Reviewed by Jan Peregrine
Forgotten Women: A Tribute in Poetry
by Ginny Lowe Connors (Editor)
Paperback – February 15, 2017, ISBN-13: 978-0996280990
While I don’t often read poetry, or write it, when I do it’s because the poetry has a timeless, wistful quality that makes me wonder why I don’t indulge my inner poetess a lot more. Perhaps the answer lies in not wishing to risk a diminishing of its magic fingers stroking my head, its sweet discovery of the power of images created by words. I strangely, you may say, grew more and more enthralled with Grayson Books’ Forgotten Women: A Tribute in Poetry as I neared the end of nearly two hundred pages of mostly free verse about mostly overlooked, heroic women mostly in the last century.
Edited by Ginny Lowe Connors, this intimate commentary of historical women of common and uncommon nobility by dozens of contemporary, mainly American poets could strike the common fancy of any adult who opens the book. Especially in the political climate too many women face today.
These titled sectioned poems inspire reflection on hard-working women, unknown, usually real women, talented women overshadowed by men, and known women who made “her”story.
Some made me weepy, such as the “Radium girls” who needed the money from working lips-on with the killer chemical and a Japanese American woman being kicked out of her WWII detainment camp after the war, but having no where to go or any possessions anymore. I only laughed a bit, such as when a poet noted that once “published” meant being banned from preaching! Wish it still did. One historical woman, Christine Jorgansen, was remembered for being the first American transwoman and for her wit. Many made me proud to belong to womanhood, but sad that such intelligent, innovative women have been relegated unfairly to the sidelines in the bleachers…or, even worse, to nowhere but the twirling currents in the air we breathe.
Most poems are a page-length or more, but one, “The New Woman” by Anne Harding Wordsworth, is notable for its brevity and charm. Wordsworth heads it with a quote by suffragist Susan B. Anthony about bicycling doing more to emancipate women than anything else. Here it is:
I want to be Katie Kapchovsky
and ride a bicycle around the world,
discard my bustle and petticoats,
my rorset—and rescue the flux of my ribs,
and dance in their marrow.
I’ll wear bloomers of twill. You see?
I too have two legs to bestride a Columbia frame.
I’ll balance on a saddle and dig into handlebars.
I’ll make money, carry a placard that proclaims
to the world the goodness of labia sisters.
I’ll pedal with the wind. I’ll pedal against the wind.
And my music will come with me.
I’m baffled by what labia sisters portends. Many poems use unfamiliar terms from a bygone era and sometimes the author’s meaning is unclear. Some are just okay, but most are rewarding if a bit confusing. I’ll relish tasting the book again and again.
I have a confession. I only recognized a single contributor, even though they are acclaimed authors, maybe even former or current Poet Laureates. I’ve read a few books by Ted Kooser because he lives in my state and I met him once after he’d served two terms as U.S. Poet Laureate. He was one of a very few male poets. The others were largely from both coasts with a smattering of poets from Ohio, Wisconsin, Kentucky, one each in Alaska and Texas, pretty much. A Chicagoan.
Though a poem paid tribute to FDR’s personal secretary who loved being the crippled leader’s legs or hostess and one was about Braille developing his reading system for the blind, none really came from a woman like me and, as often happens after reading poetry or certain books, I was inspired to write this:
she pecks the keys with one finger
she scans the screen for some good news
she sits in a scooter she plugs in at night
she hopes to be heard
she expresses her own mind
she simplifies life however she can
she writes for a laugh and always a song
she writes to unleash the human within
she writes because her spirit flies free
I hope Forgotten Women will inspire you as well! Just imagine that poets in the future may remember you for a life wonderfully lived, but unappreciated by those you lived with. You can thank me later for inspiring you, okay?
About the reviewer: Jan Peregrine has tried her hand at self-publishing and has about seven she recommends on Amazon or Audible. She recently finished writing a romantic/comedic trilogy called Dr. Freudine Is In. You can find her on Facebook, but she’s not into Twitter where Trumpster reigns.