I read a lot of Kay Ryan tonight, along with some Vera Pavlova, and I started wondering who my favorite female poets are. Recently, while posting sample poems for my students in English 221, I realized most of my role models are male: Tate, Neruda, Merwin, Gilbert, Bell. I didn't panic, though, and I remembered the voices of Hilda Doolittle, Denise Duhamel, Dorianne Laux. It's not like I don't read female poets. I just feel it's, well, sort of more rare to discover the female imagination that has been let loose, at least in comparison to the number of male poets who unabashedly gallivant through perfectly crazy worlds.
That got me thinking past the women on my bookshelves and more about the women in my poems. They're typically a strange, hybrid personification of guilty innocence. Why are women like this, I wondered, in all of literature? In poetry, it seems impossible for women to stray from this adaptation, even in the lais of Marie de France, which I love. I remember, as an undergraduate, one professor told me it will never be possible to see an apple in a poem and not think of Eve. I was determined to be the first to write it, a poem with an apple that didn't link the reader to its Genesis origins; I failed, of course, but I haven't yet decided how I feel about that failure. Honestly, how I feel about women in poems (and women as writers) will take decades for me to understand. I despise pride, but there is something so essential about the female voice and its role in literature, its role in imaginative writing. Men and women are not equal in terms of who they are (in terms of rights, yes, they should be). What they have to say is equally significant though, and I'm trying to reconcile that. Why are they equal? Why are they unequal?
I guess I'll keep ruminating, and the women in my poems will keep asking me when I'll cut them loose.
(poem temporarily pulled for submission purposes 7/28/2010)