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Women Poets of the Late 20th Century

Women poets of the last half century have developed a poetic voice which is, in the most positive way, distinctively female. Stevie Smith, Anne Sexton and Adrienne Rich are three of these poets. Though they write on a variety of subjects, death for example, or on subjects that are uniquely female, such as motherhood, one of the areas in which women poets pose the strongest challenge to the patriarchal tradition is the subject of love. After centuries in which the conventions and approaches and vocabulary of love poetry were primarily the creations of men, poets such as Smith, Sexton and Rich were among those who offered a new, specifically female view of love. Though the three poets are very different writers in terms of style, form and the specifics of subject matter, taken together they provide strong examples of how the uniquely female view is transforming the poetry of love.

Women were, for so long, the objects rather than the subjects of love poetry that the simple mention of the subject may still conjure up the notion of poetry that is used to woo a woman. In poetry intent on flattering the woman of the poet's choice, the poet competed for her using speech that persuaded her that his adoration exceeded that of any other suitor or, more importantly, that he possessed an intrinsic worth that exceeded that of others. Woman was the object of a pursuit and the poet carried on the pursuit by praising her or, in those cases where the man's heart had been broken, by vilifying her as heartless, cold or immoral. When sexuality was celebrated it was male sexuality that was excited by and acted out on the bodies of women who, if they were worthy objects of devotion, did not possess any such desires themselves. Women were subjected to microscopic examination as a part of men's pleasure and were conquered because of some merit possessed by the poet rather than by any inclination of the woman's. These are general statements which ...

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Women Poets of the Late 20th Century. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 22:56, June 24, 2019, from