Anthologizing Equality: 5 Feminist Anthologies to Add to Your Shelf
For many readers and writers, anthologies are a reminder of the literary canon. The word can conjure images of thick, traditional textbooks—the ones filled with poems by dead, white men.
While literary history is important, the movement to include new voices, pay tribute to writers who were overshadowed or forgotten, and celebrate feminist poetics seeks to redefine our canon in powerful, necessary ways. In other words, anthologies don’t have to mean Shakespeare. In fact, these volumes of influential poetry continue to become more modern and diverse. Take these five stand-out feminist texts as proof.
1. Poetry from Sojourner: A Feminist Anthology edited by Ruth Lepson
For more than two decades, Sojourner was a leading feminist literary magazine, often publishing emerging poets who would go on to become literary powerhouses. This anthology from University of Illinois Press seeks to recapture its influence and collect its most resonant voices in one reverent, historical volume. Featuring poets like Nikki Giovanni, Adrienne Rich, and Molly Peacock, the anthology pays homage to Sojourner as a journal where many feminist poets got their start, collecting many different works into one cohesive, fascinating conversation.
2. When She Named Fire: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry by American Women edited by Andrea Hollander
Get to know 96 of the country’s most compelling female poets, from Naomi Shihab Nye to Natasha Trethewey. Featuring more than 460 poems overall, the anthology also includes photos and biographies of these outstanding American voices, deepening the reader’s understanding of feminist poetry and those shaping it.
3. This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition: Writings by Radical Women of Color edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
Feminism shouldn’t be defined by only white women. In the fourth edition of This Bridge Called My Back, Moraga and Anzaldúa strive to bring together poems that showcase “the complex confluence of identities—race, class, gender, and sexuality—systemic to women of color oppression and liberation.” Though the anthology incorporates an abundance of poetry, it also features essays, visual art, criticism, and interviews. The stunning and urgent result is a multi-modal meditation on what it means to be a woman of color today, as well as an evocation to fight for a better, more just future.
4. Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism edited by Danielle Barnhart and Iris Mahan
Born out of the emotional outpouring that followed the 2016 presidential election, Women of Resistance defines itself as “a fight against racism, sexism, and violence.” The anthology—which features Rachel Zucker, Elizabeth Acevedo, Patricia Smith, and more—argues that poetry can serve as protest, action, and community, making it a deeply, intrinsically political art.
5. There are Girls like Lions: Poems about Being a Woman with a foreword by Cole Swensen
The 30 poems in this succinct and nuanced anthology aim to honor womanhood from every angle. There are Girls like Lions asserts that it’s a collection “for mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, partners, and friends.” Above all, it’s a testament to women’s most “lion-like” qualities: strength, pride, and ferocity. The hand-drawn, metallic illustrations throughout add to the book’s sparkle.
Needing a writing prompt to accompany your feminist reading? Check out our guide to writing a women’s empowerment poem.