Poetry News

A Must-Read Post for Women Poets—And Everyone Else

By Harriet Staff

Over at Best American Poetry, some of our favorite poets--Sandra Simonds, Sina Queyras, Elisa Gabbert, Shanna Compton, Juliana Spahr, Vanessa Place and Danielle Pafunda--had a great discussion about being a woman in the literary world and its accompanying blogosphere. While it's frustrating that certain poets are invited on to panels just to be the "token woman," we're grateful that this discussion took place. Here's a sample:

Sandra Simonds: Chris Nealon and I read together a few years ago and we were talking at lunch and he said that he thought how important it is that women write about poetry and his sense that there were far more men writing about poetry than women. Why is it important for women to write about poetry? (If you agree with this assertion).

Elisa Gabbert: Because, as Chris says, there are far more men writing about poetry than women. Let’s not let them dominate the discourse.

Danielle Pafunda: It’s important that writers from a wide range of subjectivities write about poetry, of course, and also about everything. There’s plenty of smart stuff to be said about power and parity, and I’m happy to talk about that, but first I want to say: dynamism. Let’s get some productive friction, some unexpected germination, some variety going in the discourse! Let’s contaminate our long-held givens and see what happens. Isn’t it more exciting this way?

Sina Queyras: Why are there not more collections of essays by women? Why are there not more female reviewers/thinkers? Why are there not more women assigning reviews and taking that breezy, authoritative space that so many men feel absolutely born to occupy? I have spoken so much and so often about this I am nauseous just thinking about it...

I am about to announce a small prize on my blog for the best piece of critical writing by a woman in Canada. I have to work out the terms, but yes, I feel the need to provide a public target for women to write to, a way to showcase women’s thinking. I was hoping to get a bigger fish to fund the prize so that whoever wins can have a flash of spotlight, but I haven’t had time to make that happen. I can make this small thing happen though.


Elisa Gabbert: I would say that I would I do more poetry reviewing (in a formal way, as opposed to tossing off a blog post when I read something that inspires me) if someone showed up with a check. Money trumps whimsy.

Vanessa Place: And whimsy trumps chance.

There's a lot more where that came from. Be sure to read the full discussion here.