by Crystal Vega-Huerta
For those who have not limited themselves to the canon, but instead have read from the outpouring of work from lesser heard voices in both published works and literary journals, will find women poets at the forefront of a fantastic year for poetry. While the work of women poets on the end-of-year lists is vital, it is critical to create an equally important, intersectional list of women poets who are challenging the status quo.
Kristin Chang (website)
Kristin Chang is an emerging poet whose debut PAST LIVES FUTURE BODIES is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (2018). In an interview with poet Katie Clark for Vagabond City, Chang discusses her struggle to write trauma inflicted by men while also decentering them, and how all the speakers in her poetry are women. She then goes on to describes her intense awareness of colonialist language, the space it occupies, and how to coexist with that space instead. In a “Why I Write” statement for Connotation Press, Chang writes that she is “trying (and sometimes, admittedly failing) not to write for white people, not to write for nations and regimes or borders, not to write towards my extinction” and ends with “[t]he poet does not forget or forgive: she haunts. She is unafraid of her anger, understands it as love. For herself.”
- Immigration in A (The Shallow Ends) (Pushcart Prize nominee)
- Self-help for immigrant women (Frontier Poetry)
- The “you” in my poems is always a woman (Connotation Press)
Anaïs Duplan (website)
Anaïs Duplan has published a full-length debut Take This Stallion (Brooklyn Arts Press, 2016) and a book Mount Carmel & the Blood of Parnassus (Monster House Press, 2017). They directly address the audience in their work and also challenge that audience — themselves, other poets, or readers — in ways few poets would. One poem in her book asks, “are you an American / are you a poet? / will David Lehman / anthologize you?” and another calls out white readers. Duplan’s work is direct, it questions its own worth, and it breaks the fourth wall. In a poem published in BOAAT, the speakers question themselves and the potential harm their words could cause — “[o]ver and over, I had to ask myself / about the words I was using / and if those words were, / in fact, killing people” — but never in deference to or because of the white gaze. The speakers in Duplan’s work never ask for acceptance.
- N’ THEN SHE SAID “I NEED TO TELL U SOMETHIN, N’ DONT HATE ME FOR IT… (BOAAT)
- Seven Poems (The Elephants)
Joshua Jennifer Espinoza (website)
Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is a trans woman poet living in California who has recently published THERE SHOULD BE FLOWERS (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016), complementing her earlier work, i’m alive / it hurts / i love it (Boost House, 2014). Much of her work is about transness and neurodivergence that includes anxiety, depression, and survival. Espinoza pushes to reject academia as the authority and gatekeepers of poetry. She also seeks to write and to encourage other trans poets to write works on transness that do not seek the approval of the cis gaze and also for the white voice to no longer be the baseline for what is considered “real” poetry. In an interview with The Offing, Espinoza expands on this: “I want the privileged white academic voice to stop existing as the standard for what poetry ‘should’ be. I want trans people to be able to write poetry that doesn’t have to pander to cis people’s feelings about what constitutes transness.”
- WHAT IT TAKES TO LEAVE A HOUSE (Lambda Literary)
- WAKE ME UP WHEN MY GENDER ENDS (Hyperallergic)
- PERSONAL STATEMENT (BOAAT)
Kim Yideum (website)
Kim Yideum is a Korean poet who has published five books of poetry and whose work has been adapted into play and film. More recently her work has appeared alongside two other Korean women poets in Poems of Kim Yideum, Kim Haengsook & Kim Min Jeong (Vagabond Press, 2017). Yideum’s work is feminist and subverts expectations made of women in ways that are confrontational and even incite revulsion. She is not polite in ways that are deeply exciting, and she does not water down the horrors of gendered violence or make it more palatable to her audience. Yideum also exposes what the silence of society has borne for women in the face of gendered violence. In “Expectations of Silence” she writes, “A case without a witness gets swept under the rug, and people say they’ll get what they deserve in the end, the truth will come out. No, it won’t. The truth is heading toward annihilation.”
Caroline Rayner (website)
Caroline Rayner is an emerging poet whose first book, calorie world (Sad Spell Press), was released in 2017. calorie world speaks of decadence in a number of ways: in food, how our society consumes it, the ritual of it, and the refusal of it. Her work is dissimilar to that of of others who write of disordered eating, ritual, and self-destruction in that it does not reach for recovery but instead has a deceptive lightness that other works which refuse the recovery narrative often don’t have. “& i ask her / is control like / an illusion / or like cosmetic–” Rayner writes in a poem published in LOR. Rayner’s work is on pain but the frothiness of it is a glitter that mesmerizes the reader and allows them to enter wholly into the speaker’s world of bleeding and the body as cage. In Voicemail Poems’ “Morning Inside a New Body” the ache of her voice is without adornment, “I hardly feel real. / I just want to feel real.”
Crystal Vega-Huerta is a disabled Latinx writer and former programmer/mental health advocate from Southern California. Runs a curated quotes and books blog on Tumblr @lifeinpoetry. Founded and moderated an online support group for those with neurodivergence from 1999-2016.
Header Photo by Diego Botero