Monday, May 4, 2009

Children of Men Poets

As I waited for Gideon to finish with speech therapy, I read the first three essays by Anne Boyer, Brandi Homan and Mary Biddinger in Delirious Hem's latest forum: This is What a Feminist [Poet] Looks Like.

It got me thinking about something that happened recently. I had a wee bit too much to drink and some man poet said something a wee bit inappropriate, but I still had some level of sense to just walk away. About a minute later I joined the conversation of a group of poets and started speaking with another man poet (this one we'd call "successful") who years ago also said something a wee bit inappropriate. I have a very long memory for these kinds of things.

Funny how we unconsciously go towards what we're consciously trying to avoid.

Well, I must have used up all my sense for the evening because I rather rudely told this man poet what I thought of him. In a hilarious and entertaining way, of course. Or at least hilarious and entertaining to those around us.

There was a young woman, a student, in the group. She was the only woman in this group of roughly 6 poets. Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) she took the successful male poet's defense and started ragging on me with him. I stopped my drunken verbal assault and in a moment of clarity, turned to her and asked "How old are you?" She said 20. Then I said something along the lines of "I get that you want all these man poets to like you and I'm sure they do, but you're limiting your options. The direction you're choosing, eating those like you for the approval of them, it has a real low ceiling that you'll hit in no time."

I can't remember if I used the term "daughter of the patriarchy" or not. Probably not.

Next morning I woke up and felt that tinge of regret one feels when one had a wee bit too much to drink. I saw the young woman and she seemed perfectly OK. I told this tale to an older, non-poet lady friend. She thought the young woman wasn't annoyed with me because she appreciated what I said.

Well, I don't know if she appreciated it or not, but she should have appreciation, if not now, maybe later. I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

I also told this tale to Charlie. Charlie suggested that I did not want for man poets and one less man poet in my realm was really no big deal. In fact, I could let go of a few more. He's right.

You know, just because a lady poet uses salty language that does not make her promiscuous or interested in you and what an incredibly egotistical leap for you to make. It does not make it OK for you to say "Hey, wanna go (somewhere) and fuck?" It's not funny. It's threatening. It's unwanted. And really gross. And that's the "wee bit inappropriate" comment made by both poets. And it's not OK. And it (and things similar) happens way too frequently. And I should be pissed off when it happens. Those are not the types of man poets I want in my realm nor do I want their defenders or apologists.

This is another version of what a [Tired of it All] Feminist [Poet] looks like.


  1. "I will not pretend
    I will not put on a smile,
    I will not say I'm all right to you..."

  2. In Detroit we have a catch all saying that is appropriate for the rude. We are used to rude here because it is the language of the common; and if nothing else we who live here are common. To the suggesters and the supporters of suggesters we would say:

    "fuck 'em"

    Then depending on the mood of the moment we would shoot them, beat them or just walk away.

    Detroit ain't all bad.

  3. I heard this story & was proud of you.

    I think, though, maybe, that depending on what one wants "eating those like you" may actually be an effective strategy, esp. if one wants is not one's own artistic achievement but proximity to achievement. There are people for whom it is enough that "great" people will tolerate them. One could sleep with men with authority or fame, flatter them, defend them, etc., and be very satisfied with the results -- "I was tolerated (by "great" men) " even "I was useful (to 'great" men) and "I provided them with needs like care/ sex/ protection and therefore I have personal worth."

    One might even achieve a kind of weak personal success from it, an exchange of favors, etc. It's something that replicates all the time (in the classroom, in the creative writing industry, in everything, maybe?). I think it works in its way, which is why women, particularly young women sometimes go along with it. And some people remain a kind of happy this way, having no other aspirations but to be used by the best.

    But it becomes kind of incomprehensible if one has imagination enough to see oneself as full of worth independent of one's use value to men. But that takes some imagination: I think for a lot of women are independent worth is not always that obvious.

  4. Anne, yes, this is the reason for "groupies" -- something I've always had a difficult time grasping, even after seeing "Almost Famous."

    As for the student, I like to think her deal was that she was young and trying to navigate her way through whatever you want to call all that. In my 20s, I spent my fair share of time embracing some harmful ideas. Looking back, harmful mostly to me. But I was getting ahead!