The woman – a “fanciful etymological derivation”

“Myself, I have never been able to discover precisely what feminism is: I only know that I am called a feminist each time I express feelings that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute . -Rebecca West


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My husband recently bought me this book at a wonderful second-hand bookstore in downtown Los Angeles:

I hear my sisters say: poems by women of the 20th century, edited by Carol Konek and Dorothy Walters

It was published in 1976 and is a time capsule of feminist poetry from the heady days of the 1960s and 70s, when the “second wave” of feminism was breaking down many of the barriers that women still faced, decades after we got vote it. Most of the leaders of the first big wave of women’s rights activism in the 19e century came out of the abolitionist movement, and this wave was sparked amid the civil rights and anti-war movements.

A favorite poem by Muriel Rukeyser (but not in this book), is so expressive of the positive energy of that time for me:


Everywhere that
we are walking
we’ll do

Everywhere that
we protest
we are going to plant

make poems
grass seed
feed a growing child
to build a home
Everything we oppose
We’ll stay fed and sown

Everywhere that
I walk
I’ll do


– of out of silence

I leafed through I hear my sisters say with a mixture of longing and pain – remembering the triumphs – and failures – of this memorable part of my life, and feeling the betrayal and loss of these terrible days today.



Gena Ford is new to me – unfortunately her poem is just as relevant today as it was then, and I have found very little biographical information about her.


Lines for a hard time

by Gena Ford
Evil does not always go
through dark ways. On any hot
summer day, clean shaven
he can cross
a public place and the head
purposely for high

What a whisper
ringing in the inner ear
to shelter ? Oh, and then
the boy is dead, other dead
or dying, and evil
pieces of hot
drive through the nerves
of the nation.

We are sick
in our strewn streets
and high places. The verses twist
in our labyrinthine skulls.
We are afraid of the bland

Losses are always
personal. A telephone rings;
a father becomes less than
the sum of his sorrow. Could we
say better than his own words,
And we will die too. . .

Spiral up in All Love?

Good man, good man in mourning,
all men have lived in evil
times, even if few know it
Absolutely. We persist.
We love each other so often
as we can. And send our sons
go out on an open day.

“Lines for a Hard Time” from This time this space: Poems 1964-67, © 1968 by Gena Ford – The Elizabeth Press

Gena Ford, a poet from Portland Oregon; was editor of The Elizabeth Press, which also published her books, Tall Tales for Far Courses, A Planting of Chives, Homesickness for Big Men, and This Time This Space: Poems 1964-67.




by Muriel Rukeyser

Long after, Oedipus, old and blind, traveled the
roads. He smelled a familiar scent. It was
the Sphinx. Oedipus said, “I want to ask a question.
Why didn’t I recognize my mother? “You gave the
wrong answer,” said the Sphinx. “But that was it
made everything possible”, said Oedipus. “No,” she said.
“When I asked, What walks on four legs in the morning,
two at noon, and three in the evening, you answered,
Man. You didn’t say anything about the woman.
“When you say Man, says Oedipus, you include women
too. Everybody knows that.” She said, “That’s what
you think.”

“Myth” of Breaking Open: new poems, © 1973 by Muriel Rukeyser – Random House

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980), poet, playwright, biographer, author of children’s books, activist for social justice and women’s rights; best known for her poems with feminist, social justice and Judaic themes. She was an icon of second-wave feminist literature and mentored Anne Sexton, Alice Walker, and Adrienne Rich, among others. In 1968, she signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, pledging to withhold payment of taxes in protest of the Vietnam War. She died at age 66, in February 1980, of a stroke. His numerous collections of poetry include flight theory, The Book of the Dead, Out of Silence, The Gates, Elegies, and The speed of darkness.



modern poetry

by Anita Skeen

tomorrow morning a poet will wake up
find yourself famous
to write a novel, to pose
naked in the central page of a magazine, for
to lead a political movement,
for killing his wife.
it will not be to have
write a poem.
or maybe he won’t wake up at all.
think of Hart Crane who,
sailing north on a steamer from Mexico,
drank his way to the side
SS Orizaba
and Sylvia, trying to manage
what most of us can’t accept, stick
his head in the oven
an english morning
Or Frank O’Hara
killed by a dune buggy on Fire Island
it’s these little starting details
or the eccentricities of existence
who cling to public memory,
shiny fringe from the hem of the fabric
snagged by rough edges
of curiosity,
not the risks, the bravery
of this murderous art,
the challenge of the line, not even the title
of a single poem.

“modern poetry” © 1976 by Anita Skeen, of I hear my sisters say: poems by women of the 20th century, edited by Carol Konek and Dorothy Walters – Thomas Y. Crowell Company

Anita Skeen became coordinator and director of the Center for Poetry at Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, after joining the faculty at Michigan State University in 1990. She is now a professor emeritus in her department. Skeen holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Bowling Green University, where she also began her teaching career. His poetry collections include: Each hand one card; portraits; Outside the fold, outside the frame; The Resurrection of Animals; and Never the whole story. She has also published short fiction films and essays.



The dictionary is a Historian

A political poem found
by Judith McCombs

woman women

1. An adult female person, as opposed to a
man or child; sometimes any female person, often also
distinguish. of Lady (meaning 7)

Women are soft, gentle, pitiful and flexible. Shake.
And the rib that the Lord God had taken
of man, made one women.
Gen. II, 22.

2. The typical member of the female sex; used as a
generic singular without article; the female part of
human race; women.

Man is destined to fall prey to women. Thackeray.

3. With the. Typically female nature, qualities,
features or layout; femininity; femininity;
like, subjugate the women in her; sometimes in expression
his wife, the typically feminine factor,
action, response, etc.

4. An attendant or servant.

5. a A lover; mistress. bpl. Women as partners
in sexual intercourse or irregularities; like, abstain
of women.

6. A wife. Familiar.

7. A female person occupying a position, calling or standing,
specified in a sentence with of (meaning 15); like a women of
breeding, color, title; a women of all work, of letters;
the women of the House; often in contemptuous epithets
evoking easy virtue; like a women pleasure, the city,

8. The reverse of a coin, originally as bearing the figure of
Brittany. British.

9. Bringer of misfortune; by fanciful etymological derivation
of misfortune + man. Obs.

“The Dictionary is a Historian” © 1971 by Judith McCombs, appeared in To relocate review, vol. 2, No. 1

Judith McCombs grew up in a nomadic family, the daughter of a geodetic surveyor. She is the author of several collections of poetry, including Against Nature: Wild Poems; Territories; Here, elsewhere; and The Habit of Fire: Selected and New Poems. She has also written two books and several articles on Margaret Atwood. McCombs was the founding editor in 1971 of Moving Out, a feminist literary magazine that survived for three decades. She also taught poetry and creative writing at Wayne State University and the Center for Creative Studies College of Art and Design in Detroit. As of 2011, she was living in Maryland.


G’Morning/Afternoon/MOTlies Evening!



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