Why #SeptemberWomenPoets Matters

When you think of the beginning of fall, you might think of crisp leaves, cozy sweaters, and steaming apple cider, but do you also think of amazing work by women poets? If Twitter has anything to say about it, this blissful association could soon be the highlight of the season.


Over the past several years, #SeptemberWomenPoets (or #SeptWomenPoets) has emerged as both a hashtag and a movement. Poets like Melissa Studdard, Jenny Irish, Nilla Larsen, and many other established female poets have posted using the hashtag, joined by presses like the Pitt Poetry Series and the Rose O’Neill Literary House. Another account that supports this important movement is Ariel Poets, a community that fully dedicates itself to sharing women’s poetry throughout the month of September. 


While it’s unclear where or when the hashtag originated, the aim remains clear and significant: celebrate women’s unique, evocative, and innovative poetry. 


According to the organization VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, in 2017, only two out of the top 15 prestigious literary journals published women 50 percent or more of the time. Meanwhile, The New Yorker published women just 39 percent of the time, and for The Nation and The Threepenny Review, these numbers dwindled to 36 and 32 percent. 


Women continue to fight against bias and belittlement in poetry. And male faculty continues to outnumber female faculty in university creative writing programs, which have been criticized for prominent, systemic harassment.


Given this context, #SeptemberWomenPoets serves as a kind of literary resistance. Some participants commit to reading one poetry book by a woman per day (if this is your goal, swap out that apple cider for some serious caffeine), whereas others spend time ruminating on one or a few poems. The best part? Seeing awe-inspiring women poets give their peers a shout-out. 


Rebecca Morgan Frank recommends Nightshade by Andrea Cohen

Rebecca Morgan Frank is the author of The Spokes of Venus and Little Murders Everywhere and edits the online journal Memorious. Her recommendation, Andrea Cohen’s Nightshade, has been described as all about loss in its various states, from grieving for romantic partners to grieving for a lost world. 


Traci Brimhall recommends Holy Moly Carry Me by Erika Meitner

Traci Brimhall is the author of Our Lady of Ruins and Saudade. Her recommendation, Erika Meitner’s Holy Moly Carry Me, takes readers into the specific and in-depth setting of southern Appalachia. Along the way, it explores heavy topics like gun culture, racial tensions, religion, and otherness. Overall, it conveys themes of resilience and urgency.


Shara Lessley recommends Bestiary by Donika Kelly

Shara Lessley has published Two-Headed Nightingale and The Explosive Expert’s Wife. Her recommendation, Donika Kelly’s Bestiary, catalogs a wide array of creatures, giving voice to animals, mythological species, beasts, and humans. She questions what it truly means to be a “monster.”


Chelsea Dingman recommends Four-Legged Girl by Diane Suess

Chelsea Dingman is the author of the National Poetry Series winner Thaw. Her recommendation, Diane Suess’s Four-Legged Girl, imagines the life of its titular character, reflects on what makes a body “strange” or “other,” and dives deep into the wild, intense backdrop of New York City.


Enjoy a month full of #SeptemberWomenPoets! As for me, this will be followed by #OctoberWomenPoets, #NovemberWomenPoets, and women’s poetry all year round.