It's hard out there for a woman poet. Heck, it's hard out there for women, period.
But, there are days when we come out on top. Like this week, when poet Victoria Chang won a prestigious Pen Literary award for her book, The Boss (McSweeney's). Better yet, Chang's fellow nominees were all women. And, the judges were all women, too. As Chang lamented in a Facebook post, wouldn't it be nice if all competitions worked this way?
Indeed, the literary world faces the same issues of racial and gender inequality that we see in government, science, and tech, where white men dominate positions of power. But, Chang's powerful poetry is helping change those dynamics. Her writing has been compared to Gertrude Stein, and her poems, which draw from her experiences as a mother, office worker, and an Asian-American, are strong examples of why it's necessary to promote a range of voices.
"I think women have different writing styles, different concerns, and can be all around different," she said. "We not only need to support each other in forums like Binders Full Of Women, but we need to get ourselves into positions where we can make a difference. I have Jen Benka at the Academy of American Poets in mind, but I would love to see more. Our voices are important and necessary."
The publishing industry may have a long way to go, but there's an easy way to start: read. Begin with The Boss, and then move on to Mary Ruefle, Dana Levin, Monica Youn, Cathy Park Hong, Rachel Zucker, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Matthea Harvey. All women poets, all approved by Victoria.
"I'm hoping our generation can change that [problem], and women and people of color who are part of the fabric of America can have our voices heard, too," Victoria said.