Femmes de tous les temps
. . . They come to greet us
These women from another age
In the ephemeral flesh of their bodies
In the beauty of a gesture bound to perish
In the brief swirls of a face new or aged
These immemorial Women
through clay and stones
parting the husks
Clear a path to the present . . . Andrée Chédid, trans. Mary Ann Caws
Christine de Pisan (1363-c.1430) imagined writing
Sometime during 2005 I began to write short lives of women poets to which I attached what I thought were their best or most characteristic poems and evaluative commentary. I would also offer a list of essays or books by or essays on these poets, or anthologies which included them. I put these on my first blog, Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Too (attacked by a virus, those which survived are rescued at women's art).
It was probably in the following year I joined Wom-po, a listserv community devoted to talking about and sharing women's poetry, and there I met the listowner, Annie Finch, poet and translator who had declared Wednesday to be a day for us all to share poems by women. She was committed to recovering a woman poets poetic tradition, to the reality that women "think back through our mothers" as writers, readers, artists. Paula Backscheider (whose Eighteenth Century Women Poets and their Poetry I reviewed) is just one of many women scholars who have demonstrated that a women's canon would exist but that much of it has been destroyed and what was left censored, with its original perspectives changed, often reversed. So, we began each Friday, a group of us, to contribute poems by "foremother poets." The custom continued for some months, but after that most of the people only contributed now and again. I was one of the people who contributed consistently and by the time of the First Annual Festival of Women's Poetry (online), had with thirty lives and poetry ready to be put on the site.
During that time and since then I've written more of these little lives, posting them to Wom-po and also the listservs I moderate (at Yahoo: Eighteenth Century Worlds, Women Writers through the Ages, Trollope19thCStudies), and when I opened my new blogs I began on Fridays to write them regularly ( Ellen and Jim have a blog, Two, and Reveries Under the Sign of Austen). Now, in order to make these visible to others, to have one single handy place to reach them, and to fill in unnoticed gaps, I have decided to gather all I've done on my website onto this one place.
My definition of a foremother began as "sixty years since:" following Scott's formula for when a period was historical, I said a women was a "foremother," no longer contemporary when she had died sixty years since or women who poetry was published sixty years ago. After a while, though, it became apparent to me that many women poets today consider poetry twenty years old in the past, and as I had no desire to exclude anyone, and myself did not know an infinite number of poets, and liked more recent poets, I began to include poets who were born sixty years ago (and sometimes since).
The order is chronological and the decided predominance of British women poets makes it differ somewhat from my Bibliography of Women's Literature. Following the chronology the reader will find links to an alphabetical index, a list of the best anthologies and handbook I know of and those I used here; there's also a selection of histories, essays, and general blogs. In each foremother poet blog I also list essays & books about the individual poets.
Please note that I make no pretense to any sense of being complete; it is to be understood what I have done is the product of my interests, knowledge, outlook and taste. Many people have helped and encouraged me, but I feel I should single out Louise Howerow for the hard work she did in compositing the set of 30 Foremother Poets for Wom-po's Festival Website.
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