You are on page 1of 7

LaRonde 1

Leandra LaRonde
Professor Rines
UWRT 1100

A Genre Theorem: Feminist Poetry

What is feminist poetry? Before delving into this genre I must first explain the word
feminism. Feminism by definition is: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality
of the sexes. Feminist poetry is a genre that came about during the feminist movement of the
1960s. In this time, many writers came forth such as Audrey Lorde, Adrienne Rich and Anne
Waldman to bring this genre to the forefront.
Feminist poetry is identified as having very recognizable features such as romanticism
and personal lyric (Feminist Measures, 5). Through the discourse mode of narrative, authors use
this genre to explore the female experience that is most times in the first-person (Feminist
Measures, 5). Common core features of feminist poetry draw from the discussion of female
sexuality, the cycles of the female body, female friendships and familial relations, and the
consequences of womens oppression in patriarchy (Feminist Measures, 5). All of these features
are schemas under one concept of social awareness and self-realization (Napikoski, Feminist
Poetry). This genre has a wide reaching audience. It touches women and girls of all ages as well
men. It is a common misconception that men must be left out in the topic of feminism but in
actuality I believe they are just as important of an audience as women.
From this genre, there has been a bias toward one specific kind of feminist poetry that
limits the wide umbrella that this concept covers. Some audiences believe that a feminist poem
must come from women solely to truly convey the experiences that women go through. Though

LaRonde 2
women are definitely an authority on this genre, there are many things to be discussed and
addressed that can be based from the male point of view. Male feminist poet Charles Bernstein
shows that men can in fact write in this genre with his poetic collections such as Girly Man
where he addresses the patriarchal automaton that is current society. In his poem The Ballad
of the Girlie Man, Bernstein says:
The truth is hidden in a veil of tears/ The scabs of the mourners grow thick with fear/ A
democracy once proposed/ Is slimmed and grimed again/ By men with brute design/ Who
prefer hate to rime.
He uses the discourse mode of narrative to give another take on society and the
experiences women go through in modern times. I think his audience targets women but more so
men because he is trying to broaden the views of many males who believe feminism does not
apply to them. This poem definitely exemplifies feminist poetry because it discusses some of the
main features of this genre: patriarchal society, womens empowerment, and the female
Another bias of feminist poetry is the idea that feminist poetry is angry or meant to bash
things that the authors do not agree with. Though feminist poetry can come from a place of
anger, it is not limited to such. That is why this genre is also argumentative in its discourse. In
the poem Is/Not by Margaret Atwood, she argues the definition of common ideas in society
such as sex and love. Atwood makes this argument in her poem saying that:
Love is not a profession/ genteel or otherwise/ sex is not dentistry/ the slick filling of
aches and cavities/ you are not my doctor/ you are not my cure/ nobody has that power/
you are merely a fellow traveler/ Give up this medical concern/ buttoned, attentive/
permit yourself anger/ and permit me mine/ which needs neither/ your approval nor your

LaRonde 3
surprise/ which does not need to be made legal/ which is not against a disease/ but against
you/ which does not need to be understood/ or washed or cauterized/ which needs
instead/ to be said and said/ Permit me the present tense.
This poem shows that feminist poetry can argue a point without conforming to the
common follies of what is thought to be the only form of feminist poetry. The audience most
befitting of this poem would probably women in their late teens and older because it is of a more
adult content. It is speaking to modern women of today even though the words of this poem
could be applied to any time period. I think although this audience is meant for more mature
women, more and more young women in the 12-17 age range are discovering this poem because
of the growing influence of feminism. Atwood poses a prime example of feminist poetry by
using not only argument but also narrative to display a female point of view and experience on
dealing with love and intimacy.
Feminist poetry is derived from poets of the past and has influenced modern day poets
like Daphne Gottlieb who wrote the poetry novel Why Things Burn. In this collection, Gottlieb
touches on issues such as sexuality, lesbian issues, rape, and urban life. Although the topics of
today have evolved from what was typically discussed in the past, her works still hold true to the
feminist genre. This poetry is very relevant to the 21st century woman and the experiences
females of today go through. This novel is one that reaches females of various age ranges
because the growing relevance and need of feminine voices for young girls as well as adult
women. Why Things Burn could also easily apply to men but more so as a way of education
on what women go through.

LaRonde 4
This genre not only uses the discourse mode of narrative and argument to accomplish its
purpose. It also uses modes such as description and information. Maya Angelou, a famous
feminist poet, wrote one of the most influential poems in the feminist genre titled Phenomenal
Woman. In this poem she celebrates femininity and highlights the traits of a phenomenal
woman. This poem uses the mode of narrative to give her account of the female experience.
Angelou enlists the mode of description as well to describe the female anatomy and relates it to
the power that women hold. The audience this poet is trying to reach is females but more
specifically females who are not necessarily aware of the power and ability that lies within them.
In reaching the audience the poem has also exemplified what feminist poetry is.
In Daphne Gottliebs poem Kissing with the Lights On she gives a personal narrative
on intimacy with a male over a period time. This poem is a prime example of feminist poetry
discussing sexuality and the female body. The features of this poem are ultimately shaped by its
purpose to give an account of what it is like to be a woman in this situation. It is not the clich
account that may be found in any poem about the poor girl being fooled by men. It gives a sort
of empowering account that is very characteristic of feminist poetry. The author takes what is
usually seen as the more patriarchal role and gives the female the control of the situation.
Feminist poetry is a genre that not only gives an account on how women think, feel, and,
experience but it also showcases the history of womens role in poetry. It is embodied by its core
features from style to topic to form to through various discourse modes to get across the ultimate
goal of social awareness and self-realization. Like author Kathleen Crown once stated in her
critical essay Poetry, Feminism, and the Public Sphere:
These critical accounts of the dramatic outpouring of poetry by women since the 1960s
give us new and deeply historical models for understanding this particularly decisive

LaRonde 5
entry of poetry into the public domain. They also offer an opportunity for estimating
poetry's past and potential contributions to the construction of a "feminist counter public
sphere" as an ideal discursive space, and for assessing how effectively feminist critics
have been able to juggle the intricate public sphere questions of aesthetics and politics,
access and context, audiences and institutions.
Feminist poetry is a genre that is ever evolving. It has grown in influence and also in the
topics that are being discussed more and more like gender and sexuality. When feminist poetry
came into prominence its sole purpose was to discuss a movement but it is more than a
movement. It is an embodiment of the growth of women and society as whole that will continue
to evolve as society does.
After having a more informed knowledge on this genre I believe that one should look into
the growing influence it is having on culture and how it is seeping into other genres like music,
film, and even politics. I have learned that genre has influenced me more so than I could have
ever imagined. Genre applies to every aspect of our daily lives from the ways in which we write
to the ideas and biases we form about certain issues and topics. In gaining this knowledge I have
a grown an awareness of the process in which I go about my daily life like when I am watching
slam poetry. I now often question how these poets were influenced by genre. It is a mindboggling notion but definitely one to look in to.

I really enjoyed reading your paper. You chose an interesting genre that has a lot to offer.
However, there are some issues that need to be resolved. Please make sure that every claim that
you are making in this paper is supported by evidence and/or citations. All facts, unless they are
commonly known by the general public, must be supported by evidence/citations. Also, be
careful about inserting your own opinion in your paper. This is a formal analysis, so it should
focus solely on facts. Second, when I ask for the features of the genre, I am asking for specific
components of each text that make it a part of the genre, not the general themes portrayed in the

LaRonde 6
text. Finally, make sure that you are fully answering each question and that your explanations
fully explain your claims.
The following is the rubric for the assignment, including what you would have received had this
draft been your final draft. This grade will not be recorded anywhere. It is simply a chance for
you to see where you stand.

Scoring Criteria
Is focused, clear, purposeful, and meets the needs of the audience
States the main function/communicative purpose of the genre and how
the purpose is accomplished
States the discourse mode(s) commonly used in the genre
States the core features of the genre and how the features are shaped by








the communicative purpose

States the context, intended, actual audience, and biases at play for each
(60 points)

States if each text fits the genre
All claims made are supported. Writer uses specific references to sources
to support claims.
Introduction establishes a framework for the rest of the paper and
includes a thesis statement.
There is an obvious conclusion summarizing the paper that discusses the

(10 points)

evolution of the genre and what the writer learned

Utilizes a strong internal structure and purposefully moves the reader
easily through the text.
Vocabulary and word choice are precise and varied.
Sentences are all well-crafted and consistently varied in structure, length,

Style and
(30 points)

and beginning.
The writer demonstrates a firm grasp of the conventions of written
English (spelling, capitalization, punctuation etc.). There are no typos.
Is formatted according to the conventions of MLA
Is 1500 2000 words
Total Points

LaRonde 7
Works Cited
Bernstein, Charles. Girly Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Print.
Burt, Stephen. "Phenomenal Woman." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 15 Feb.
Crown, Kathleen. "Poetry, Feminism, and the Public Sphere." Contemporary Literature (1998):
1-668. University of Wisconsin-Madison English Department. Board of Regents of the
University of Wisconsin System. Web. 2 Feb. 2015.
Feminism." Merriam Webster. Encyclopdia Britannica Company, n.d. Web. 9 Feb. 2015.
Gottlieb, Daphne. Why Things Burn: Poems. Michigan: Soft Skull Press, 2001. Print
Montefiore, Jan. Feminism and Poetry: Language, Experience, Identity in Women's Writing.
London; Chicago: Pandora; Chicago, III: Distributed in the USA by Independent
Publishers' Group, 2004. Print.
Petronzio, Matt. "6 Male Poets Who Are Not Afraid to Write About Feminism." Guernica/ A
Magazine of Art & Politics. Guernica/ A Magazine of Art & Politics, 9 Sept. 2011. Web.
15 Feb. 2015.
Whitehead, Kim. The Feminist Poetry Movement. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi,
1996. Print.