Contemporary British Poetry: Essays in Theory and Criticism

By James Acheson; Romana Huk | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
Postfeminist Poetry?:
"one more word
for balls"

Vicki Bertram

There is nothing remotely new about postfeminist poetry. 1 There is no recognizable group of poets who call themselves the "Post-Feminist Movement." So far as I am aware, the term has only actually been used in connection with poetry once—in Carol Rumens's anthology, Making for the Open: The Chatto Book of Post-Feminist Poetry 1964-1984. 2 Nevertheless, the attitudes implicit in the phrase are characteristic of most mainstream contemporary writing about women's poetry.I shall argue that, for a variety of reasons, we are no nearer having a satisfactory context within and against which poetry by women can be read and enjoyed than we were in the 1950s. Distorted accounts of the scale and impact of "feminist poetry," coupled with a lack of feminist research into contemporary poetry in Britain, and the tendency in what little there is to get tangled in peripheral issues, are all partially responsible.They also play their part in what is actually a much broader failure to provide a comprehensive critique of the dominant liberal humanist aesthetic. 3 I shall examine the workings of this aesthetic in a couple of mainstream women-only anthologies before offering a more specific analysis of the troubled debates surrounding the relevance of gender in (women's) poetry.

In 1985 Making for the Open, a new anthology of women poets edited by Carol Rumens, appeared.In her brief introduction, Rumens explained the rationale behind the collection.Although she welcomed the recent appearance of so many editions of women's poetry, she was disappointed by the quality of the poems. Enthusiastic feminist commitment had "led to

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