Okay, indulge me. Gather round while I tell you a story about something that has been going on for the last 25 years and maybe longer. It is the story about how, as is often the case, great things happen in the midst of our lives and receive very little notoriety until someone wakes up and says, oops looks like we missed something big, something like global warming, or the fact that IBM once employed the founders of Microsoft and Intel and let them walk away and make history and billions of dollars. In letters, we know there are plenty of examples of writers laboring in obscurity until they are “discovered,” usually at the end of their lives or long after their death.
Right now something great is happening in literature and we have our women poets to thank for this. I will be condemned for the wide swath the broad brush of my generalization takes, therefore I am conditioning you so that you may understand that this pronouncement is in no way intended to diminish the accomplishment of men who are writing great poems today. However, I believe a renaissance in poetry is occurring during our time and it is attributable to women poets, internationally, who are writing the most exciting, enchanting and challenging poetry since the early twentieth century.
I do not have to say more than Susan Howe, Alice Notley, Alice Fulton, Carolyn Forché, Rae Armantrout, Sharon Olds, Louise Glück, Anne Carson and Jorie Graham, and you know what I mean. There are female poets (still young but entering middle age) who are still breaking new trail, holding their flame aloft to guide us into the City of Love, like Ange Mlinko, Laura Kasischke, Claudia Rankine, Lavinia Greenlaw, A.E. Stallings, Tracy K. Smith, Kate Northrop, Andrea Brady, Kim Addonizio, Daisy Fried, Nikkey Finney, and Meghan O’Rourke, again this is a sampling. There are even younger poets who are emerging with surprising new voices who explore novel subject matter, like Leontia Flynn, whose Profit and Loss was a finalist for Britain’s T.S. Eliot prize and Emilia Phillips whose first book of poems, Signaletics, Editor’s Choice for the 2012 Akron Poetry Prize, will be published in 2013. Three young British women, Liz Berry, Christina Navazo-Eguía Newton and Kate Potts have published award-winning works in the last three years.
I intend to post articles on some of the new women poets that I hope will provoke further reading and discussion. There is no doubt, however, that the women poets are carrying the torch of contemporary poetry and a magnificent, brilliant flame it is.
Some 21st Century American Women Poets (many of the links are outdated, but this list is a good starting point for research)