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Poems about violence against women and girls
February 12, 2014 2:12 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for poems which are (broadly) related to violence against women and girls - and am drawing a blank. Does anyone have any recommendations?

Poems can be any length or style, and are for reading at a Take Back the Night event.
posted by the cat's pyjamas to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is kind of subtle, but definitely includes rape culture (the slut you are so bent on becoming)
posted by bilabial at 2:14 PM on February 12


Wilsan Shire. For example the poem: In Love and In War: To my daughter I will say 'when the men come set yourself on fire.'
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:21 PM on February 12


Bosnia, Bosnia by June Jordan but I'm honestly not sure I'd be able to reach the end reading it aloud.
posted by pullayup at 2:23 PM on February 12


Anne Sexton - Briar Rose
Stephan Dobyns - How Could You Ever Be Fine
Alicia Ostriker - The Boys, the Broom Handle, the Retarded Girl
Adrienne Rich - Rape
Kim Addonizio - Therapy
posted by barchan at 2:30 PM on February 12


This might be a bit of a stretch, but Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's Slamming Open the Door, a book of poems about her daughter's murder by the daughter's ex-boyfriend, is excellent.
posted by daveliepmann at 2:32 PM on February 12


Sylvia Plath's Daddy alludes to it ("The boot in the face, the brute / Brute heart of a brute like you").

I seem to recall a couple of Sharon Olds poems, as well, but I'm drawing a blank on titles. Ring a bell for anyone else?
posted by scody at 2:38 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Landays: Poetry of Afghan Women (previous FPP) has many examples. They are more powerful for how subdued they are.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:42 PM on February 12


How far back do you want to go? In the 19th c., Robert Browning's "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess" focus on the psychology of the men who murder women out of sheer possessiveness (among other things). And the speaker of Charlotte Mew's "The Farmer's Wife" is trying to figure out why his wife, married to him unwillingly, refuses to allow him to touch her.
posted by thomas j wise at 2:44 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


You've got to read Bronwen Wallace! Many of her poems speak of violence against women. She was a strong activist against domestic violence.
posted by SyraCarol at 2:48 PM on February 12


Rape Joke by Patricia Lockwood (on Metafilter previously) is a great one.
posted by gemutlichkeit at 2:52 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


June Jordan's magnificent Poem About My Rights.
posted by TwoStride at 3:09 PM on February 12


Two different poems by Marge Piercy: Rape Poem and The Friend. The first is literally about rape; the second (as I read it) is a metaphor about the violence of gender expectations. Both are very good.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:15 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I don't recall any specific poems, but Nicole Blackman definitely covers the topic.
posted by mr. digits at 3:55 PM on February 12


In The Pink contains several poems that might be of interest if I remember rightly.
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:21 PM on February 12


A Penny Saved by Arisa White

"Between September 2001 and June 2012, far more American women were killed by domestic and intimate partner violence than U.S. troops were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Despite these staggering figures, domestic violence remains largely hidden from public view, underreported and misunderstood. Arisa White’s most recent collection of poems, A Penny Saved, joins the work of domestic violence activist groups and individuals in revealing the interior nature of domestic violence. White’s poems take the reader inside the home and minds of a family suffering from violence. The collection is inspired by the true story of Polly Mitchell, the Omaha, NB woman who was imprisoned by her husband in her home for ten years, from 1993 to 2003. White’s poems consider how the female body is contained, controlled, and mutilated in the construction of masculinity, as well as how this process produces specific knowledge about womanhood, masculinity, and family. Just as the poems’ characters are left wondering what can be built out of this wisdom, the book’s readers must question what to do with the information it provides."
posted by jammy at 4:42 PM on February 12




This poem by a 14 year-old girl is moving, especially given that she committed suicide as a result of her classmates bullying.

I feel like Take Back the Night represents a safe and empowering way for women to share their own individual stories, though. Rather than reading a poem, is there a personal experience you could draw on instead?

If not, and since you are feeling uninspired, maybe going to listen as other women speak would be more personally beneficial to you than reading a poem recommended by strangers on the internet.
posted by misha at 5:46 PM on February 12


Like Misha, I'm a little hesitant to suggest reading some of the more upsetting poems in a space like Take Back the Night, but I think this might be a good poem to read towards the end of the event, as people are returning home. It's a little tiny bit corny, but it always makes me feel safe and calm and restored: Mary Oliver's Wild Geese.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 6:19 PM on February 12


Daphne Gottlieb's Feminine Protection.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:38 PM on February 12




Aunt Jennifer's Tigers by Adrienne Rich
posted by jojobobo at 10:47 PM on February 12


The Rich poem has the benefit of celebrating the role of artistic expression as a means of enriching the life of a woman who was a victim of her partner's (implied) violence, so sounds as though it would suit the context.
posted by jojobobo at 10:50 PM on February 12


Not sure what if you would consider it a poem but the track "Return to Innocence Lost" by The Roots instantly came to mind. Have a listen, although it is on a music album it is definitely performed more like a poem and covers the subject brilliantly.
posted by tsh at 12:29 AM on February 13


Pat Parker's Womanslaughter is a powerful poem about her sister who was murdered by her husband. He was convicted of (wo)manslaughter because it was a "crime of passion".
posted by elmay at 5:23 AM on February 13


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