Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Aren't There Any Bad Girl Poets?

Bad Guys and poetry:

In response to the question, “Can a bad man be a good poet?” there are only two things to be said: “Yes” and “obviously.” In part, that's because the poetry world sets the bar fairly low for “badness” — when we say a poet was a “bad man,” we don't mean that he was a shotgun-toting, baby-kicking monster; we mean that he was unpleasant, disturbed, or a jerk. And considering that poetry’s history is thick with unpleasant, disturbed jerks, the question would seem to answer itself.

He does, in fact, get around to talking about Anne Sexton for about two lines, but only to insist that it's impossible for a reader to "see themselves" in Sexton's poems, so it's different, somehow, to be shocked by her... I'm wondering if he means "a reader" to be "a male reader like me." Huh.

via Julian

6 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Sure, I see myself in Sexton's poetry. "For my Lover, Returning to His Wife" more than any of them, I think... The ultimate "bad girl" poet to me is Sharon Olds, who is very much alive and most unsuicidal. 

Posted by Hugo

Anonymous said...

Ohhhhh... Sharon Olds. Yes. Amazing. You were my introduction to Olds, actually, when you posted "Sex Without Love." Amazing, amazing stuff.

I did find that guy's opinion pretty weird, that he found he couldn't "connect" with bad girl poets the way he did with bad boys. Very odd, to me. I think he's got some reader bias. 

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

The essay is also just strangely edited with regard to the "bad men" who are discussed. Where is Ted Hughes, who for all morally relevant purposes, can be counted as having killed Sylvia Plath? Where is Charles Bukowski, who is not just unpleasant or disturbed but actively abusive? (The "we don't mean that he was a shotgun-toting, baby-kicking monster" bit particularly gets me, since I don't know whether Bukowski's ever kicked a baby, but I have seen a documentary in which he stops in the middle of an interview to scream abuse at his wife and then kicks her twice before she escapes off-camera. I felt sick and left the room shortly after that episode; and I've never had any desire to read a damn thing by Charles Bukowski since.)

Posted by Rad Geek

Anonymous said...

There's always Janice Erlbaum the Girl Bomb, Nicole Blackman, and Anne Elliott. The three are primarily performative poets that have emerged in the last ten years, and I suspect as female performers will be overlooked, but their work is worthy of praise and analysis.

All three are "bad" in the sense that women poets are supposed to be tormented about their femininity and sexuality, but all three harness the power of sex, drugs, and rock n roll quite unapologetically. Further, Erlbaum's poetry about her wild teen years reminded me of myself, caught up in the sexual abandon and confusion of untenthered sexual activity.

Check them out. Really, it's worth your time. 

Posted by Lauren

Anonymous said...

Very cool. Thanks for the recommendations...  

Posted by Kameron Hurley

Anonymous said...

Goodness knows that they're still out there, some hidden in plain sight [Patti Smith], some like Olds, still reasonably well known. How about Kathy Acker, Audre Lorde (for the slightly older set) or even Adrienne Rich, and Marge Piercy of roughly the same vintage as Olds? The problem is that they cycle in and out of public consciousness so relatively quickly that they are all but unknown to the younger generations. I think I've seen Sonia Sanchez mentioned in print within the last year or so, but she's getting on too.

It's a big problem actually to find poetry being read or 'performed' regularly, even in very large cosmopolitan cities. And yet it still survives as an art form to be reinvented by every generation for itself for their own purposes [Tracie Morris].

And please, if we are still arguing over Ted Hughes at this very late date, let's not just repeat the same drivel they hand down in the lit crit classes. He killed her, right. See Hetti Jones. Even better, ask Lee Morgan how it went down. Now that was a professional hit. 

Posted by VJ