|Your move, Bukowski.|
|Gonna kick some butt, gonna drive a big truck.|
Let's look, for example, at the collection of poetry on my bedside table, Jean Valentine's Break the Glass. The publisher copy and blurbs describe it as "quiet" (Publisher's Weekly) "graceful" (Library Journal), and The New Yorker praises Valentine for moving away from "the confessional poets who influenced her earliest verses" and writing more "skeletal...terse fragments."
Meanwhile, the other poetry collection I've been reading and adoring lately is the 2000 edition of Edwin Morgan's New Selected Poems. I love Morgan (more than Valentine, but let's put that aside for the time being), but reading Alex Salmond's eulogy for him from last year it's hard not to notice that he is praised for the scope and passion of his work, his long narrative explorations of death and violence, and his blunt honesty.
And yet Morgan wrote in "Strawberries" (to a male lover, no less):
"abandoned like a childAnd Valentine gave us the brutal, chilling opening of "Diana":
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you"
"The tab on the tea bag saidWe ignore the tenderness in Morgan and we ignore the shocking in Valentine and we do them both a disservice.
'Love what is ahead
by loving what came before.'
But what came before was no dream
you wake from, it was human sacrifice..."
Edwin Morgan was important: he was the National poet of Scotland. New Selected Poems is implied by its back copy to be a sort of anthem, a symbol of Scottish independence and national pride, whereas Break The Glass is pitched by its copy as a warm, comforting book. Valentine has a National Book Award and a Pulitzer nomination but the "femininity" of her work guarantees that she's not going to make the cover of Time as a nationally important writer in the way that Franzen did.
|Does anyone else get serious Dexter vibes from Franzen, or is that just me?|
Or, at its core, Franzenfreude is the fact that I can't think of a single woman who's been marketed as a Great Writer to a level that transcends the fact that she is a woman. I can't name a woman poet or novelist who is held up by "the establishment" as an artist before she is held up as a woman artist. We-- readers, writers, and publishers --are keeping women writers, ironically enough, in a room of their own instead of letting them enter a discourse with the literary world as a whole.
And to do that to Rodereda, Adrienne Rich, McCullers, Valentine, Sexton, Woolf, Octavia Butler, and Anna Akhmatova is a goddamn crime against art.
I was going to let Virgina Woolf tell you this, but... it just seemed more serious when I said it for some reason.
|"You're a little shit, you know that Jasper?"|