Reimaging Women’s Voices in the Next Centennial: Untold Stories of Female Poets

Author(s)

Theresa Daigle, Tami Jensen, Karla Maravilla

Faculty Mentor(s)

Pedro Cavazos (English)

Abstract

When Amanda Gorman took to the podium during the 2021 Presidential Inauguration, a fresh voice lifted off the page and onto the world’s collective screen. The ability to express thoughts and feelings through verse and mixed media provides poets a new opportunity for greater exposure to redefine female poetic boundaries and themes. Combining the written word with video and social media, female poets are forging a new aesthetic. Scrolling through YouTube, or TEDx, the female poet’s voice is empowering, uplifting, and speaking truth to power! Voices like Dr. Maya Angelou and Britta B talk directly to other young women. “Still I Rise,” written by Angelou in 1978, gains a new audience with video by speaking words directly to over four million viewers. With the use of technology, poetry has grown increasingly accessible. Poetry is no longer contained exclusively in academic halls or validated by middle-aged white males. Streaming services are exploding with poetry in video form, also known as videopoetry, video-visual poetry, and media poetry. We will explore how the use of video, has given female artist’s a new modality to express themselves. Three such artists will show their original videopoetry and discuss how social media has inspired their work. Poetry in this form can encourage closed mouths to speak their truths, and, in Gorman’s words, “When day comes we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid, the new dawn blooms as we free it for there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it.”

Keywords: Feminism, Multimedia, Poetry

Presentation

15 thoughts on “Reimaging Women’s Voices in the Next Centennial: Untold Stories of Female Poets”

  1. I remember when I was younger seeing my parents smoke a cigarette for the first time. I still remember the smell which isn’t pleasant. I remember that do to some of my childhood experiences I learned to associate smoking and the smell to something negative because my parents would tell me so. I remember holding my breath each time I would walk past someone smoking and the smell hitting me so hard that it made me nauseas and gave me a headache. Till this day I still hate that smell, and I still associate it to something that is negative and something that I promised myself I would never be a part of.

    1. Thank you for your response, Arlette. The smell of smoke definitely triggers emotional memories for me, as well. It is interesting how our reactions today can be cemented in memories of the past.

  2. I want to answer Tami Jensen’s reflective question regarding how my body, memories, and family. I think the most poignant example of my body remembering where I came from is that I have perfect posture based on lessons from a woman – my mother’s sister and adoptive mother – I never got to meet. My mother has terrible posture, but the lessons from the woman who raised her for a considerable amount of time got passed onto me. As I said, I never got to meet this woman and I never will, but I take to heart the things she taught my mother. Tied into that is how my family influenced how I saw my body. My biological grandmother was very overweight, as am I. Though she died of cancer, many of her children saw her weight as what actually ended her life. As such, this heavy child who turned into a heavier woman heard nothing but diet tips and lectures when I had seconds. Of course I internalized this, and I too dealt (and still deal) with disordered eating. It took understanding that my mother’s siblings unfortunately do not have their hearts in the right place, as everyone always said, for me to realize that I was punishing my body and myself for insecurities they had. My mother’s other sister, who my siblings and I call grandma, and many women of her age and every age have to be thin to be seen as worthwhile. And I think that my not caring about my weight made them almost jealous – how dare I love both carbs and the fat body I’m in when they had to starve themselves and smoke cigarettes to curb their appetites. It’s interesting how the women in my maternal line wanted so badly for me to shrink when what they really wanted was to be able to take up space.

    1. Rhiana,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to watch our presentation and participate in discussion after.
      I am so sorry you felt such pressure from your family to fit a certain mold, to look and behave a certain way. I, too, have learned that, often, people’s insecurities spill over into hurtful comments. It took me a long time to dissect what was really about me and what was really about them not being able to handle their own “stuff.” I also grew up being taught that “fat” was such a terrible thing, something to avoid at all costs. I was never actually overweight, but the first time someone ever told me I was going to get fat I couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11 years old. And that was only the beginning of a really long and arduous journey of learning things I eventually had to unlearn in order to not only stay alive, but find some semblance of peace and joy in life. And much of that “unlearning” process has been wrapped up in my poetry and who I am as a writer. Take what you grew up with, and learn from it, do something better with it.

      There is so much in this world that matters so more than food, weight, or your body. Your body does amazing things for you; all it wants is to be appreciated instead of hated.

      Tami Jensen

  3. In response to “home:body”
    My body remembers where I came from through feelings of shame and confusion that seem to live inside my flesh. My family of origin was a part of creating that, with a mother who was always trying to lose weight and complaining about being “fat” and a father who always commented on my eating habits. I’m working on creating a new understanding and relationship with my body.

    1. Hi Gianna,
      Thank you for responding.
      I am so sorry you grew up with those ideals being expressed in your family–and I can relate. The more time and distance I place between my childhood and early adulthood, the more I am able to come to a sense of acceptance and gratitude for my body. And, also, maybe just a little bit of grace. Don’t ever stop trying to have a better relationship with your body. After all, it is the house you grew up in.

      Tami Jensen

  4. I remember smelling a cigarette for the first time at my first job. Everyone would take smoke breaks outside of the restaurant and I would have to walk by them as I was leaving. When I would get home my mom would always make a comment of how I smelled like cigarettes. I would never go anywhere after work because I did not want anyone to get the idea that I was smoking myself. Even though I was not partaking in the activity I still felt guilty for the nasty smell on my clothes.

    1. Thank you for your response, Gracie. It is interesting that we take on emotional guilt, even for things we didn’t do ourselves. The smell of smoke was always in my hair and clothes. I didn’t realize how much until I grew up and moved out. When I would go home to visit my parents, I could smell the smoke from outside the house before I even entered through the front door. It is such a powerful scent.

  5. I don’t remember the exact first time I saw someone smoking. My grandmother smoked a lot, every day. Every Tuesday my mom and I would go over to her house and spend a few hours. Her house smelled like smoke, she smoked Camel Light cigarettes. They call them Camel Blue now, I don’t think they’re allowed to call them Camel Light, because that makes it sound like they’re less bad for you than normal cigarettes, which they are not. My mom was the one who bought my grandmother smokes, because my grandmother couldn’t walk. My mom also bought her ice cream, because she had no teeth, and could only eat soft food, though I rarely saw her eat. I would sit on her carpet infront of her TV and watch cartoons when I was younger. It didn’t bother me that she smoked. Those memories were positive for me, and I still like the smell of smoke because of that association, though I don’t habitually smoke myself.

    1. Thank you for your response, Billy. I’m so glad to hear that you have positive memories like that of your grandma. We often associate smells, tastes, sounds with where we were at the time and it can prove to be positive or negative. It’s also interesting how they changed the name of Camel Light to Camel Blue. I had no idea. My dad smoked Marlboro Lights. I’m guessing those have changed as well. Since his passing, I haven’t had any reason to be around smokers on a regular basis.

  6. In response to Theresa Daigle:
    The first time I can recall being exposed to a smoker was when I was about seven years old. I was living in the projects with my family of ten, the house was crammed even more when my aunt and uncle immigrated to the U.S. with their three kids. One summer Sunday, I ran out the backdoor and saw my uncle standing there, cigarette in hand. I instinctively knew he was not supposed to be doing that. To me, smoking was bad and that made him a negative presence in my mind. Of course, I still think smoking is bad for obvious reasons, but that does not make people who smoke bad.

    1. Thank you for your response, Olga. I definitely agree that the actions of a person do not necessarily make them a bad person. I loved my dad. He had so many wonderful qualities. He and I had many conversations about smoking. He did not want me to smoke, as he knew that it wasn’t something that was good for a person. But, he just could not shake the addiction. But, he always respected my decisions and never smoked in my home. He was an amazing person, smoking or not.

  7. Response to Sunburnt & Lonely:
    Growing up Vietnamese American in the early 2000’s I wanted nothing more than to have light-colored hair, eyes that weren’t brown, and to be tall and skinny. I wanted to be White. I wanted to strip everything about me that wasn’t Vietnamese. This was something I did not realize until I grew out of that mindset. It took a long time for me to come to terms with why I felt that way. Growing up, there were not many Vietnamese/Asian representations in the media. The only times I saw representation was when it was war-related, sexualized, or made out as a joke for our accents. I realized that White was the beauty standard, not just in America but also in many places in Asia. I am still growing and learning to purge toxic mindsets and beliefs. I do my best to be loud and proud of my identity as a Vietnamese American, love my skin, hair, and eyes. To be proud of my culture, my food, and my family’s experiences. My mother’s struggles are more related to survival, money, and family. She grew up as the family’s glue. She helped bring in the money to support her parents and her kids. She was the mediator of all family drama. She was never just my mom but also my dad when he would leave every three months to go fishing to provide for the family. However, because she learned from her parents that one must provide for the family and sacrifice for the family. The way she loved my sister and me was highly materialistic. She loved us with money, clothes, and food, but never with her words or physical touch. I believe this is very common in other Vietnamese immigrant parents. Her struggle manifested in me becoming much more dependent on words of affirmation and physical touch. At this moment, I am the strong, independent, intelligent, and beautiful woman my mother raised me to be. I look forward to providing for my own family in the future, not just with material things but also with loving words and hugs and kisses.

  8. I grew up around parents that smoked cigarettes almost constantly it feels like. It always burned my lungs, and clung to my clothes that I wore to school. I hated the smell, and how it left its mark everywhere. My negative feelings for cigarettes were definitely solidified as I began to recognize my mother’s other addictions and self destructive tendencies. It all got loped up in my brain, and I categorized cigarettes as just another evil that I should stay far away from. It wasn’t until I moved out four months after I turned 18 that I finally was able to rid myself of that wretched smell. It took dozens of washes of my clothes, so that maybe I could be remembered as something other than the boy who smelled of smoke and ash.

  9. Thank you for your response, Connor. I can definitely relate to what you are saying. I don’t know the extent to how I smelled to others, as no one actually commented on it as I was growing up. I didn’t realize how bad it really was until I moved out as an adult. The thing I always thought of was, if that was how it smelled on the outside, what damage had potentially been done on my insides – with my lungs, specifically. As I became more aware, I found out there were other things during my childhood that could be attributed to inhaling second-hand smoke. Tooth decay is a side affect of inhaling smoke and as a child, I had a large number of cavities even though I did not eat much candy (we weren’t allowed) and I brushed twice a day. The good news is that getting away from the smoking allows your body to recover, actually in quite a fast way considering the years of damage. The best thing we can do as adults is try to separate the addictions of our parents from who they were as people. In doing that, we can then heal ourselves.

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