The other day, as I was thinking about National Poetry Month, I decided to find poems written by French women but soon realized with dread that my mind was going blank: I didn’t know any French woman poet! Kind of ashamed, I researched it on the internet, hoping to stumble upon names that would automatically ring a bell. Well, that didn’t work. At that point I started to break a sweat; see, I was the French woman with the Master’s in Literature who didn’t know anything about poetry by other French women. That’s when the f-word popped in my mind. Fraud, I mean, which is kind of what it made me feel like.

During my web search, however, I found a very interesting blog article that made me realize that I was not the only source of the problem. The truth is that French women poets were/are out there, but are underrepresented in published literature, which seriously compromises one’s access to their writing. The article’s author lists many anthologies of French poetry and explains that some of them only include small percentages of women writers while others include none at all. He also points out to the vicious circle that this creates, as French women might refrain from sending their work for publication since they feel like it is not really welcome anyway.

Now, the sad thing is that when I read the names of fifteen French women poets as listed by the blog’s author, only one of them sounded familiar to me, and that was mainly because that woman’s grandson is a musician that I listen to. I had never even heard of any of the other names! Not even at school, in my French classes, where we mostly studied men’s writing. Hey, wait a minute, that might be part of the problem, too.

My knowledge of women’s writing actually developed when I studied here in the U.S., as I took a “Women Writers” class, among others. I remember that the professor told us how she had to fight and justify herself back when she created the class. Indeed, many people simply judged that such a class was useless: they thought there was no writing by women since they had never had access to it. Hell, some guys even wondered who would be interested in reading women’s writings since women’s experiences and thoughts were rather trivial anyway (!).

I’m glad such classes do exist, because they have expanded my awareness of what my gender can do, even if I obviously still have a lot to learn. Being part of CALYX is thus a great way for me to get even more familiar with writing and art by women, and I am happy to know that many people out there support CALYX, because by doing so, they help spread this sense of awareness.

I encourage you to go and read the article I mentioned here, because the information it provides is pretty striking:

http://connaissances.blogspot.com/2006/03/french-poetry-by-women.html

Until next time,

Sophie,

CALYX intern.

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