3 Poems on Womanhood Beyond Convention
Despite certain historically conventional narratives, it’s important to remember that womanhood encompasses a wide range of perspectives and experiences. Poetry gives us an opportunity to elevate the voices of all women. To celebrate the varied voices and points of view that women bring to the table, we’ve highlighted three poems that deal with womanhood in unique and important ways.
“Twenty years ago…” by Ryka Aoki
“Twenty years ago, the astrologer
would not suspend his disbelief.
Ten years ago, the composer
could not harmonize
transgender with friend.
Five years ago the weaver
unraveled a rainbow at my name.”
Ryka Aoki is a trans poet, composer, and teacher. Among her many award-winning works is her 2015 poetry collection Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul, which was a finalist for the 28th Lambda Literary Awards. Her writing aims to bridge the gap between trans readers and general audiences. “If a trans musician can make the audience cry by playing Chopin, how else, but as a human, can she be regarded? And if a book written by a queer trans-Asian American can make you think of your own beaches, your own sunsets, or the dear departed grandmother you loved so much and even now find yourself speaking to, then what more powerful statement of our common humanity can there be?” she told Publishers Weekly.
“Womanhood” by Catherine Anderson
“Her entry into womanhood
will be like all the other girls’–
a cigarette and a joke,
as she strides up with the rest
to a brick factory
where she’ll sew rag rugs
from textile strips of kelly green,
bright red, aqua.”
Detroit-born and Kansas City-based poet Catherine Anderson often incorporates themes of womanhood and industrialization in her work. In addition to two poetry collections, The Work of Hands (2000) and In the Mother Tongue (1983), her work has appeared in the Harvard Review and the Women’s Review of Books, and it has even been anthologized in Working Classics: Poems of Industrial Life. “A feeling of adventure, defiance, and the possibility of transformation keeps me writing,” Anderson told the Zingara Poetry Review. “Poetry has always been the essential lens through which to more deeply discern meaning in the absurd and unpredictable events of our lives. An appreciation for the paradox of being human, fated, and vulnerable in an astonishingly beautiful world is with me constantly as I write.”
“Shrinking Women” by Lily Myers
“that’s why women in my family have been
shrinking for decades.
We all learned it from each other, the way each
generation taught the next how to knit,
weaving silence in between the threads
which I can still feel as I walk through this ever-growing house”
With an M.A. in Gender, Spirituality, and Social Justice, Lily Myers’s work centers around empowerment, connection, self-inquiry, and liberation. In addition to her young adult novel This Impossible Light, her work has appeared in Bustle, BUST, Button poetry, and more. Her viral poem, “Shrinking Women,” artfully unpacks the societal pressures of womanhood, inherited behaviors, and what it means to take up space.