14 March 2014

Feminine Rhyme

Sunday March 9th, one third of the way through Women’s History Month, a day notable across America for clocks sprung forward—or (oops) not—was also International Women’s Day. Keeping with that theme, here are some noteworthy, current tidbits about women and poetry.

Poet, activist, and scholar Sonia Sanchez has published a list of numerous events at locations across the US on her website. Check them out. You might be near one or be inspired to organize one like these for next year. Not a joiner or event organizer? Check them out anyway for the names of poets you might want to read.

For the first time ever, “all five poet laureates of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland this year are women.” This article in The Guardian links you to four of them and includes samples of their work. In America, since 2012, Natasha Trethewey fills the position officially known as The Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress for her second term, but there have been only twelve women out of forty-eight laureates since the honor was established in 1937.

If you’re near Austin, Texas at the end of next week, you can check out the Women of the World Poetry Slam 2014 where, according to Poetry Slam, Inc., sponsor of the event, “72 of the best female poets in the world” will compete during the four-day festival. There are also workshops, open mics, parties, and a lot of it free to the general public. Here again, check out the site to be inspired or for new and favorite poets you want to hear more from.

To supplement your historical knowledge of women poets, poet Astrid Alben offers this list of ten that everyone should read. She writes, “by all accounts, female poets aren’t doing too badly,” but that “the challenge lies in bringing female writers to the attention of the people—reviewers, critics and academics—who create and curate the cultural space.”

For those interested in keeping tabs on how women are faring numerically in the publishing world, there’s VIDA, the organization for Women in Literary Arts. VIDA laboriously counts the number of published pieces by women and by men and publishes those results yearly. Among the nearly four dozen publications they track, several are notable publishers of poetry, the biggies, the ones who pay by the word.

Have more to add about women and poetry? Please comment.

04 March 2014

Making the Leap

Making the Leap
by J.R. Solonche

My daughter comes to me with a question.

"I don't understand this," she says pointing to a page in the book she is reading.

It is a novel in the form of a sequence of free verse poems for 10 to 15 year olds, of which she is one.

"What don't you understand?"

She reads it to me: "Oh, Max, don't jump jump jump jump!"

"Well, the girl is telling her pet dog not to jump off the ledge into the lake."

"I know that," she says.

"Then what is it you don't understand?"

"I don't understand why she says 'don't jump jump jump jump!' It sounds like she wants him to jump."

"Well, now I don't understand." 

"If she doesn't want Max to jump, she should say, "Oh. Max, don't jump, don't don't don't don't, but she says jump jump jump jump, and I don't get it. It doesn't make sense."

"I see. That's a very fine question. I'm not sure I have a fine answer. Let's try this. Maybe it's like magic."

"Magic? What's magic?"

"Yeah, look, when the girl says jump jump jump jump instead of don't don't don't don't, she's using magic."

"I don't get."

"Well, it's hard to explain. She doesn't know it's magic, of course, but I think when people are feeling a lot of powerful emotion, like this girl is feeling a lot of powerful fear, they just say certain words over and over again without thinking about it because it's the powerful emotion that is saying the word over and over again."

"I still don't get it."

"Okay, when the girl because she is feeling very powerful fear is saying jump jump jump jump, she is trying to create a reality in which the dog doesn't jump but one in which the word jump jumps off the ledge into the lake in place of the dog."

"This is magic?"

"Yes, it's magic. The word fools the world. The world believes the dog jumps. The word sort of stands in for the thing itself. As far as the lake is concerned, the dog jumps, but it is only the word jump that jumps. So the girl saves her dog. It's magic, get it?"

"No, Dad, I don't. But thanks anyway."

"Okay, one more try. This is a poem, right?"

"Yeah, the whole book is a poem."

"Well, there's your answer. The book is magic."

"Thanks, I'll figure it out myself."

"Good. That's always the best way."

Guest blogger and Four-time Pushcart as well as Best of the Net nominee J.R. Solonche has been publishing in magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early 70s. He is coauthor of PeachGirl: Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books) and author of Beautiful Day forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions.