Listening to Kenneth Rexroth read a poem, The moon has a sheen like a glacier with a lilting drifting wave to his voice, wondering, how to learn to be a feminine writer? Every word like an arrival, a sunset on saturn must be very beautiful. He was an orphan at fourteen, an existence I heard so much about in children’s literature, and then never again.
My professors are men, and they write male poems and masculine sentences, short and blunt, cut into the page. They warn against flowery language, as if too many vibrant, scented, exultant phrases will undermine my stories. When did simplicity and masculinity in literature become coveted, admired? Why not fun with language—even carelessness, free of word count?
When I wrap what I mean with words, slide it onto the wall (in plain sight, really) quietly, they say I dissimulate, it is almost dishonest, but that is how we communicate. We as women? We as me. Why write a poem if I can simply say: I do not know how to love my mother or How naive we were at eighteen! The beauty is in the complexity, when that one thought expands and fills the page.
Don’t get me wrong, after all, I understand. Clarity and simplicity are closer to cleanliness.
Listening to Sharon Olds, I am comforted. My whole life I was afraid to be too feminine, afraid to move my hips in fifth grade, clumsy and crouching in high heels, on high alert for that moment when I sense I am not being taken seriously. For being small, for being nice, for being Chinese, for being poor, for being young, for being a girl or a woman.
That is their problem now. If I could, I would rewind to fifth grade, put the Spice Girls or the Roots back on blasting, and twirl my hips in my Mudd jeans and sequined tops, and take it very seriously.