Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gender and Poetry

Sometimes, it seems, the old dichotomy that separates women from men is still strong even though it has been some time since we classified writers by gender. We've come a long way from the times that female authors felt they had to write and publish under masculine names to be read and taken seriously. We've finally dropped the designation "poetess" from our lexicon the same way "actress" has disappeared. And on the surface, that's a good thing.
But any real differences have not been obliterated. A writer writes with his whole being, and that includes gender as well as many other characteristics that formed the person. If the writer is true to him/her self (see how awkward this is already?) those traits, including gender, will show. I, as a male, find it impossible to write honestly with a female point of view. I can try to imagine, but only imagine.

For some strange reason, poetry written by women appeals to me more often than that written by men. I don't know why. Perhaps I am more in tune with a feminine insight into daily existence than a masculine outlook. It does not seem to affect any other aspect of my being. This too has become a part of how I express myself.

I have just finished reading two books, one fiction and one non-fiction, about strong women and found myself with strong feelings of empathy. That's what set off this musing. And that brought to mind an incident that happened a long time ago: I was giving a reading to a (mainly Afro-Canadian audience and included, as contrast to my own, several by the American poet Gwendolyn Brooks. I was somewhat taken aback when several of the ladies took me to task. Who was I to try to interpret the work of Ms. Brooks? At the time I thought that it was because she was black, but now again I think it may also have been because she was female, and female sentiment and expression were not expected from a male.
Ah, well. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. The divide has not crumbled completely; in some places it is stronger than ever. With very few exceptions, women write romance and men write porn.


annaken said...

I read with interest your comments. I myself can relate to women's writings as it more reflects my own path.

As for men who write porn as you suggested, I have to ask myself why it is necessary to write such things? The love between men and women can be beautiful and meaningful but porn reduces and cheapens both the writer and the reader of porn. \

I am always saddened to see people sink to such a level.

Todd said...

Inside outside. Can we only see and understand from the inside? Can we only see and understand from the outside? On the inside are we not often at a distance from the inside. There is a gap, a fleeting glimpse of the teasing mystery of understanding. Can a woman even be a woman without the mingling of men and women, a person without the in and out of other persons?