After great pain, a formal feeling comes --
– Emily Dickinson
Young Girl Absorbed in Her book: Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) his niece,
Theophila Palmer (Mrs Gwatkin), reading (what else?) Richardson's Clarissa
In Annie Finch's “How to create a Poetic Tradition” , Finch demonstrates how central to visibility and thus a perceptible, findable, and usable context for writers and readers is “the entire literary apparatus of reviews, anthologies, journals, histories, panels, conferences, encyclopedias and textbooks.” Anthologies which are 90% male and where the choice of poem is often an unacknowledged masculinist bias (presented as universal or general) cripple the woman writer. Anthologies, handbooks, histories of literature come out of people's desires, respect, point of view, what they think others will value. So the context is the manifestation of living people and people in the past reading, writing, talking, acting together: “numerous small acts of persistence ... To edit, write, and create this apparatus is creative and fulfilling work in itself and tends to enrich a poet's poetry” (see The Body of Poetry: Essays on Women, Form, and the Poetic Self, cited below).
If many poems in the foremother poet selection come from collected or partial editions of the poets, books on them, anthologies of men and women's poetry, critical works, dictionaries, feminist essays, were crucial in providing names and some minimal information about the women, which enabled me to begin reading their work and writing about them in the first place.
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