Audrey Mardavich is a poet and full-time volunteer. She hopes that someday she will make more money than a 13 year old.

My interest in poetry is what has led me to my interest in feminism. Perhaps because of the poem’s ability to reenact human experience and human suffering, but also because there are just so many amazing feminist poets. As the great Audre Lorde has said, “Poetry is the way we help give names to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our lives.” Poetry and feminism go hand in hand.

I’d like to examine a poem and a poet whom, in my opinion, embodies the spirit of poetry but is not typically classified under the canon of feminist poetry.

Anne Carson. Canadian. Woman. Poet. Translator. Essayist. Professor of Classics. Visual Artist. She writes novels in verse, fictional essays, and poems in the shape of boxes. She is also self-described as “spooky.”

Let’s look at one of her poems in full, “Stanzas, Sexes, Seductions”:

It’s good to be neuter.
I want to have meaningless legs.
There are things unbearable.
One can evade them a long time.
Then you die.

The oceans remind me
of your room.
There are things unbearable.
Scorns, princes, this little size
of dying.

My personal poetry is failure.
I do not want to be a person
I want to be unbearable.
Lover to lover, the greenness of love.
Cool, cooling.

Earth bears no such plant.
Who does not end up
a female impersonator?
Drink all the sex there is.
Still die.

I tempt you.
I blush.
There are things unbearable.
Legs, alas.
Legs die.

Rocking themselves down,
crazy slow,
some ballet term for it- fragment of foil, little
spin, little drunk, little do, little oh, alas.

It’s good to be neuter, it’s good to be neither. Not only the desire not to be classified, but in terms of gender, the desire to be neither male nor female. The speaker in Carson’s poem only has two options. But then, really only one option—to be human, despite the speaker’s desire to be something else, unbearable. However, earth bears no such plant; a plant of otherness, outside of gender, outside of humanness; a space where one does not have to think of oneself in the context of femininity nor masculinity. A world I have found myself fascinated with, when so often, neither option feel authentic.

Who does not end up/ a female impersonator? A question I have asked myself many times. What has always been easiest for me to point out are the ways in which I do not feel traditionally feminine. Often times, I feel like being a woman is much like performing a dance I’ve never learned the steps to, yet others seem to do with ease or professionalism.

On the other hand, I have always been the sole female in a sea of male friends. It’s a strange place to find oneself because I can’t relate to masculinity either. I feel like an outsider looking in, allowed admission to a park but unable to ride the rides.

This poem comes from Carson’s book, Decreation, a term she borrows from the French philosopher Simone Weil, who describes it as “undoing the creature within us.” What do we lose by defining the self in terms of love, longing, language, madness, or sex? Who are we without those definitions, when we undo the creature within us? What is left then?

A key theme in Carson’s work, borrowed from the Greeks, is ecstasy, from ekstasis, to stand outside of oneself. I think as women, as men, and as feminists, it is very easy to get lost/destroyed/wiped out by the definitions we place on ourselves and that are placed upon us, definitions that also serve to create meaning in our lives. When thinking about why Anne Carson is not considered under the feminist canon, while poets like Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Margaret Atwood, even Gertrude Stein (who Carson is regularly compared to) typically are, has a lot to do with her personal desire to avoid categorization (just look at her genre-bending body of work). She would probably disagree, but I can’t help but think that the “I” in “Stanzas, Sexes, Seductions” is the poet herself seeking to decreate in order to participate in something larger, something outside of the self, or simply explore the space between.

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