Athena has written quite a few interesting essays for English this year, but I thought my feminist friends out there would really like this one. I think it is kind of creative and of course very clever :)
I believe it is obvious that Rich thinks reading comes first in the reading-writing-learning process. “My own luck was being born white and middle class into a house full of books with a father who encouraged me to read and write.” (542) She called these books her teachers, “literary masters”, that she needed to please, or at least not displease.
How can you call a book a master? Here is an example of how I used Rich as my 'teacher'.
Me: Isn't all feminism about hating men?
Rich: My anger and frustration were hard to acknowledge in or out of poems because in fact I cared a great deal about my husband and my children. (546) Much of woman's poetry has been of the nature of the blues song: a cry of pain, of victimization, or a lyric of seduction. And today, much poetry by women is charged with anger. I think we need to go through that anger or risk betraying our own reality. (550)
Me: How do you find the balance between being a poet and being a mom, without resenting being a mom?
Rich: At twenty-nine, I felt guilt toward the people closest to me, and guilty toward my own being. There must be ways, and we will be finding out more and more about them, in which the energy of all creation and all the energy of relation can be united. (546)
Me: Are you saying those ways are for me to explore as a female poet?
Rich: A new generation of women poets is already working out of the psychic energy released when women begin to move out towards what the feminist philosopher Mary Daly has described as the “new space” on the bounds of patriarchy.(550)
Me: But aren't these women talking about hate too?
Rich: Women are speaking to and of women in these poems, out of a newly released courage to name, to love each other, to share risk and grief and celebration.(550)
By dialogging with the author I was more open to her position. When I first read the piece I had some old walls and barriers up, so it was hard for me to hear her story. These questions helped me see her as an individual as opposed to a “feminist.” I could pretend that I was talking directly to her, then read her work to find the answers to my questions. It took me three or four times of reading to actually hear Rich answer my last question about hate.
That statement shifted the whole passage for me. If I hadn't been willing to ask her questions, I wouldn't have actually heard some of the important things she had to say. If I hadn't started seeing her in a new way, I would not have pulled out my old poems. By reading my poems in a new way, I learned something about myself and Rich's position on women poets.
Rich was also surprised that when she went back and reread her own work she learned more about herself. I can see her point that females write about females in terms of how men define them. I was actually surprised because I thought my poetry was from within me. It was startling to see how much of it was about not being the perfect woman for a man or the fear of not living up to the 'societal standards' of womanhood.
She also said that when women were looking for inspiration, they were not finding themselves. “what she does not find is that absorbed, drudging, puzzled, sometimes inspired creature, herself, who sits at a desk trying to put words together.” (543) When learning you want to see yourself in the literature. Too often, the girls in literature that are closest to me are the “male fantasy” or the “super-bitch” I find that very frustrating. I would love to see a well rounded college girl, in a movie or a book.
I have never considered myself a feminist, but I have thought of myself as a poet. This piece caused me to have many important self-realizations. The first being that not all feminism is about hate. The second being that I am not as original a poet as I thought I was. The third being that reading a piece you think you are going to disagree with can actually teach you about yourself. All three of the self-realizations were a surprise to me.