Poetry and people and the place of women

Ruth Hartley Storytelling, Books by Ruth Hartley, Creative Writing, Creativity, Feminism, Imagination, Poetry, Songs, The Spiral-Bound Notebooks, Writing Process2 Comments

Poets are an elite species

Where did the idea come that poets are a separate kind of human that is more aesthetically refined, sensitive, better educated and therefore part of an elite? Where did the idea come from that we can’t sing unless taught how to do it? Is this why some of us avoid trying to write poetry and others of us avoid poets in case they are snobs? Who insisted that dancing must be done only in a prescribed pattern and as part of a learned ritual? Who decided that making art must be the work of a genius before it has value and what on earth is a genius anyway? Why is swimming as easy as walking for people who live by water but has to be learned by the rest of us? And while on that subject, why is swimming prescribed for women in certain religions when it’s instinctive for a baby and natural for children? I’m remembering something I hope accurately, that Laurence Durrell wrote about dancing and swimming being linked activities connected with the enjoyment of our sexuality and therefore with our creativity.

A genius is always male

“Oh really!” you may say and I’ll shrug and smile ironically because though I grew up being told that all geniuses were men. (and there certainly wasn’t a single female genius who was ever pointed out to me during my education) I always had my doubts about the accuracy of that. I didn’t know any men who were wiser or kinder than the women I knew. What I understood was that men ruled and so did misogyny and both still do and that is why women are considered and treated as less human than men.

The reasons why there are so few (male) geniuses

An obvious reason for this exclusive ethos is that it justifies the control and oppression of all women but also of the majority of men. I find a note I scribbled when I did my MA in 1999 – it quotes Luce Irigaray who says that according to” Freud a normal woman is a defective man”. Here is a quote about Irigaray in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy – “women’s exclusion from culture and her use of strategic essentialism has been enormously influential in contemporary feminist theory. Her work has generated productive discussions about how to define femininity and sexual difference, whether strategic essentialism should be employed, and assessing the risk involved in engaging categories historically used to oppress women.” What I also notice in today’s world is that though all women may be regarded as less than men, rather a lot of men are also seen as inferior or defective too. An example of defective thinking is done by men, who like Andrew Tate, and Incels, believe that it’s women who are the cause of the problem and that damaging women is the solution.

What a genius is and isn’t.

According to an Oxbridge site, a genius has to have a high Intelligence Quotia, push out the boundaries, be curious, creative, capable of abstract thinking, reject routine and take risks. Well, that sounds to me rather like what every woman does when she cooks, cleans, cares for kids, holds down a job and copes with people and manages relationships. Some men do that too but it isn’t a feature confined to masculinity. I looked at this Oxbridge site with disbelief and amazement because it lists only men as geniuses. It’s bullshit and not education and anyone with a curious, creative mind will question it. Einstein himself rejects the idea of the dominance of the rational mind suggesting that the leaps humans make in consciousness are made by intuition and connection with the universal energy that are not the sole possession of any one individual. Mathematicians of all genders and sexes may say the same – they slept and woke up inspired.

The genius label

The label of genius is a prize fastened onto individuals often after they are dead. If they were alive they’d probably laugh at it. Shakespeare reused old, universally shared and borrowed stories, and he changed them for political and social reasons. Other “great” artists developed on the backs of friendships and ended up being noticed more than other artists by luck and timing as much as talent. I don’t mean to discredit any artist but so much of what we achieve is a shared esprit and a moment of serendipity in time and place. We are all together part of Einstein’s cosmic dust dancing, singing and making poetry and art to an invisible tune.

And so to mad poets and artists

Poetry, art, music, song and dance, science and invention are essential human activities and women do them too just as men do them. I have been writing poetry for many years without believing that I could. Even if I wasn’t much good I simply found that it was the best way for me to say what I wanted to say. It is a way of distilling emotion, ideas, imagination and words into a shape and sound that’s unique. Poems need rhythm and tempo. Some poets are brilliant with the structure and form of poetry – George Szirtes for example. I wish I was – anyway here is a poem of mine The Before Ever-After Dream that was published in the second book of Women’s Voices here in South-West France .

International Women’s Day 8th March

Tomorrow is Women’s Day in Women’s month and we’re celebrating by rediscovering ourselves after the Covid separations we’ve all survived and amongst other things and thanks to Paulina Kamakine, an Occitan poetess, we’ll be looking at Poetry and writing our own. We will enjoy ourselves.

2 Comments on “Poetry and people and the place of women”

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Basil was a special person and of course, he was right about women! I do find some wonderful poetry and poets on Facebook – how about you Lorraine?

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