, if you could drop one here.

    @Mearl: Speaking of links, a little a-href action would make it easier to find your post…my Google is very tired out.

    @Bhanu: Dammit! I wanted to make the joke about self-effacement and exfoliation! You pros are Too Fast For The Trailer Poet. I was gonna use that scene in the tell-lies flick about the famous actress where she bathes her face in pure gin and crushed ice every morning (now THAT is a tough lady). Perchance I’ll be faster on the draw one day…no, wait. I’m older now. I’m only going to get slower.

    @All: This is the most fun comment thread I’ve had in…I mean jeez, you guys can all spell! Shoulda hung out with other writers more all these years, I guess…

    PG

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:45 am mearl wrote:

    Who sells it?

    Wonderful thing: both male and female skin tends to soften with age. The need for self-effacement fades with the self.

    Last time I got my Habanas through JFK customs, no problem. But the situation isn’t looking good.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm Mark Mitchell wrote:

    I wonder what an ethos like this (publish the poem, not the poet!):

    http://thefrenchexit.blogspot.com/2010/01/publish-poem-not-poet.html

    would do to such projects?

  • On January 26, 2010 at 12:18 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    bhanu, for you and your son:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdup0gavMnk

  • On January 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    You have totally made my day. Thank you! You see, I grew up in England and have had absolutely no idea (until now, when I just watched this video) what foursquare actually is, not even from my son’s vague description of it. I love that the “foursquare world champion” says nice things about his mum, worries about dominating others on the court – – “is that rude?”- – and considers himself “smart and crafty.”

  • On January 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm UHM wrote:

    I think 50 years ago, even one woman published in a literary magazine would have been quite an event. It’s true that exactly 30 years ago, An Anthology of New York Poets was published, with one woman included to over 20 men. Oh yes, the “progress” made since then (i.e., women-only journals published and edited by women; many men offended by such, feeling “enough’s enough”) certainly makes up for those decades/centuries prior.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 1:03 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    yr welcome, bhanu. daymaker? didn’t know i had any days left in me…. thank you too.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 1:31 pm Matt wrote:

    what does one thing have to do with the other? that post is talking about something else. not really relevant here. try again.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 1:38 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    uhm, i don’t believe there is any way to make up for centuries of criminal discrimination and discouragement.

    (personally speaking, i can’t even make up for not regaling my wife with flowers after the birth of my son).

    i do, however, believe that the american literary/publishing industry has made significant and lasting changes when it comes to presenting a more level playing field, especially when it comes to women contributors.

    is my belief wrong?

  • On January 26, 2010 at 2:03 pm Laura Eve wrote:

    Hi all,

    I have a post up about this that you can read here: http://hoostown.wordpress.com/2010/01/26/things-about-which-i-have-almost-no-authority-to-speak-part-iii/

    Craig recommended that I post it to the comments board.

    Full disclosure: I am both female, & a poet. Also, though I mean no harm, I am a little snarky.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:01 pm Mark Wallace wrote:

    Hello Jessica and Craig:

    Thanks for raising this issue, one that comes up every so often in poetics.

    I always find myself fascinated when I hear the claim “Most of the great (or best) poets writing today are women,” but also startled.

    The first thing that startles me about such a claim is its use of quantifying logic. In order to know what most of any group is doing, one needs to have looked at all (or at least a sample large enough to imply all) of the group. The statement contains the implication that the person making it has read so much of the world’s poetry that the total quantity of good poets is apparent. Yet unless the person is truly encyclopedic, it’s likely that the person means “most of the poets among the group of poets I read,” a smaller group from which to take the sample, at which point it’s important to wonder how the sample was selected.

    The second thing that startles me is the claim to objectivity. “Great” and “best” means not simply the poets I like, or the poets whose ideology I prefer, but the poets that are superior according to objective standards that should be clear to all who have good sense and reason.

    Surely many people know by now that terms like “great” and “best” often come from personal standards, or cultural ones, or ideological ones, and that rarely if ever is there a ground of objective superiority against which people can make no reasonable objections.

    I myself then see the claim “Most of the great/best poets writing today are women” as an ideological claim rather than objective or quantifiable. I’m not saying that one could counter the point with some more objective claim, but rather that we’re talking about an ideological question here rather than a factual one.

    I don’t say all this to suggest that either of you do not mean the point sincerely. I’m not doubting for a second that you believe what you believe. But it’s out of the sincerity of competing claims that many ideological struggles (especially those regarding art) develop.

    Whenever claims regarding gender and “best” poets come up, I look for how they function relative to ideology and power, that is, how they become power moves in a field of power, even when meant sincerely. And here’s a basic ideological map of how I often see that working.

    1) A man says, “The best poets writing today are men.” Or, more likely, a man says, “The claim that the best poets writing today are women is ridiculous.” Here, a man defends the value of the writing of men or attacks the value of the writing of women. A significant number of male writers will side with him, and these men will often gather ranks against what they perceive as an unfair assault. Not all male writers however will side with them, and the man who makes such a statement is likely to find very few women writer allies, although he may discover some among those women writers who dislike feminism.

    2) A man says, “The best poets writing today are women.” This man is ideologically siding with women, and is likely to receive positive feedback from women writers. He will seem to be allying himself with an understanding of women’s social conditions and an awareness of male oppression. But his statement also has an effect on men. It puts him in a position of critical superiority to the writing of other men; he has seen through its weakness and has in effect become master of it. He thus manages to present himself simultaneously as a successful male judge of men and a supporter of women. This will anger the men fond of statement 1, but will make him allies not only among women writers but also among male writers who believe that there are advantages to being aligned with a similar position.

    3) A woman says, “The best poets writing today are women.” She will be seen as supporting and understanding the cause of women, and will have many women writers as allies as a result. Some women writers (I can’t begin to say how many) may be skeptical of the quantifying and objective nature of the claim and may think it’s not be the best way to approach the problem, while simultaneously appreciating and sympathizing with the goals of the claim, that is, with the attempt to create more and better attention to women’s writing. And obviously, men of group one will refuse the claim, while men of group two will side with it.

    4) A woman says, “The best poets writing today are men.” I imagine women writers believing such a claim would be very few, if they exist at all. Such a claim certainly can’t help women’s writing in any broad way. Even women who are anti-feminists may not be likely to say such a thing. It would be seen favorably by some men, and so a woman making such a claim may receive more positive attention from those men, but those men would be the ones (in various degrees) least likely to be understanding or supportive of women’s writing (that is, men of group 1). And obviously such a claim would be highly unpopular with other women writers, although I can’t rule out that one or two might grant the woman making such a claim a degree of courage or iconoclasm.

    I’m sure it will be taken by some that in saying all this, I am slyly siding with group 1, but I myself don’t see it that way. For me, the flaws regarding quantifiability and supposed objectivity mean that I believe that there are other more preferable ways of approaching gender problems than through assertions of whose writing is “great” or “best.”

    It’s arguable I suppose that given the situation of the world, women writers and writers from cultural contexts who have historically had less power to control others through claims about an objective and quantifiable “best” need to seize such terminology for themselves, to take the rights that come from quantifying and objectifying and make them their own. That reminds me though of the infamous Ron Silliman claim, so given who I am, I think such a claim should come from others. But I think also that self-awareness about what’s involved in that power move would be crucial.

    Finally, the other argument you make, that it’s “experience” that leads to the best writing, seems uncertain to me. The history of writing contains writers with all sorts of relationships to their own experiences. I think it’s likely that readers will often (though not always) gravitate towards writers whose understanding of experience they share and whose relation to the world feels more powerful and convincing to them, although I have to admit that I’m one of those readers who often likes reading work from or about people very much not like me. I fully believe in and would support your ideological position regarding what writers you like and why. I just wonder whether using terms like “great” or “best” actually causes more difficulties than it solves.

    Sorry for the longwindedness. I had to say the whole thing or not at all. I have also posted this comment on my blog:
    http://wallacethinksagain.blogspot.com/

    Mark

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm csperez wrote:

    points taken, sass. if i were in your position i wouldnt apply to those jobs either. and too would feel a bit offput.

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:25 pm csperez wrote:

    @ sass, well i think it also depends on context. i live in berkeley, california where things are much different.

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm csperez wrote:

    i agree with uhm–there is still much work to be done to achieve gender balance in publishing. tho there have been advances, of course.

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm csperez wrote:

    hey jill, my apologies if i’m replicating a conversation already happened here…can you point me to it if you have a chance?

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm csperez wrote:

    well, the connection could be that we shouldnt publish based on gender but on the poem–which could bring into the question the existence of women-centered journals. perhaps? what were you thinking of mark?

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:38 pm Jessica Smith wrote:

    @Craig, thanks for posting/thinking about these things with me.

    @Jill I’m pretty sure this same topic comes up pretty frequently, albeit in various forms. To me this doesn’t mean that it’s done coming up.

    @Mark, I don’t really claim to be objective– it is after all a blog post, so should be read as “my opinion.” That said, I am definitely in camp 3, in your taxonomy. I do find that the poetry I read by women writing today generally interests me more than most poetry written by men these days, although there are, of course, exceptions. This may be more of a 60-40 majority than a 99-1 majority.

    As I said in the original blog post, I have no idea why I find women writers more interesting– I don’t know whether it has to do with a history of oppression, etc., those were just ideas I was tossing out (it’s a blog post, not a dissertation). I do think it has to do with things like use of multiple genres or interplay between genres (perhaps women are less burdened by history? like NY poets burdened by the shadow of O’Hara) and having something at stake/something to tell (which may correspond to living in a world where one is continually objectified and oppressed and often in physical danger). Whatever claim I would make here would indeed be conjecture, a generalization, and subjective– which doesn’t make it any less real or valid, as even science is conjecture, generalization and finally subjective.

    @ Anyone: So, any ideas about what female self-promotion might look like, or self-promotion beyond gender, beyond what we usually think of it as (aggressive, egotistical, insensitive spattering of one’s viewpoints or “talents” in all directions)?

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:42 pm Jessica Smith wrote:

    I love Elisa’s ethos in this post– as it seems to me that journals often publish a “name” rather than a good poem, or are so eager to publish a name that they publish an inferior poem. But I also think it’s necessary to have journals that publish specific groups of people when those people’s works are historically undervalued. This is different than publishing “work” rather than “names” because it is an effort to publish work by a specific group of people but does not focus on specific (famous) people (whose names are expected to sell magazines). In fact, FOURSQUARE’s mission is to publish relatively unknown poets.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:54 pm csperez wrote:

    hey mark, no need to apologize for the length of your comment. i’ve always found your comments on your blog–and at johannes’ blog–well-measured & thoughtful. so thank you and i hope you will be able to comment here in the future.

    you are right, i wish i was more careful with my phrasing. i wrote: “most of the most interesting poets writing today are women.” i shouldve wrote “to me.” as i make no explicit claims to objectivity–but i just wanted to comment on how i recently realized that most of the books that stuck with me last year are written by women. perhaps this is simply a failure of my reading habits. i have many different (often conflicting) poetic interests so i can’t really justify my statement with objective standards (i’m still learning).

    and thanks for bringing up the issue of POWER. i found it both odd and telling that the article i linked to on the Poets and Writers website used the word “DOMINATE.” women dominate the awards this year. i know awards are competitions but still.

    and indeed ideologies constitute all these statements–so thanks for highlighting those.

    for the moment, i am in group two…tho i dont entirely agree with what you write. i have no interest in ideologically siding with women (as you mention, women too have competing ideologies about this), nor have i really received any positive feedback (at least to me personally) from women on this post. however, i do understand (as much as i can) women’s struggle & male opression, and it’s pretty obvious i am critically superior to the writing of other men ;) jk

    ok, will have to respond to the rest of your post in a bit–

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:54 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    csperez, do tell, what work is there to be done? what literary publishers are not exhibiting gender diversity at this point?

  • On January 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm csperez wrote:

    sass, actually part 2 of this thread will be discussed in my wednesday post–so stay tuned ;)

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 4:10 pm Jill wrote:

    Hey sass and craig, here’s a link to Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young’s “Numbers Trouble” from the Chicago Review:

    http://humanities.uchicago.edu/orgs/review/CR_532_Spahr_Young.pdf

  • On January 26, 2010 at 4:12 pm Elisa wrote:

    As the author of the post in question, I agree with Jessica — one can restrict submissions to a certain group of writers and still accept work based on its quality, not the author’s reputation.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm csperez wrote:

    i agree with jessica that’s it’s still important to publish work by those who have been historically undervalued.

    & thanks elisa for your comment–been following your blog for some time (tho never commented–and recently been enjoying your explication of poetic ‘moves’). and it’s really interesting to apply your ethos within the parameters of any journal–woman centered or otherwise. so important.

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 4:21 pm Jessica Smith wrote:

    If you go over to my original blog post (that Craig excerpts) there are links at the bottom to some of the past discussions.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm Elisa wrote:

    Thank you!

  • On January 26, 2010 at 5:13 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Jessica Smith wrote:

    >So, any ideas about what female self-promotion might look like, or self-promotion beyond gender, beyond what we usually think of it as (aggressive, egotistical, insensitive spattering of one’s viewpoints or “talents” in all directions)?

    In our present day, when aggressively self-promoting blogs cover the poetry field like farmed tulips, surely *lots* of people (regardless of gender, race, or creed) might do well to think hard on how to get “beyond” the “egotistical spattering of one’s viewpoints or talents in all directions”!

  • On January 26, 2010 at 5:55 pm csperez wrote:

    @ mark, ok i’m back. in all seriousness about your ideological mapping, don’t you assume a kind of ideological determinism here: that those statements always already lead to a determined ideology. isnt it possible that two or more people of the same gender can say ‘woman’s writing is best’ and have totally different ideologies?

    you write: “Finally, the other argument you make, that it’s “experience” that leads to the best writing, seems uncertain to me. The history of writing contains writers with all sorts of relationships to their own experiences.”

    i agree on this–that relationship does seem more uncertain than i’ve made it out to be.

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm longhair wrote:

    Wow. Change “self-promoting blogs” to “self-promoting blog comments” and it’s like you’re just talking about yourself!

  • On January 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm csperez wrote:

    @ jessica, thank YOU for bringing it up in the first place. as i’ve said, i thot your post was thoughtful & provocative.

    and i too hope more people will share their ideas of ‘female self-promotion’ and ‘self promotion beyond gender, beyond what we usually think of it as (aggressive, egotistical, insensitive spattering of one’s viewpoints or “talents” in all directions)?’

    c

  • On January 26, 2010 at 5:58 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    jill, thanks for the link. i gave it a cursory once or twice over. with all the name dropping and critical mumbo jumbo, i’m going to have a hard time getting through it…

    perhaps you could offer some sort of brief take away regarding the article…?

    in other words, what do you think i should think?

  • On January 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm Kent Johnson wrote:

    Sure, you could…

    And my point, a fairly reasonable one, stands.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    @Craig & Jessica& Kent: I, too am hoping this thread will lead to some idea-sharing on self-promotion. We all have our little ambitions. I’m not good at tooting my own horn (comes across as an alarm klaxon to most people for some reason, hem), but I do want to reach people with my work.

    I wonder if one of the reasons female poets seem to some here to be writing better than men in general (i don’t ‘get out much’ literarily and couldn’t really say) might be that very spattering of talents you speak of – men spatter a lot. Perhaps men’s poetry is looking a little raggedy in a gender cutdown of poetic quality (subjective, heady stuff!) due to an overexcess of the stuff – a viable egg a month is more concentrated value than a sinkful of potential Van Goghs, if you know what I mean.

    If I was a much better prose writer, I would do something with the rest of this post that would convince everyone that the true future of poetry is the silver crucible of the androgynic magical womb, that the tempering of Art requires both chalice/crucible and sword/steel, and that Men, Women, and the rest of us must meet somewhere in between in a way that would make Oprah cry and Sun Myung Moon renounce evil.

    But I’m not. Hell, I don’t think I’m even ready to have a girlfriend, let alone impregnate my Muse.

    Fun chat so far, folks.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 6:32 pm Susan M. Schultz wrote:

    Clearly, I have not taken enough lessons in self-promotion, Craig, or everyone everywhere would know that I wrote an entire book based upon a blog and that I blog incessantly here:
    http://tinfisheditor.blogspot.com!!!!

    When I was first on the departmental personnel committee in my department, the women going up for tenure and promotion would knot themselves into pretzels to avoid using the personal pronoun in connection with their accomplishments. Some of the men, by way of contrast, wrote Whitmanian chants and rants to their “I’s.” But these days, I see very little difference between the self-promotiony rhetoric presented by members of each sex. As a publisher, I see many women working hard to promote their own work.

    [By the way, much the same distinction can be made–less than before–between white writers and local Hawai`i writers, many of whom are shy to “self-promote,” even when that simply means sending work out for publication. So yes, cultural differences still exist, but perhaps not so severely as before.]

    So let us all sing ourselves electric!

    aloha, SUsan

  • On January 26, 2010 at 6:58 pm Matt wrote:

    kent, if it weren’t for what you call “aggressively self-promoting blogs”, there would be a lot of great—excuse me, FUCKING GREAT-ASS—writers i wouldn’t know about. (i’m actually not sure i’ve ever seen a purely self-promoting blog. the ones that do that also promote other people as well, discuss other topics, etc…)

    not sure why you seem to think anybody can be harmed by someone else’s self-promotion anyway. there can be an infinite number of websites. no one is losing a place at the table because all the chairs are taken. there are infinite chairs!

  • On January 26, 2010 at 7:30 pm Mark Wallace wrote:

    Craig, thanks very much for your thoughtful response to my comment on your post. I appreciate you being willing to do that, especially here on Harriet.

    Re your question about my ideology map and its overdetermination, you’re definitely right. I think all such maps are overdetermined, since anyone can have any kind of reaction in any situation. I tend to think of maps like this though not as absolutes but as tentative ways of thinking through the most common and likely results of the play of power in a given circumstance. So yes, a male writer may say “I think the best poets right now are women” and not be trying to align himself with women’s concerns in any kind of grand way–yet the very making of the statement (and precisely the fact of its grandness) makes it most likely that he would be doing that or at least appear to be doing that. And even if he wasn’t doing it, many people might assume that he was, in which case his statement will appear to align him with women even if he didn’t intend to align himself that way.

    There’s no doubt that two people could make the same statement and have completely different ideologies–the devil is always in the details, as the cliche goes. But actually I find that, among men, this particular grand statement can also be used as a way of avoiding a fuller exploration of one’s relation to gender issues, since the statement itself may seem a way of excusing oneself from having to say any more–and again, it’s also often used by men as a way of gaining power over other men and their writing. It’s not simply praise of women; it’s also by definition criticism of men, in this case by men. The image of men fighting and trying to gain power over each other through praising the value of writing by women is too crude, but I hope you see what I mean. I don’t say (at all) that you were doing such a thing, but it’s part of the dynamic.

    I guess, to put it most simply, men praising women and their writing isn’t the same as men having ideological positions that understand or support women’s concerns. In fact, in some instances it may be no more than a flourish of courtly flattery, an art I’ve studied for quite some time without being particularly good at it.

    But here I am, in a post on women’s writing, talking about men too much. I hope everyone will excuse the fact that I only did so in response to your insightful questions.

  • On January 26, 2010 at 8:29 pm roz wrote:

    Whitmanian chants and rants to their “I’s”

    is my favorite phrase of the week!

  • On January 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm Colin Ward wrote:

    Craig,

    Thought provoking questions, to be sure!

    do you agree that most of the great writers today are women?

    Barely most, yes, but maybe not for any of the reasons Ms. Smith posits. In my estimation, about 51% of the great writers today are female and, sure enough, about 51% of the people alive today are female. That’s a tough coincidence for a simple mind like mine to ignore.

    do you think women have better odds to be great writers because of their past/current anonymity & oppression?

    Among the great lyricists, Ferron and a few others might fit the bill but I can’t think of many great poetesses (e.g. Laux, Graham, Simpson & Solie on the print side, Maz, Sweeney-Androulaki, Carter, Kelleher on the ‘net side) who do. FWIW, judging from their comments on the subject, I doubt that any of the latter would embrace the classification “woman poet” (or “poetess”, for that matter) rather than the simpler “poet”. The feeling I get is that when it comes to qualifiers “less is best”.

    do you think women’s self-promotion in poetry differs from men’s self-promotion?

    There is certainly less of it on an individual scale. Mind you, in my experience and with few exceptions, the correlation between quality and self-promotion is decidedly inverse.

    Yes, “there are infinite chairs!” Infinite asses, too, though.

    what do you do to self-promote your work?

    As little as possible. If people mistake my laziness for modesty, so much the better.

    are certain kinds of self-promotion gendered in identifiable ways?

    Speaking anecdotally, of those I’ve seen spamming online blogs and workshops with their “poetry”, the vast majority have been male. The gender mix on vanity sites, though, strikes me as more balanced.

    FWIW and to my knowledge, two of the best web poets (both female, one “retired”, the other recently deceased) rarely, if ever, submitted their work anywhere. You’d save one of their poems as it appeared in an online workshop before it vanished due to housecleaning or a site crash. Years later, when web workshoppers discuss the great poems of our time, you discover that you aren’t the only one who saved a copy. “Vapour verse”, the new samizdat.

    On a lighter but related note, people can always have fun toying with “The Gender Genie” or “The Gender Guesser”.

    -o-

  • On January 27, 2010 at 12:23 am csperez wrote:

    Hey Mark,

    I like what you say about maps as ‘tentative ways of thinking’ thru power. i def agree that to fully understand the underlying ideology of any statement we must also understand the speaker’s subject position & intention, when possible, before making grand claims about their ideology.

    that said, i can totally see how particular kinds of grand statement can become a way to avoid “a fuller exploration of one’s relation to gender issues” and to crudely gain power over other men and to courtly flatter with women.

    i hear what you’re saying…but your portrait of a man who says such a thing is rather pathetic. i dont think this is always the case–but def sometimes i suppose.

    c

  • On January 27, 2010 at 12:27 am csperez wrote:

    @ susan, come here often? i think women are better writers than men. (i’m practicing my courtly flatter).

    well, you took the first step in Self-Promotion 101: comment at the Harriet Blog. yay.

    so true about cultural differences. i must not be an authentic pacific islander since i am not shy about submitting work ;)

    c

  • On January 27, 2010 at 12:32 am csperez wrote:

    @ colin: thanks for your response! it’s cool when someone addresses all the questions!

    1) wow that is a coincidence!
    2) less is best–i like that
    3) if there are infinite asses, then there must be an infinite number of assholes. decidedly inverse? i dont know about all that.
    4) modesty is the best policy
    5) i like the idea of vapour verse. your comment about men spamming (or sperming) the online world with their poetry seems like a fertile observation.

    c

  • On January 27, 2010 at 12:43 am Michelle wrote:

    The men who have established the professional standards that govern the world of poetry are by and large men who have benefited from many different kinds of unearned privilege, including the uncompensated labor of many women (domestic, secretarial, and creative). Therefore, the question should not be “how can women learn the skills that men seem naturally to possess (self-promotion)?” Those skills, upon closer inspection, reveal themselves to be not much more than plain, old-fashioned bourgeois entrepreneurialism that is rooted in inequality. I think it is good that men are asking what they should do vis-à-vis feminism, but I think the best way to begin is through careful scrutiny of their own practices. If one finds oneself with a creative project that does not include women, one should not conclude that it is the fault of women. Rather, one should ask “what’s wrong with this creative project in that it excludes women?”

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:59 am Colin Ward wrote:

    Craig,

    decidedly inverse? i dont know about all that.

    Was there a better self-promoter in the 20th century than Charles Bukowski? Or William McGonagall in the 19th?

    4) modesty is the best policy

    No doubt, but how does one reconcile this with its virtual opposite, self-promotion?

    -o-

  • On January 27, 2010 at 10:57 am Kent Johnson wrote:

    Matt wrote,

    >not sure why you seem to think anybody can be harmed by someone else’s self-promotion anyway. there can be an infinite number of websites. no one is losing a place at the table because all the chairs are taken. there are infinite chairs!
    *

    I see your point, Matt. And it’s a fair one. I also find myself in agreement (if it’s not too presumptuous for a man to say so) with most of the sentiments expressed by Jessica Smith.

    I’m only saying that if poets are going to seriously reflect on “self-promotion” (the term was raised by Jessica, not me) and its worthy or unworthy affects, then we need to think about how personal blogging is a decidedly central aspect of the issue. The phenomenon has driven the very meanings of poetic “self-promotion,” in fact, to qualitatively new levels. And it is the irony of ironies, truly, that those who blog (and Facebook) like crazy–putting forth their theories, listing their publications, pumping their cliques, announcing their readings, posting their Author photos, and so on and on–seem to often be the harshest critics of *other* people’s tendencies towards self-promotion. Especially of those like me, who don’t have a Facebook page or a blog! (And don’t get me wrong–there’s lots about me to criticize.)

    In ten or twelve years there will be a big book from Harvard University Press on the sociology of poetry blogs, with focus on their zenith in the decade between 2000 to 2010, and with loads of references to Bourdieu’s Cultural Field theory.

    I predicted it here.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 11:10 am Peter Greene wrote:

    @Kent: The thing that confuses me is the way most poetry blogs contain…little poetry. Here at Harriet, that’s normal – this is not a ‘personal’ poetry blog but a discussion room and (for me) education centre. But on the blogs of so many poets…no pomes. Are the things so hard to come by? Valuable, yes, but a poet is wealthy with the things, notebooks running empty, mystery scrawls everywhere. More poems on poetry blogs today!
    PG

  • On January 27, 2010 at 11:12 am Mark Wallace wrote:

    Hi Craig:

    Yeah, I can certainly see why you would call it “pathetic.” I usually think of it more as one of a variety of forms of “indirect sexism,” which, like “indirect racism,” tends to increase in direct proportion to the degree to which, in a given public context, overt sexism and racism are discouraged.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 11:37 am Daniel E. Pritchard wrote:

    I got into an enormous amount of trouble here before for discussing just this issue, but I am a glutton apparently.

    To say that “most of the great poets writing today are women” is first to assume that there are a large number of poets out there who could be considered “great,” even in the casual sense of being “very good” — I think that most would disagree with this. I certainly do. There are many, many poets writing today, writing mostly poor or mediocre verse; although they do sometimes they write a good poem. Sometimes they write many poems with admirably good ideas or intentions behind them. Few poets of any gender or background (or time period) are able to write poetry well on any consistent basis.

    Explaining the quality of a body of work via the relative novelty of that poet’s socio-economic experience; well, this both does disservice to the tradition of excellent women writers in American letters, and makes me wonder where we will be in fifty years: perhaps only trans-gender Afro-Polynesian albino langpo poets will have a novel enough experience to be considered “great”? Kidding, kidding — I kid because I love.

    Spahr, as Jessica points out, is a very good poet whose association as post-LangPo I think really fail to assist readers to or with her work: the verse is more than the beauty of language-constuctions, of language sans meaning as music; they are more directed and the experience of reading more shaped and evocative by her choices. Anyhow. Beside the point. D.A. Powell is also very good. As is Geoffrey Hill. As is Mark Levine. But most of the very good or “Great” poets are dead, as is always the case.

    There’s no magic of experience that makes a good poet is what I’d like to get at, without seeming to dismiss either the unique experience of women in our culture or that there are a few good women poets writing today. There are. They are every bit as good as the very good male poets writing today. Each of them arrived at their talent individually; each became a good poet through much labor. We should not devalue these facts by attributing quality to gender or class or some other marginalization or difficulty or characteristic.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 11:56 am sassjemleon wrote:

    mr pritchard, not sure how what you wrote could be considered troublesome. seems like a pretty sane and reasonable–and less blatantly offensive–approach to assessing poets and their work. then again, i did not participate in the earlier discussion.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 12:43 pm Don Share wrote:

    May I humbly suggest a look-see at the present and past issues of Poetry online here? Or perhaps that you browse the emormous room of our broader online poetry archive? If it’s poems you want, you’ve come to the right place!

  • On January 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    The following poem, in its entirety, is from Course College, by Lew Welch:

    AESTHETICS

    Not very many can do it really well.
    Nobody knows why

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:07 pm Susan M. Schultz wrote:

    Reminds me of the time Robert Creeley silenced Susan Howe in order to talk for 20 minutes about the plight of the writer’s wife. Oo la. And I had some interesting experiences early on in publishing Tinfish of men trying to co-opt the enterprise. Tinfish publishes work not according to gender, ethnicity, religion, or any other such stipulation, but it’s perhaps important that it’s run by a woman and that the art director is also one.

    But on “self-promo” more generally, I think that term is too broad. As a publisher, I need writers to make their work known. This does not mean they need to be divas, take everything personally, spout on about themselves. But it does mean promoting _the work_. I’ve learned from my publishing work that it’s important for me as a writer to put the news out about my publications. And I’m very happy when I see Craig doing this blog and Kaia Sand on the cover of the Portland city paper.

    As for blogs, again, they get a bad rap, even from those who write them. But it’s simply a form that many of us use to talk to one another, exchange ideas. Some of them are overtly self-y, while others seem more engaged with ideas. Forms are merely containers. And maybe promotion–self or otherwise–is too.

    aloha, Susan

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:09 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    Oh, I have been. And thanks for the quick link to the archive. There are a few places to load up, and this is a good one. And after all, here I am talking about poetry instead of writing it, after all, and enjoying it too. I’ve been catching a few good classic readings on YouTube, too. All the same, let’s all coat the world with poems. We have the tools…
    PG

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:11 pm John Oliver Simon wrote:

    When we had this same discussion last summer I made the point that as a teacher of poetry to children I see a HUGE gender imbalance: an overwhelming proportion of the best very young poets (ages 8 to 16) are young women.

    My Poetry Inside Out students have won four national grand prizes in the River of Words competition, judged by Bob Hass (ROW is the biggest deal going for children’s poetry: the winners and their families are flown to Washington to read at the Library of Congress): all four are female. All told we’ve had 33 ROW finalists, 29 of them girls.

    Anyhow, there’s something about poetry that girls really sink their teeth into. Maybe some of the guys will catch up later.

    By the way, winning a big contest and getting all that attention for a poem seems to make it harder to go on growing as a writer, all my Grand Prize winners had slumps afterward. And the transition from kid poet to grownup poet is very poorly understood, not all of them make it.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:14 pm Elisa wrote:

    The upshot is no, the playing field isn’t level yet. It’s an assumption you have to let go of once you actually start counting.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:16 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    @John O. Simon again: And from my own rather lesser pen, a third and fourth line suggest themselves (with appropriate apologia to Mr. Welch for the appropriation):

    one thing you can tell, though:
    Not many really try.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    but that article is over 3 years old. the numbers could have changed since then. regardless, how do you suggest the industry evens the playing field even more? also, keep in mind, when thinking about any other industries, how level are their playing fields compared to publishing?

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:34 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    and, don’t forget to mention, don, many of them are poems by women. wow, a magazine started by a woman in the early 1900’s published lots of women!

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:46 pm Wendy Babiak wrote:

    I would love to respond to this post, and this thread, at length and with more attention than I can now devote to it (but I have movers coming to get our stuff, which is not yet completely packed, in less than a week, to take it two-and-a-half hours away) because, as a woman who has written blog-oriented writing for over three years (only recently non-anonymously), and with a first book of poems coming out in a matter of several weeks, this hits close to home, and I might actually have something worth adding to the discussion.

    Let me encapsulate: the idea that the presence or absence of that little bit of extra flesh in the pants should have anything to do with poetic ability is as absurd as imagining that it would have anything to do with the ability to play chess or practice medicine. That said, I also acknowledge that there are some people on this planet who will never take what I have to say seriously because I have breasts; the female experience, by some, continues to be shrugged off as less important, less interesting, less worthy of recording or exploring in literature, than the male.

    However, everyone has his/her cross to bear, and the human experience, at bottom, is the human experience. Nobody gets out of here without a good deal of suffering, and nobody gets out of here alive; everyone is free to witness beauty and experience joy. Seems to make poetry open game for all.

    But I still enjoy the idea of a space for women’s poetry. Calyx is amazing. I look forward to seeing what Foursquare turns into. I’ll certainly be submitting.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    john oliver simon, young girls are, by their very natures more prone to literary activity than boys. my daughter has sporadically kept a personal journal ever since she learned how to write. i’ve bought her journals and diaries. never bought my son a journal because he never asked for one. now, my daughter is obviously smarter and more talented, overall, than my son, but i don’t believe native intelligence or talent alone dictates one’s desire to write. i believe there is a genetic component to the female body that makes them more susceptible to literary activities at a very young age, and that boys have evolved with genes geared more towards video gaming.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 2:30 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    Hope you’re joking, Sass.

    PG

  • On January 27, 2010 at 2:54 pm Jessica Smith wrote:

    Wendy,
    Foursquare has been around for over two years and is archived at looktouch.com/press if you want to check out backissues. I would love it if you sent me some work.

    I wanted to point out a couple of things that your comment reminded me about:
    1. A graph of what people do with their time:
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/07/31/business/20080801-metrics-graphic.html

    2. A recent blog post by a women writing under a male pseudonym:
    http://www.copyblogger.com/james-chartrand-underpants/

    Good luck with the move.
    Jessica

  • On January 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm Travis Nichols wrote:

    Hi Jessica,

    After reading all about “James” (thanks for that) I thought you and others might be interested in the feature we just put up this week:

    http://www.poetryfoundation.org/journal/article.html?id=238584

    It’s Michelle Lee’s story of “Michael Field,” a Victorian gentleman poet who happens to have been been the invention of two Victorian women.

    -Travis

  • On January 27, 2010 at 3:25 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    why, peter, do you hope i’m joking? furthermore, in my children’s middle school, most of the best artists, actors, and singers are all female. hardly any girls play video games at all. why do you think that is? it’s not for lack of marketing…. my guess is it’s partially cultural and partially genetic.

  • On January 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm Peter Greene wrote:

    I guess you don’t suppose your own attitude crosses those of your son and daughter in any meaningful way. I only bring it up because of, ah, family issues. I know what it is to have a mother who believes things so strongly about you that you lose track of yourself, and it’s a wrecker, dude. Ette. Anyway, I expect you know your life and business better than I do, so I best butt out.

    PG

  • On January 27, 2010 at 6:30 pm Wendy Babiak wrote:

    Thanks, Jessica, for the encouragement and wishes for luck. I’ll take both.

    And thanks for the two links. The first one’s a little sad, though it does make me very happy that we got rid of the TV when we moved north two years ago. The second is really sad. I’m not as surprised as I’d like that “James” encountered the situation she did. Though I’m glad for her that she’s managed to live her life on her terms. More power to her.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 9:22 am Elisa wrote:

    But why do you *assume* it’s even now (you seem unwilling to look closely at the matter yourself)? If things haven’t been even since the dawn of publishing, why would everything have gotten better in the past three years? And why should publishing stoop to the sexism of other industries? And people *are* proposing ways to even the playing field (such as creating more places for women to be published, which does not, as Matt Walker has said elsewhere, mean that there are fewer places for men to publish their work as a result).

  • On January 28, 2010 at 10:57 am sassjemleon wrote:

    elisa wrote:

    “And people *are* proposing ways to even the playing field (such as creating more places for women to be published, which does not, as Matt Walker has said elsewhere, mean that there are fewer places for men to publish their work as a result).”

    elisa, i am an editor, librarian, and poet, steeped in books and publishing for the past 20 years. i’m surrounded by women and their works on a daily basis. my assumptions are fairly educated.

    regardless of any assumptions, does creating your own playing field necessarily even it? for example, do women basketball players, by having their own court, afford them the same money, respect and admiration as their male counterparts? will it ever?

    by all reasonable accounts, the literary/academic publishing industry is probably one of the most gender level playing fields in existence, in terms of respect, admiration and money. is it perfect? certainly not. should women have their spaces? sure. why not. but a women’s only project will tend to attract only women. if that is what you are after, fine. just don’t advertise the space with some ludicrous claim about women being the best the writers because of gender oppression. it’s mildly offensive, and wildly untrue.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 10:58 am sassjemleon wrote:

    peter, what do you suppose my attitude is?

  • On January 28, 2010 at 11:05 am Peter Greene wrote:

    Lamarckian?

  • On January 28, 2010 at 11:27 am Matt wrote:

    “just don’t advertise the space with some ludicrous claim about women being the best the writers because of gender oppression. it’s mildly offensive, and wildly untrue.”

    no one claimed that “women are the best writers because of gender oppression”. read more carefully and that’s pretty easy to see. (assuming you aren’t misreading it deliberately. no, surely that can’t be the case at all!)

    “mildly offensive, and wildly untrue”!

    haha… sounds like a blurb for a movie i’d like to see.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 11:41 am Matt wrote:

    “never bought my son a journal because he never asked for one.”

    why let that stop you? how often do kids ask for things that are good for them? what’s wrong with gently nudging the kid in a literary direction? if he’s not into it, that’s cool, but he can decide for himself. and there’s no harm in trying.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 12:05 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    matt, perhaps it is you who needs to read more carefully.

    regardless, if you’re into mildy offensive, wildly untrue cinema, may i suggest, if you haven’t seen it already, “the hangover.”

    the tiger song is pure poetry.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 12:06 pm Bhanu Kapil wrote:

    My son’s handwriting is atrocious, and it’s a fact that he hates writing anything down (ironically, considering me being his mum; actually, his dad) — but we wrote letters to L.A. last night. He was shouting something about homework being “evil,” and I thought, I have to do something. I don’t know if this is middle class/immigrant pushiness, but it’s nothing compared to my dad forcing me to study physics etc in order to become a doctor, which I hated. In the contemporary world, one that includes work and educational opportunities beyond the U.S., letting things unfold just isn’t going to cut it. In some sense, this isn’t a row about genetics, but about parenting. It’s not parenting, it’s shelter. It’s politics. It’s money. Obviously, this is the opposite of poetry, and now I am turning into my father, so I’ll stop there, because I’m scaring myself!!!

  • On January 28, 2010 at 12:33 pm Elisa wrote:

    “i’m surrounded by women and their works on a daily basis. my assumptions are fairly educated.”

    Sass, earlier on, you wrote this:

    “i do, however, believe that the american literary/publishing industry has made significant and lasting changes when it comes to presenting a more level playing field, especially when it comes to women contributors.

    is my belief wrong?”

    when people presented evidence that your beliefs and assumptions ARE in fact wrong, you basically said, “TLDR.” you’re refusing to question or examine your assumptions out of laziness. so claiming that your “assumptions are educated” seems pretty disingenuous. that’s kind of the thing about assumptions — they’re often based more on bias than evidence.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 1:04 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    suffice to say, elisa, i find the evidence lacking.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    matt, i don’t really have the time to discuss my parenting style with you, nor do i really feel this is the place for it. (truthfully, i had a much longer post, but lost it. took it as a sign….)

  • On January 28, 2010 at 1:28 pm Matt wrote:

    “perhaps it is you who needs to read more carefully.”

    um, why? if you’re going to offer that as a rebuttal, at least give a reason. otherwise it’s pretty lame, and only serves to highlight the staggering depth of your cluelessness.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 1:31 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    somewhat, but perhaps not. i love music, but don’t play any instruments. my son plays the drums and guitar. my daughter, in addition to playing the piano, sings quite well.

    in addition to my literary interests, i am an excellent athlete and a sports nut. my son, despite having an excellent physique, is only fairly athletic–but not an athlete. my daughter is flatout a natural athlete, along with a great body. neither child, however, enjoys poetry or watching sports as much as me. my wife is beautiful and intelligent, so are my children. so yes, perhaps my attitude is lamarckian. could be worse, no?

  • On January 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    matt, i gave you a nod to some pure poetry, and you continue to bait/insult me. throughout this thread, i think i’ve already articulated at least some of my position on this issue, which i believe is enough for now. in other words, i’m moving on….

  • On January 28, 2010 at 2:13 pm Jessica Smith wrote:

    I’m not sure why you guys are bothering to engage with this obviously very myopic and ignorant blog troll. He is insulted by affirmative action and thinks women have more time to write because they’re housewives… why is that worth engaging?

  • On January 28, 2010 at 3:01 pm sassjemleon wrote:

    jessica, thanks, nothing wrong with my vision. in fact, i used to be a visionary. some day i may get back to those visions; but, for now, i’m dealing strictly in reality.

  • On January 28, 2010 at 10:07 pm Wendy Babiak wrote:

    That would be because you’re refusing to look at it.

  • On January 29, 2010 at 12:07 am sassjemleon wrote:

    ms babiak, i think if you performed a more comprehensive historical comparison of the american publishing world of 50-100 years ago to the publishing numbers by gender in 2009, my statement about the significant and lasting improvements regarding overall diversity in the amercan publishing would prove, without a doubt, to be true.

    also, i think it’s important to accept that diversity and inclusion efforts are firmly entrenched in america. from the lowest to the highest ranking positions of government, academia, and larger corporations, we won’t be reverting to our past employment and promotion models any time soon. as each generation becomes more aware of their potential and equal opportunities, they will continue to take advantage of them, and the various playing fields should continue to level out.

  • On January 29, 2010 at 9:23 am Wendy Babiak wrote:

    I agree that progress has been made, though in many places, esp. regarding gender inequities, things are slipping backwards. It does not help that in some circles of young women “feminism” is a dirty word, made so by backlash rhetoricians (male and female) who equate the struggle for equality with man-hating or some refusal to groom oneself.

    Here’s an article worth reading on this subject (h/t Amy King), about “postfeminist” writers dismissing feminist books in the NY Times book review:

    http://bitchmagazine.org/article/hard-times

    The cover of the current issue of Calyx magazine, a photograph of a circle of young girls clearly not being very nice to each other, vividly illustrates the fact that, from an early age, we can be our own worst enemies.

    So progress has been made, but to imagine that it’s time to rest on our laurels, that we’re done, that my daughter will not face more obstacles than my son, is simply wrong.

  • On January 29, 2010 at 10:14 am sassjemleon wrote:

    wendy, honestly, i don’t worry about my daughter at all. she’s good looking, whipsmart, and a natural athlete, and just scored the lead in her middle school’s production of guys and dolls — my favorite musical. she’s already got her eyes fixed on a couple of ivy league colleges. my son, however, is talking about quitting the school band, and joining the high school rotc, with his eyes on some sort of military academy en route to eventually working for the fbi. i’m worried he’ll wind up dead in afghanistan, and i’m going to be angrier than i’ve ever been in my life because i don’t believe in heroes or the phoney notion of “dying for your country.” i’m not going to try to stop my son, but i’m certainly not going to encourage him either. hopefully that will be enough to stop him….

    as for link, again, basically unreadable to me. i don’t do contentious name dropping pieces, and i certainly don’t read the new york times book review, or any reviews for that matter. i pick my own. always have. you should try it some time; it’s quite liberating….

  • On January 29, 2010 at 10:51 am Wendy Babiak wrote:

    I do choose my own books. You patronize to assume I don’t. But not everyone is that independent-minded, and the fact that NYT chooses antifeminist writers to review feminist books is an issue that merits examination.

    As far as your own daughter goes, wait and see how she fares the first time her boss talks to her breasts or passes her up for promotion because she’s of childbearing age.

    I do hope your son does not turn himself into cannon fodder, but he has plenty of other choices to make (it’s actually your job to help him make good ones, you know). Your anecdotal evidence re: your family’s situation does not bear on the overall culture, the inequities of which remain a fact.

    And this is my last word to you.

  • On January 29, 2010 at 11:13 am sassjemleon wrote:

    wendy, at this point in my daugther’s life, i think she’d be happy just to grow some breasts. also, she was talking about being a lawyer the other day; i imagine she’d be a good one–good enough to sue any employer who does her wrong.

    regardless, thanks for the parental advice. but honestly, i’m pretty much father-of-the-year every year. i’m well aware of my responsibilities and various personality flaws in meeting them. in addition to being a regretless visionary, i’ve mastered the art of apology.

  • On February 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm Jessica Smith wrote:

    “Self-effacement” is a real term, btw– not sure which discipline created it, but it’s not like I made it up. Although making neologisms to describe the experience of being a woman would not seem to be out of the question.

  • On February 6, 2010 at 9:34 pm cory raymond wrote:

    Wow, there is certainly a lot of input on this issue. I’m a sixty-one year old woman who’s just come out of the poetry “closet”. I blog because I can! It’s free, it’s fun, and it gets my poetry out there. (http://www.sometimes-ever-after.blogspot.com/).I can’t really speak to the relative suffering of males vs. females, except to say I’ve done my share and intend to limit the amount I do from now on.

    I have a poem on Poem Online, called “The Poetry Makers”,(http://poem.org/community/2.3.1/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1265064651) which pretty much sums up how I got to a place of making poetry.

    My poetry blog is pretty static. I’ve posted about 30 poems there in the last month and will add more periodically. I don’t do any daily commentary or updates. If you’d all like to see a really cool blog (photos, poetry, art, philosophy, wisdom, love and more) by my sixty-two year old friend, Linda, in Bellingham, Washington, check out: http://ifeltit-poppiespoppy.blogspot.com/2010/02/norway-my-heart.html. She updates almost daily and always has something insightful and/or funny to say! And, I guess that’s about all the self-promotion/friend promotion I can stand for one day! Cory Raymond McAllen Texas


Posted in Uncategorized on Monday, January 25th, 2010 by Craig Santos Perez.