Even in the male-dominated world of classic literature, Sappho has long been considered one of the greatest lyric poets of all time. The scholars of Hellenistic Alexandria named her (in the company of eight men) as one of the nine melic, or musical, poets worth studying, and in a loaded compliment, Plato famously dubbed her "the tenth muse." She served as the inspiration for countless paintings and sculptures, but unlike the mythical muses, Sappho did not exist to facilitate anyone's art but her own.
I am in awe of feminist author and activist Dorothy Allison.
Born in South Carolina in 1949 and now living in California, Allison has attracted numerous accolades in the last thirty years for her six published books. (They include Lambda Literary Awards, ALA Awards for Lesbian and Gay Writing and a ridiculous number of others.) She is the rare writer to reach, in my opinion, wonderful heights in nonfiction, fiction, and poetry, though her two already-released full-length novels, Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller, are her most famous works.
April is National Poetry Month in the US, so libraries, schools, and booksellers are banding together to celebrate the importance of poetry. Here at Bitch HQ, we're excited to have an excuse to sit down with some feminist poetry.
Who are your favorite feminist poets? What are your favorite feminist poems?
Here is the semi-embarrassing circumstance that resulted in the more-than-semi-embarrassing-realization that I haven't yet written about Maya Angelou for this blog: I was watching the first day of OWN's (Oprah Winfrey Network, duh) new programming with my mom, (...nope. Can't even come up with a sarcastic parenthetical. I just was.) and saw that Dr. Angelou would be featured on an upcoming series called "Master Class." Actually, I saw that a new show on OWN would feature Maya Ang—, which is all I saw before I bolted off the couch to my computer and yelled back to my mom that we needed to figure out DVR recording before Sunday night at 10. She was surprised by my new enthusiasm for the Winfrey gospel, needless to say. And I'm surprised I haven't yet waxed adoring on this writer, this poet, this actress, director, dancer, professor, activist, this woman who more than any other artist makes me glad to be American, to be female, to be human at the same time as her.
Via Muslimah Media Watch, Anida Yoeu Ali's "Mistaken for Muslim" is a powerful video that juxtaposes diverse images of Muslims, and the artist herself, with a poem relentlessly detailing xenophobic and Islamaphobic hate crimes in post 9/11 America:
Sylvia Plath is the most famous woman poet of the 1950s. She's probably one of the most famous poets of the 20th century. And she was a pretty good poet. Her work is honest, heartwrenching, and chock-full of angst and guilt and daddy issues. But she's also famous for her bummer life story (anybody who's read The Bell Jar knows the extent of the bummer factor), and frankly, I'm a little tired of her. That's why this week's Adventures in Feministory is not about Plath. I want to profile another '50s-era poet who is sometimes overlooked and whose story is
filled with a lot of sassy, smart letter-writing and a prolonged Brazilian
vacation: Elizabeth Bishop.