Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence

Edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman

(Pittsburgh, PA: Hyacinth Girl Press 2013).
Paper, 226 pp.: $19.95. ISBN: 978-0-615-77278-3

Reviewed by Maggie Woodward


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     In her preface, editor Laura Madeline Wiseman asserts what she believes to be the function of this collection of poetry: it is “a tool to create dialogue about gender violence, poetry, and action.” And, unmistakably, the one-hundred-plus poets who populate the following pages do just that—they act.

     The act of writing is not typically viewed as an assertion of power or an articulation of authority. Putting pen to paper requires only a voice and an idea. However, the women included in this anthology do more than defy this long-entrenched logic. These poems position themselves to fight; not to assume the role of victim, but to meet the reader with fists raised, ready to throw punches of their own.

     The poets anthologized in this collection reclaim and make new what’s been taken from them, what they’ve been told is no longer theirs. As Lisa Lewis writes in her poem, “The Accident,” “I was taught not to write about this.” The very existence of these poems—the order of their words, the tangibility of their ink on the page, their unapologetic truths—this, in itself, is a political act.

     These poems relish in their own complexity, in the ways a resistant woman is not a static figure, but an ever-ebbing, ever-flowing, river of existence.

     They tell how the things one has endured can themselves become weapon: “you did what you must/ and kneaded your rage/ into a hard round ball/ It was poison/ but it was yours” (Lucy Adkins, “Grandma Ellen Tells it Like it Was”).

     They articulate the desire to forget: “What you want to do is go off alone and dive/ into deep, clean water, start over with no carnage anywhere in sight/ as if you could, and isn’t it pretty to think so” (Wendy Barker, “Why I Dread Teaching The Sun Also Rises”).

     They work to reclaim womanhood as power, as inherent strength: “Never underestimate the music/ of a woman’s scream: the sound the river would make/ if it did not wish to go to the sea, if every current/ resisted and turned around” (Laura Moseley, “The River is the Sea”).

     Above all, the poems and poets included in Women Write Resistance work to display the activism of poetry and the power of the woman-poet. In her critical introduction, Wiseman writes, “Poetry of resistance…allow[s] poets to use multiple strategies to challenge the powers that endorse gender violence.” Many of the poets in this collection work to cultivate an identity that they alone define, to rupture any image that’s been imposed upon them by the patriarchal order. Marjorie Saiser writes in “Before This,” “before that I was a seed, a lovely seed/ like a cottonwood seed/ having my own small fluff for a parachute/ floating from a great height/ or maybe I was/ yes I think I was an oriole’s song.”

     Women Write Resistance is titled to reflect the book’s action: it is movement, it is kinesis, it is a declaration of agency. It is a reaching out, both to react and to connect.

     As Lauren Moseley’s poem concludes: “Rushing past buildings/ that late hour, and even now, I am the river/ a gathering of water made beautiful/ not by the moon, but by how I will not stop.”

     These poems are an affirmation. They are fluid. They are sustenance.


Maggie Woodward is an MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Mississippi. You can find/hear her poems in VAYAVYA, Rust + Moth, Kenning Poetry Journal, Sugared Water Magazine, and elsewhere. You can follow her on Twitter @maggie_eliz.