For when the water’s low and the weeds exceed you

You should read “My Barbaric Bitch of a Yawp” by Amy King now.

Any poet worth her salt knows that, generally speaking, you can do one of two things with language — You can use your words to reflect what society surrounds us with. You can represent the insipid mainstream culture and repeat it however prettily or dolled up you like. You can distract with pseudo-epiphanies or masturbate to empty language games until you’re living in a vacuum of your own making. Or you can be a creator, you can write the poetry that is not popular because you are saying things that don’t just comfort people and tell them that the way they’re living now is perfect and lovely and oh-so-right. You can either reflect or you can create, at great risk, to improve things, reveal complexities, point out those brilliant chinks in the mainstream armor of duality and western rigidity. You create to show that there is more to perceive, that change is always afoot, that you want to have a hand in what that change should do, that you can visualize a keener, more interesting and diverse world where the roles and lines and tasks relegated to “woman” and “man” are thinning fronts that can no longer support humanity’s advancement. These “confusing” “crazy” creations are often unpopular because they shake us up; the status quo resists because people aren’t accustomed to seeing in radical and as-yet-unfathomed ways, they can’t visualize themselves in the odd pictures such poets are making. We are afraid to imagine other ways of being on a planet dominated by wars, environmental destruction, and the luxury of ignorance. We hope that if we stay very still, don’t move, and speak clearly, nothing will come undone—and we’ll be safe.

So it is with feminism and poetry, which are movements, hand-in-hand progressions, the visualization of hope and the often-belittled notion of investing in improvement, even *gasp* looking for some moral imperative in context. Feminist poets do not invest substantial attention in that static image of a hairy angry bitch meant to shut us down and squelch our efforts and dry the ink of our pens; we are too busy moving and shaking shit up and asking people to become aware of and check the power structures we participate in and to give up certain power privileges so that we each might arrive at some semblance of equal footing with access to basic necessities and accesses and to share and to look at other aspects of our humanity that we have been told to repress because they’re too feminine. Feminist poets are putting pen to paper where and when it counts and challenging the very core notions of what it means to be human, literally, conceptually, and emotionally. If I blur and confound the line between one more “them versus us” modus operandi, then I’m doing my job and causing people to pause & reconsider the next actions they’ll take: to hit and kill and segregate, or to lean in, study, consider, smell, see, think and breathe shared air—and then act and react.

 

Seriously, go read it. It will feed you.

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