Monday, November 9, 2009

Women Poets

Following up on recent news about the percentages of women included in prizes and lists, I've read two more blogs/articles that I think add to the conversation.

The first is a blog from She Writes creator Kammy Wicoff: I Guess Women Aren't That Good At Writing After All. The news of the exclusion of women from the PW top 10 list hit the air waves/ether waves just as She Writes topped 5,000 members. If you haven't checked out this online resource, please do so. Here is my favorite quote from Wicoff's post:

Try to imagine if they [Publisher's Weekly] had come out with a list of the Best Books of 2009 and it had included ZERO MEN. Try to imagine if Amazon had released its Best Books of 2009 and it had included only TWO men. I know it's hard. But just try.

And in case you think ALL men got the star treatment from PW, you should also know that only ONE of the men on the list isn't a white dude. Naturally he is the dude on the cover.


Next is an article from Politics Daily by Lizzie Skurnick: Same Old Story: Best-Books Lists Snub Women Writers. (I'm sure this was linked on someone else's blog last week, but I've forgotten where...apologies.) This article reminded me of a conversation I had with a female poet friend several years ago. My friend questioned whether her book would ever find a publisher because it was so "domestic." About the same time, I had received a rejection from a major literary journal, one I've been submitting to without success for years. The rejection included a handwritten note that said: "I enjoyed the opportunity to read your work. The domesticity and perspective were charming and startling simultaneously." The note was signed by a woman.

My heart sank as I read the following in Skurnick's article regarding what happened when she was one of a group of judges for a book award:

Our short list was pretty much split evenly along gender lines. But as we went through each category, a pattern emerged. Some books, it seemed, were "ambitious." Others were well-wrought, but somehow . . . "small." "Domestic." "Unam --" what's the word? "-- bititous."

and later

But, incredulous, again and again, I watched as we pushed aside works that everyone acknowledged were more finely wrought, were, in fact,
competently wrought, for books that had shot high but fallen short. And every time the book that won was a man's.

"I just want to say," I said as the meeting closed, "that we have sat here and consistently called books by women small and books by men large, by no quantifiable metric, and we are giving awards to books I think are actually kind of amateur and sloppy compared to others, and I think it's disgusting." (I wasn't built for the board room.) "But we can't be doing it because we're sexist," an estimable colleague replied huffily. "After all, we're both men and women here."

She goes on to talk about the complications of a sexism that is so ingrained in our lives that we often have trouble seeing it.

Lots to continue thinking about here.


Anonymous said...

Politics Daily has just popped on my radar recently--was it also you who linked to another poetry-related article there?--they're terrific! This whole domesticity thing really hits home for me, as you can imagine. Thanks!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Not sure if it was me or not. I'm losing track of my links. It is a great site.