Welcome to our first forum, where each day this week you will find new responses.
Monday May 4: Mary Biddinger, Anne Boyer, & Brandi Homan
Tuesday May 5: Megan Kaminski, Becca Klaver, & Majena Mafe
Wednesday May 6: Gina Myers, Martha Silano, & Leah Souffrant
Thursday May 7: K. Lorraine Graham, Mytili Jagannathan, Elizabeth Treadwell, & Sarah Vap
Friday May 8: Teresa Carmody & co.
There are likely as many strains and modes of feminist poetics as there are of feminism, but in reviews, discussions, and even our own manifestos, we often fall into shorthand that fails to explore this valuable friction, our own variations. I've lately longed for unpacking, and so issued this open-ended call:
This is What a Feminist [Poet] Looks Like: what branch of feminism, model of feminist poetics, feminist icon, or etc. informs your poetry? Or, from which of these does your poetry diverge? Are there particular feminist tactics you employ? Do you consider yourself a feminist in many ways, but don't particularly involve it in the poetry? Feel free to take liberties with the questions! Short, long, essay, manifesto, whatever appeals to you!
Curated by Danielle Pafunda
This is What a Feminist Looks Like: The F Word
Feminism comes to us as the ordinary and extraordinary acts women before us and women with us have given. Feminism is not so much about the movement; it is more about the community of women: those who imprint upon us their own marks, knowledge, scars or lessons. I know this when I listen to women’s personal events and histories, learn, and then seek to be understood myself. It is this interaction in which Feminism becomes less of an impersonal category of first, second or third wave. It is comprised of women transferring their hard-won experience. By our perils, we recognize that our world has changed some and then not changed.
Yes, our minority situation seems static, however, I cannot erase the risks and subsequent progress from women who contributed before me. My grandmother, who flew airplanes during the 1920s, obtained a college degree, opened a Montessori school, and survived as a single woman - all this during a time when women had no choices or opportunities. Before the F word even existed, her instinct led her to engage in the ordinary and extraordinary acts of living that give feminism the rich heritage it has today. Her memory rings continually in the back of my mind. I've gratitude for the steps women made in the past to prepare me for survival today. Yes, we still work in male dominated environments, and yet the fact that women still, in the face of adversity, financial hardship, loss, etc. continue to educate, nurture, inform, demonstrate, react, listen, write, make art, and emote is an indicator we are doing what we originally intended. We intended the simple act of reaching each other and those who are unreachable. This work, for it is work, is freighted with interruptions and resistance. Our health, our bodies, our personal and professional lives are dense with immediacy and emotion, competing for our concentration and our pity. The work is carrying on with all those concerns on our backs and still transferring our experiences and knowledge into the classrooms, the streets, the boardrooms, and behind our own closed doors without thought of pity. We do this because it is our odd opportunity, this act of putting ourselves to a higher use. In this way, we are going beyond the standard behavioral expectations for our gender, because it somehow induces fear when women jump beyond the binaries, the spheres of gender expectations. I hear Adrienne Rich’s words reminding me, “This is how it feels to do something you are afraid of. That they are afraid of.” Each effort we give and receive are imprints that inform us of our own potentialities, some of which are fearful to us as we approach them or acknowledge that we truly do not have to settle.
Anne Boyer’s statement, “peril is our essentialism” is truth, and by that truth we look directly into the necessity of feminism. All the women I know, by their words and acts, bring to mind my simple mission as an educator and my simple art of writing. I have my experience, gained mostly by peril, and I have knowledge from other women, teachers, mentors, and colleagues who had generously attended to me at each stage of my own need and vulnerability. I have the advantage, because I am a woman, emotionally invested with an inexhaustible energy, to apply that energy into our community.
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