The early works of the artist Helen Chadwick, who had a great impact on me, made use of images of her own body. In the late 1980s a change occurred and she wrote: “I made a conscious decision in 1988 not to represent my body … It immediately declares female gender and I wanted to be more deft.” And “deft” is how every poet should be. However, when applying the same idea to poetry I saw how perspective we can be in our assumptions on the influence of gender on writing.
In the past few weeks I have been searching to find if women really do write female true love poems, which is different from male poetry and what are the characteristics of these “female poems”. And, it’s not just me, other women and even men are looking to find if this is really the case. This is the case when women readers are happy to get their hands on any good poetry, while their male counterparts are skeptical when it comes to read poetry written by women. Also, I have noticed that it’s hard to find men that review women’s books, as you have to have sorts of specialized expertise to do this.
The advantage if the poet is an outsider is that the discomfort makes a clearer vision.
We need to cherish the freedom of the shifting boundaries. There is an extreme polarity between male and female, but that doesn’t define who we are and how we write. The poet should move and shift between a continuum of masculinity and femininity with only one purpose, to bring to life the character which is needed. If you are afraid to do this or don’t know how, just remember that many great poets, like Keats and Dickinson, do this.
We can never quite be sure if there is a distinctly female poetic sensibility. Some people think that you could pinpoint the unique openness to the body and the world to the female writing; others think that these are exciting options for a writer of any gender. Just as some territories of writing may be seen as a bit masculine are still open to anybody.