Thursday Nov 30

hoppenthaler.jpg Soon after Publisher’s Weekly failed to include the work of even one woman in its Top Ten Books of 2009 list, writer and journalist Louisa Ermelino, one of the judges, wrote that it “disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male.” It disturbed other writers, too—both female AND male—and Cate Marvin and Erin Belieu decided to take action. Together, in August of 2009, they founded WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts); the organization’s stated mission is to “explore critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women through meaningful conversation and the exchange of ideas among existing and emerging literary communities.” As of December 18th, WILLA’s Facebook page included 2,378 fans, including a good many men. It’s a number that continues to grow. 
Cate has been a friend for a number of years, and I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with Erin when we were both on the faculty of the West Virginia Writers’ Workshop a few years ago. So, when I heard of this project, knowing the determination and professionalism the two of them bring to this particular socio-political table, and feeling a good deal of sympathy for the project, I contacted the two of them to ask if they’d care to co-edit the poetry guest feature in this month’s issue. And so they have.
I’ve assembled this month’s congeries in support of WILLA, Cate and Erin, and women poets everywhere. I want to particularly thank the singular Maxine Kumin, without whose work, I felt, this congeries would be incomplete. She has spent a lifetime slugging it out so that the field of endeavor for women writing today is just a little more level. So have Alicia Ostriker (I thank her for both her poems as well as for the enlightening interview), Pulitzer Prize-winner Claudia Emerson, Fleda Brown (former Delaware Poet laureate), Denise Low (former Kansas Poet laureate), and Annie Finch (founder of WOM-PO, the Discussion of Women's Poetics listserv). Add to these wonderful writers the likes of Janice Harrington, Allison Joseph, Lola Haskins, Amy Newman, Martha Rhodes, Maureen Seaton, Erinn Batykefer, Joni Wallace and, yes, even Anna Akhmatova, and you begin to get a glimpse of the diversity, power, intellectual and spiritual engagement, and possibility the poetry of women offers the contemporary reader.  Annie Finch reminds us that, “Faced with official opposition, publishing bans, and the personal and social pain that accompanied political oppression, Akhmatova nevertheless continued her work as a writer.” I dedicate this congeries to that sort of spirit and courage.