Dispatches | November 20, 2013

1460191_760395938566_1813039241_nOver the weekend, this foolishness from Oprah’s website started making the rounds on my Facebook feed. It was an odd sensation, clicking on the link. I don’t know if I’ve ever wanted to belly laugh yet dry heave so much at the same time.

Now, I am all about exposing poetry to people who may not otherwise read it, but seriously…come on. This? Just…what is happening? I keep opening my mouth to speak, yet no words come out.

Oprah can promote what she wants, I guess, and I am well-aware that the internet is a free-for-all if people want to read articles about achieving inner peace by doing yoga in a field of daisies. But my poet self wants to holler: leave poetry out of it! Or, perhaps more appropriately, if you absolutely must list the six poems “every woman needs to read,” select poems that deserve to be read, that both embolden their readers and bring them to their knees, poems that actually matter.

That being said, this week I have polled fourteen women poets—incredible writers, teachers, editors, community activists, artists, and friends—and asked them to name poems that speak to them as women and as poets, that excite them about poetry and remind them of all that poetry can do. Here are the twenty-five poems they chose for your reading pleasure:

Ai- “Woman to Man”

Anne Sexton- “Her Kind”

Anne Sexton- “Song for a Lady” 

Aracelis Girmay- “Arroz Poetica”

Beckian Fritz Goldberg- “Everything is Nervous”

Brenda Hillman- “In the Trance”

Brenda Shaughnessy- “I’m Over the Moon”

David Kirby- “The Juniper Tree” (scroll down)

Emily Dickinson- “It was given to me by the Gods”

Emily Dickinson- “I’ve ceded—I’ve stopped being theirs”

Emily Dickinson- “Myself was formed—a Carpenter”

Emily Dickinson- “The Soul selects her own Society”

Erin Belieu- “In the Red Dress I Wear to Your Funeral”

Louise Gluck- “Celestial Music”

Louise Gluck- “Stars”

Lucille Clifton- “won’t you celebrate with me”

Marianne Moore- “The Paper Nautilus”

Sandra Lim- “Loveliest Grotesque”

Sharon Olds- “May 1968”

Sylvia Plath- “Edge”

Sylvia Plath- “Mirror”

Sylvia Plath- “You’re”

Tim Seibles- “Delores Jepps”

William Butler Yeats- “No Second Troy”

William Butler Yeats- “When You Are Old”

I also decided to name the top six poems that currently resonate with me as a woman poet, and, furthermore, I challenged myself to select poems specifically written by women. Here are the six that I chose:

1. C.D. Wright- “Everything Good between Men and Women”

2. Sylvia Plath- “Stars Over the Dordogne”

3. Kim Addonizio- “‘What Do Women Want?'”

4. Alison Stine- “School”

5. Louise Gluck- “Witchgrass”

6. Keetje Kuipers- “Across a Great Wilderness without You”

These six poems all manage to empower me and break my heart at the same time. No leaping off a waterfall or running in slow motion. No arch of trees exactly the same shade of yellow. No platitudes and cliches. Just real talk in all its lyrical beauty and brutality, and for that, I am thankful.

Enjoy the thirty-one poems (out of so many) that everyone needs to read!