Read Women: An Anthology edited by Amanda Fuller,
Carolann Madden, and Carly Joy Miller

Locked Horn Press, 2014; 161 pp
Gendered & Written: Forums on Poetics
edited by Hari M. Alluri and Katie Fagan

Locked Horn Press, 2014; 65 pp

Reviewed by Wesley Rothman


These paired anthologies serve essential conversations going on in contemporary poetry and culture. Read Women: An Anthology augments the dialogue sparked and fanned by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, especially its annual Count, documenting prominent literary outlets’ im/balance of gender representation, by offering a wide array of contemporary poets’ work; this collection is committed solely to the voices of female-identifying/gender queer poets. It is important to note, as Locked Horn Press acknowledges, these texts focus on North American poets, but fuel, by action, the necessary push toward gender balance in exposure, publishing, support, and attention. Our creative communities pride themselves on vaguely resembling meritocracies, but history’s ongoing record of male-dominated publication begs to differ. This is an invigorating collection of voices, spanning generations, from the well-established to the emerging, and—given the principle of the anthology—it’s important to share the full list of contributors: Sandra Alcosser, Traci Brimhall, CM Burroughs, Hélène Cardona, Marilyn Chin, Jaclyn Dwyer, Carolyn Forché, Joy Harjo, Ashaki M. Jackson, Sara Eliza Johnson, Valzhyna Mort, Alicia Ostriker, Brynn Saito, Leah Umansky, Angela Veronica Wong, TJ Dema, Jessica Dyer, Mercedes Eng, Katie Ford, Carrie Fountain, Luisa A. Igloria, Krystal Languell, Karyna McGlynn, Cecily Nicholson, Carolann Madden, Cynthia Dewa Oka, Jessica Piazza, Leah Lakshmi, Piepzna-Samarasinha, Molly Raynor, Françoise Roy, Amanda Fuller, Meg Wade, and Stacy Waite; this is a notable gathering! While this text collects the creative work of contemporary poets, the companion anthology bolsters the dialogue with critical reflections of gender’s influence on poetics:

Gendered & Written: Forums on Poetics poses just four foundational questions for consideration, with responses from many of the same poets featured in Read Women, and including many other poets of various gender identities, some of whom include Henri Cole, Dean Rader, Ching-in Chen, and Timothy Liu. These forums fortify an awareness of gendered possibilities in the life and craft of poetry: gender in personal poetics; the evolution of gender’s role in recent history’s poetry; poetry’s possibilities when gender is concerned; and the influence of history’s poets/poems in the context of gender. Not only do these responses give thoughtful firsthand accounts of gender’s role and potential in poetry, they easily spark thought and conversation for our own poetics, our own situatedness when it comes to gender, and the larger socio-cultural conversations that come with it (including race and cultural identity, class, age, and sexuality, among others). With little need for imagination, these anthologies will fuel classroom conversations and push poets to enact a heightened awareness of gender in their own work, knocking the trajectory of the art toward a more inclusive, conscious practice. The specific insights, references, and recommendations included in Gendered & Written remind us that we do not live in a poetry vacuum (enticing though it may seem), that the experience and considerations of gender embodied in our poems bubble up from the personal and social knowledge we enact on the world daily, and this effect is more than enough to justify the purchase/adoption/quick-glance of its pages; and the epigraphs of each don’t hurt either, both from Lucille Clifton: “Poetry is a matter of life, not just a matter of language,” and “may you kiss / the wind then turn from it / certain that it will / love your back.”

With this first impression, I’m eager for what Locked Horn Press dreams into our future.