Poems are timeless. Timelessly intimidating. In our school days, we all dreaded the poetry portion of our literature courses. And I don’t think I have ever been so nervous to open a book than when I was starting Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Iambic pentameter, terrified me. Five beats, stressed unstressed. It seemed like a lot of work to put into a poem, or a play for that matter. But when I worked up the courageous to open the book, the words poured out and I’ve been reading ever since.
Poetry and literature as a whole revolutionised the way I saw the world. It opened my mind to different people, different places and emotions I hadn’t been familiar with as a happy go lucky child. Though I didn’t realise it at the time, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Edgar Allen Poe and Shakespeare were preparing me for a far more important lesson than ‘Nevermore’.
Mostly male poets filled my early education, and I never once gave it a second thought. It wasn’t until college that I read Anne Bradstreet, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson or Sylvia Plath. I knew of these poets, but only as radical feminists with a “different” point of view.
“Trust the validity of your feelings.
It may be abstract, ridiculous,
irrational, absurd. There’s a root somewhere.” -Yrsa Daley-Ward
The more I learned about women in literature, the more I thought about how male dominated society is.
Women were blamed for everything, from the original sin to being witches, to destroying traditional family values. Treated like second class citizens for centuries, diagnosed with hysteria and locked away in “facilities,” unable to fully contribute to society the way men had. All great poets were men in their day. Their intellectual circles were secret, forcing women out of the conversation only able to claim fame centuries later.
Women have always had to fight for their voice to be heard. No one has ever handed them that platform. And in turn, it has shaped the way women write and live. We often bend to the rules society gives us. “Stick to fashion and beauty”, “don’t eat that, you’ll bloat”, “obey your husband, feed the children”, or “don’t speak when the men are talking.”While many of those tropes are a little archaic, women have been placed in this bubble and the space they occupy can’t facilitate what they have to say.
“Never ever mistake her silence for weakness.
Remember that sometimes the air stills,
before the onset of a hurricane.” -Nakita Gill
It is safe to say that every woman I know has experienced some form of sexism whether it be subtle micro aggression, or something more extreme. Counting on men to stand up for women has become futile, thus, leaving women to their own devices.
Milk & Honey
“What’s the greatest lesson woman should learn? That since day one, she’s already had everything she needs within herself. It’s the world that
convinced her she did not.” -Rupi Kaur
Women have spent centuries banning together just to be heard.
And one of the most effective ways we’ve done this is through poetry and the spoken word. While men had their intellectual clubs and high brow conversations, women gathered in kitchens and drawing rooms. Women have always found strength in each other, and the poets of today capture that strength in bite sized pieces of inspiration. I argue that some of today’s most prominent poets are women. Today’s poetry speaks bluntly about the experiences of women. Letting them know they’re not alone. That their stories are valid. That they’re seen.
“When I ask you about your first love, I am always
secretly hoping that you will say your own name.
Now wouldn’t that be beautiful – to above all else.
have a heart that was proud of itself.” -Bianca Sparacino
Poets like Rupi Kaur and Nakita Gill are unapologetically putting pen to paper to fight the patriarchy. And in a time as unprecedented as this one, strong women are so important. It’s important to remember that words are powerful. To scream “Me too! I experienced that”. And to the women who are afraid and unable to speak out, those who write and scream, scream for you. Their voice is your voice. Take it, and know your story matters.
The Rose Farm
“All the women.
are tired.” -Nayyirah Waheed