Feature image courtesy of Danielle Doby
A focal point in the movement for women’s rights, International Women’s Day is celebrated each year on March 8. The day represents a day of appreciation, education, reflection, protest, and so much more. For 2020, International Women’s Day is taking on the theme #EachforEqual. An equal world is an enabled world, and each of us is called to help increase visibility and call out inequality. To celebrate the women who have helped forge a path towards gender equity, we’ve selected six inspiring poets to highlight in honor of International Women’s Day.
Early English poet, wife, and mother, Bradstreet became the first female poet published in England and the New World when her volume of poetry The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America was published in 1650. Her father and husband helped found Harvard in 1636; in 1997 the Harvard Community dedicated a gate in her memory as America’s first poet. Bradstreet was well educated and positioned to write about politics, history, medicine, and theology. Much of her poetry is based on observation, with a large focus on domestic and religious themes.
Recommended poem: “In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory“
It comes as no surprise that Dickinson is one of the most prolific poets of the nineteenth century. While only 10-12 of her poems were published during her lifetime, nearly 1,800 of them were found after her death. When her first collection went public in 1890, it met mixed reviews due to her unconventional style for the time. As years passed, critics began to see her work as modern, artistic, and intentional. By the second wave of feminism, her work transformed from having a cult following to becoming part of the English literary canon.
Recommended poem: “Hope is the thing with feathers”
British-born bohemian, Loy had a passion for the arts that made her more than a poet—she was a novelist, painter, lamp designer, and playwright as well. Her poetry was published in several magazines before being produced in book form, but the sexual explicitness in some of her work provoked readers and prevented her further work from being published until after her death. In addition to her poetry, she produced the Feminist Manifesto, which was not published during her lifetime but has become widely read in both feminist and manifesto theory. Her work has inspired poets such as T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and others.
Recommended poem: “Brancusi’s Golden Bird”
As one of the most highly regarded poets of the twentieth century, Brooks needs no introduction. She was the first black author to win a Pulitzer prize, served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress, and was poet laureate of the State of Illinois. Politically conscious and masterful with words, Brooks has been said to bridge the gap between academic poetry and the black arts movement.
Recommended poem: “kitchenette building”
Passionate, mystic, and humanist, Levertov is one of America’s most respected poets. Much of her work centered around nature, love, faith—and later, politics. The onset of the Vietnam War marks the beginning of a shift in her work. Her clear and immediate voice bordered the line between poetry and prose. Pacifist priest, poet, and critic Daniel Berrigan praised Levertov for her “work on uniting cultures and races through an awareness of their common spiritual heritage and their common responsibility to a shared planet.”
Recommended poem: “About Marriage”
Mónica de la Torre
Born and raised in Mexico City, Mónica de la Torre has authored poetry collections in both Spanish and English and translated works by several Latin American poets, and co-authored multiple multilingual anthologies. After her receiving her BA in Mexico City, she received a Fulbright scholarship to pursue her MFA and Ph.D. in Spanish Literature at Columbia University. Praised for her witty, dark humor and ability to explore identity and trajectory, she’s received a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship and a Lannan Foundation Residency.
Recommended poem: “How to Look at Mexican Highways”