Talking Poetry with Honor Moore

Words that defined a generation

By Dawn Raffel

Poems from the Women’s Movement,  edited by the poet and memoirist  Honor Moore is just out from The Library of America. The poetry—by Adrienne Rich, Muriel Rukeyser, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker and more—is both moving and also historically interesting.
I asked Moore:

Q. Why bring out this collection now?

A. Ever since WACK (a show of feminist artists, which I saw in Brooklyn) opened in LA two years ago and Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party was installed at the Brooklyn Museum, I’ve been thinking about the literary component of the movement among women artists in the 1970s and 1980s.  Hillary Clinton’s candidacy also brought feminism back into sharp relief for those of us who are her contemporaries.

Q. Did anything surprise you when you looked at all of these poems together?
 A. That the poems are still as fresh as they were when I first read them, and that the movement among women poets included women of so many generations, regions, races and ways of life.

Q. People don’t usually think of the women’s movement as literary. Care to
 A. One of the founders of the women’s  movement was the poet Robin Morgan, and two of its most important  leaders and  theorists were poets—Adrienne Rich and Audre Lorde. In addition, poems often opened lines of communication having to do with the directions in which feminism might go, and issues we might talk about. This became abundantly clear to me in choosing the poems. As a friend and contemporary of mine, a woman, said to me one recent evening, "The women’s movement was poetry."

Q. You are a critically acclaimed poet yourself. Did these women influence your
work? If so, how?

A. I was one of the poets of the women’s movement, and we all influenced each other.  Our poems were elements of conversation, ways of communicating. That communicative energy still informs my work as a poet, as does the inspiration to take risks and say the  unsayable that was so much  part of early feminism.  This book (like others in the Library of America American Poets Project) is my personal take.  I have included only 100 poems by only 58 poets — the literature is far more vast.
Okay, enough talk—here’s a poem from the anthology:

It is a gesture I do
That grew
Out of my mother
in me.
I am trying to remember
what she
was afraid to say
all those
Years, fingers folded
against her mouth,
head turned away.
—Beverly Dahlen

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