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“You can kill me as soon as you like, but you will never stop the emancipation of women� Tihirih Her last words at her execution for being a woman


To an army wife, in Sardis Some say a cavalry corps, some infantry, some, again, will maintain that the swift oars of our fleet are the finest sight on dark earth; but I say that whatever one loves, is. This is easily proved: did not Helen—she who had scanned the flower of the world’s manhood— choose as first among men one who laid Troy’s honor in ruin? warped to his will, forgetting love due her own blood, her own child, she wandered far with him. So Anactoria, although you being far away forget us, the dear sound of your footstep and light glancing in your eyes would move me more than glitter of Lydian horse or armored tread of mainland infantry Sappho 630 -570 BC


Angellica’s Lament Had I remained in innocent security, I should have thought all men were born my slaves, And worn my power like lightning in my eyes, To have destroyed at pleasure when offended. —But when love held the mirror, the undeceiving glass Reflected all the weakness of my soul, and made me know My richest treasure being lost, my honour, All the remaining spoil could not be worth The conqueror’s care or value. —Oh how I fell like a long worshipped idol Discovering all the cheat. Aphra Behn 1640 - 1689


The Rights of Women Yes, injured Woman! rise, assert thy right! Woman! too long degraded, scorned, opprest; O born to rule in partial Law's despite, Resume thy native empire o'er the breast! Go forth arrayed in panoply divine; That angel pureness which admits no stain; Go, bid proud Man his boasted rule resign, And kiss the golden sceptre of thy reign. Go, gird thyself with grace; collect thy store Of bright artillery glancing from afar; Soft melting tones thy thundering cannon's roar, Blushes and fears thy magazine of war. Thy rights are empire: urge no meaner claim,— Felt, not defined, and if debated, lost; Like sacred mysteries, which withheld from fame, Shunning discussion are revered the most. Try all that wit and art suggest to bend Of thy imperial foe the stubborn knee; Make treacherous Man thy subject, not thy friend; Thou mayst command, but never canst be free. Awe the licentious, and restrain the rude; Soften the sullen, clear the cloudy brow: Be, more than princes' gifts, thy favours sued;— She hazards all, who will the least allow. But hope not, courted idol of mankind, On this proud eminence secure to stay; Subduing and subdued, thou soon shalt find Thy coldness soften, and thy pride give way.


Then, then, abandon each ambitious thought, Conquest or rule thy heart shall feebly move, In Nature's school, by her soft maxims taught, That separate rights are lost in mutual love. Anna Laetitia Barbauld 1743 - 1825


They shut me up in Prose – As when a little Girl They put me in the Closet – Because they liked me “still” – Still! Could themself have peeped – And seen my Brain – go round – They might as wise have lodged a Bird For Treason – in the Pound – Himself has but to will And easy as a Star Look down opon Captivity – And laugh – No more have I – Emily Dickinson 1830 - 1886


Look Up! Look up! Our dawning day draws its first breath! The world grows light! Our souls begin to glow! No ranting shaykh rules from his pulpit throne. No mosque hawks holiness it does not know. No sham, no pious fraud, no priest commands! The turban's knot cut to its root below! No more conjurations! No spell! No ghosts! Good riddance! We are done with folly's show! The search of truth shall drive out ignorance. Equality shall strike the despots low. Let warring ways be banished from the world. Let justice everywhere its carpet throw. Tihirih 1814 - 1852


I shall forget you presently, my dear I shall forget you presently, my dear, So make the most of this, your little day, Your little month, your little half a year, Ere I forget, or die, or move away, And we are done forever; by and by I shall forget you, as I said, but now, If you entreat me with your loveliest lie I will protest you with my favorite vow. I would indeed that love were longer-lived, And vows were not so brittle as they are, But so it is, and nature has contrived To struggle on without a break thus far, Whether or not we find what we are seeking Is idle, biologically speaking. Edna St. Vincent Millay 1892 - 1950


It’s Time to Mow the Flowers It’s time to mow the flowers, don’t procrastinate. Fetch the sickles, come, don’t spare a single tulip in the fields. The meadows are in bloom: who has ever seen such insolence? The grass is growing again: step nowhere else but on its head. Blossoms are opening on every branch, exposing the happiness in their hearts: such colorful exhibitions must be stopped. Bring your scalpels to the meadow to cut out the eyes of flowers. So that none may see or desire, let not a seeing eye remain. I fear the narcissus is spreading its corruption: stop its displays in a golden bowl on a six-sided tray. What is the use of your ax, if not to chop down the elm tree? In the maple’s branches allow not a single bird a moment’s rest. My poems and the wild mint bear messages and perfumes. Don’t let them create a riot with their wild singing. My heart is greener than green, flowers sprout from the mud and water of my being. Don’t let me stand, if you are the enemies of Spring. Simin Behbahani 1927 – 2014


Consorting With Angels I was tired of being a woman, tired of the spoons and the post, tired of my mouth and my breasts, tired of the cosmetics and the silks. There were still men who sat at my table, circled around the bowl I offered up. The bowl was filled with purple grapes and the flies hovered in for the scent and even my father came with his white bone. But I was tired of the gender things. Last night I had a dream and I said to it… ‘You are the answer. You will outlive my husband and my father.’ In that dream there was a city made of chains where Joan was put to death in man’s clothes and the nature of the angels went unexplained, no two made in the same species, one with a nose, one with an ear in its hand, one chewing a star and recording its orbit, each one like a poem obeying itself, performing God’s functions, a people apart. ‘You are the answer, ‘ I said, and entered, lying down on the gates of the city. Then the chains were fastened around me and I lost my common gender and my final aspect. Adam was on the left of me and Eve was on the right of me, both thoroughly inconsistent with the world of reason. We wove our arms together


and rode under the sun. I was not a woman anymore, not one thing or the other. O daughters of Jerusalem, the king has brought me into his chamber. I am black and I am beautiful. I’ve been opened and undressed. I have no arms or legs. I’m all one skin like a fish. I’m no more a woman than Christ was a man. Anne Sexton 1928 - 1974


What Kind of Times Are These There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted who disappeared into those shadows. I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here, our country moving closer to its own truth and dread, its own ways of making people disappear. I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods meeting the unmarked strip of light— ghost-ridden crossroads, leaf mold paradise: I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear. And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these to have you listen at all, it's necessary to talk about trees. Adrienne Rich 1929 - 2012


Now Woman power is Black power is Human power is always feeling my heart beats as my eyes open as my hands move as my mouth speaks I am are you ready? Audre Lorde 1934 - 1992


“she is the wind…” she is the wind you never leave behind black cat you killed in empty lot, she is smell of the summer weeds, the one who lurks in open childhood closets, she coughs in the next room, hoots, nests in your hair she is incubus face at the window she is harpy on your fire-escape, marble figurine carved in the mantlepiece. She is cornucopia that wails in the night, death grip you cannot cut away, black limpid eyes of mad girls singing carols behind mesh, she is the hiss in your goodbyes. Black grain in green jade, sound from the silent koto, she is tapestry burned in your brain, the fiery cloak of feathers carries you off hills when you run flaming down to the black sea Diane di Prima 1934 -


There It Is My friend they don't care if you're an individualist a leftist a rightist a shithead or a snake They will try to exploit you absorb you confine you disconnect you isolate you or kill you And you will disappear into your own rage into your own insanity into your own poverty into a word a phrase a slogan a cartoon and then ashes The ruling class will tell you that there is no ruling class as they organize their liberal supporters into white supremacist lynch mobs organize their children into ku klux klan gangs organize their police into killer cops organize their propaganda into a device to ossify us with angel dust preoccupy us with western symbols in african hair styles inoculate us with hate institutionalize us with ignorance hypnotize us with a monotonous sound designed to make us evade reality and stomp our lives away And we are programmed to self-destruct to fragment


to get buried under covert intelligence operations of unintelligent committees impulsed toward death And there it is The enemies polishing their penises between oil wells at the pentagon the bulldozers leaping into demolition dances the old folks dying of starvation the informers wearing out shoes looking for crumbs the life blood of the earth almost dead in the greedy mouth of imperialism And my friend they don't care if you're an individualist a leftist a rightist a shithead or a snake They will spray you with a virus of legionnaire's disease fill your nostrils with the swine flu of their arrogance stuff your body into a tampon of toxic shock syndrome try to pump all the resources of the world into their own veins and fly off into the wild blue yonder to pollute another planet And if we don't fight if we don't resist if we don't organize and unify and get the power to control our own lives Then we will wear the exaggerated look of captivity the stylized look of submission the bizarre look of suicide the dehumanized look of fear


and the decomposed look of repression forever and ever and ever And there it is Jayne Cortez 1934 – 2012


Be Nobody's Darling Be nobody's darling; Be an outcast. Take the contradictions Of your life And wrap around You like a shawl, To parry stones To keep you warm. Watch the people succumb To madness With ample cheer; Let them look askance at you And you askance reply. Be an outcast; Be pleased to walk alone (Uncool) Or line the crowded River beds With other impetuous Fools. Make a merry gathering On the bank Where thousands perished For brave hurt words They said. But be nobody's darling; Be an outcast. Qualified to live Among your dead. Alice Walker 1944 –


He Tells Her He tells her that the earth is flat — He knows the facts, and that is that. In altercations fierce and long She tries her best to prove him wrong. But he has learned to argue well. He calls her arguments unsound And often asks her not to yell. She cannot win. He stands his ground. The planet goes on being round. Wendy Cope 1945 –


Hip-Hop Ghazal Gotta love us brown girls, munching on fat, swinging blue hips, decked out in shells and splashes, lawdie, bringing them woo hips. As the jukebox teases, watch my sistas throat the heartbreak, inhaling bassline, cracking backbone and singing thru hips. Like something boneless, we glide silent, seeping 'tween floorboards, wrapping around the hims, and ooh wee, clinging like glue hips. Engines grinding, rotating, smokin', gotta pull back some. Natural minds are lost at the mere sight of ringing true hips. Gotta love us girls, just struttin' down Manhattan streets killing the menfolk with a dose of that stinging view. Hips. Crying 'bout getting old—Patricia, you need to get up off what God gave you. Say a prayer and start slinging. Cue hips. Patricia Smith 1955 -


Little Red-Cap At childhood’s end, the houses petered out into playing fields, the factory, allotments kept, like mistresses, by kneeling married men, the silent railway line, the hermit’s caravan, till you came at last to the edge of the woods. It was there that I first clapped eyes on the wolf. He stood in a clearing, reading his verse out loud in his wolfy drawl, a paperback in his hairy paw, red wine staining his bearded jaw. What big ears he had! What big eyes he had! What teeth! In the interval, I made quite sure he spotted me, sweet sixteen, never been, babe, waif, and bought me a drink, my first. You might ask why. Here’s why. Poetry. The wolf, I knew, would lead me deep into the woods, away from home, to a dark tangled thorny place lit by the eyes of owls. I crawled in his wake, my stockings ripped to shreds, scraps of red from my blazer snagged on twig and branch, murder clues. I lost both shoes but got there, wolf’s lair, better beware. Lesson one that night, breath of the wolf in my ear, was the love poem. I clung till dawn to his thrashing fur, for what little girl doesn’t dearly love a wolf? Then I slid from between his heavy matted paws and went in search of a living bird – white dove – which flew, straight, from my hands to his hope mouth. One bite, dead. How nice, breakfast in bed, he said, licking his chops. As soon as he slept, I crept to the back of the lair, where a whole wall was crimson, gold, aglow with books.


Words, words were truly alive on the tongue, in the head, warm, beating, frantic, winged; music and blood. But then I was young – and it took ten years in the woods to tell that a mushroom stoppers the mouth of a buried corpse, that birds are the uttered thought of trees, that a greying wolf howls the same old song at the moon, year in, year out, season after season, same rhyme, same reason. I took an axe to a willow to see how it wept. I took an axe to a salmon to see how it leapt. I took an axe to the wolf as he slept, one chop, scrotum to throat, and saw the glistening, virgin white of my grandmother’s bones. I filled his old belly with stones. I stitched him up. Out of the forest I come with my flowers, singing, all alone. Carol Ann Duffy 1955 -


The River of Girls i.m. India's missing girls This is not really myth or secret. This murmur in the mouth of the mountain where the sound of rain is born. This surging past pilgrim town and village well. This coin-thin vagina and acid stain of bone. This doctor with his rusty tools, this street cleaner, this mother laying down the bloody offerings of birth. This is not the cry of a beginning, or a river buried in the bowels of the earth. This is the sound of ten million girls singing of a time in the universe when they were born with tigers breathing between their thighs; when they set out for battle with all three eyes on fire, their golden breasts held high like weapons to the sky. Tishani Doshi 1975 –


what they did yesterday afternoon they set my aunt’s house on fire i cried the way women on tv do folding at the middle like a five-pound note. i called the boy who use to love me tried to ‘okay’ my voice i said hello he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened? i’ve been praying, and these are what my prayers look like; dear god i come from two countries one is thirsty the other is on fire both need water. later that night i held an atlas in my lap ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered where does it hurt? It answered, everywhere everywhere everywhere Warsan Shire 1988 –


“A rewriting of the female literary history is perhaps the major academic and aesthetic responsibility of our generation of literary scholarship. …work that includes the establishment of accurate texts, the recasting of biographies and the re-evaluation of literary traditions.” From the book Poet On Demand by Jane E. Vallier


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Feminist Poetry Through the Ages (Free for educational purposes only)

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Feminist Poetry Through the Ages (Free for educational purposes only)

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