Every once in a while, I take a very careful look at the by-lines and review content of some of my favourite literary publications. Sometimes I do so because I think I might have caught wind of a trend, in terms of coverage, and want to see if my theory pans out. Sometimes I just look because I am curious and it occurs to me to do so. I do this because I am actively interested in how much coverage women’s writing is getting in the media all year round, and not just when the Vida Count comes out. I do it because I think keeping tabs on exactly who is writing about books, and what books they are writing about, is something that demands careful attention.
It occurred to me that it had been a rather long time since I read a review of a book of poetry by a woman in The National Post, and so I called up the column in question and counted. In the spirit of the Vida Count, I collated my findings into a handy pie chart:
Only 2 of the 14 books of poetry that the National Post has reviewed in the last year and a half were written by women. 2 in 14. I was expecting some discrepancy, from what I had just passively noticed, but nothing like this.
There are articles on poetry that appear in the pages of The National Post that aren’t counted, features like the recent excerpts from books nominated for the 2012 Griffin Prize, the Canada Reads Poetry series, or conversations between writers held for National Poetry Month last year. But when it comes to pure book reviews, the coverage is markedly skewed.
In the past 17 months, The National Post has reviewed the following books: Assiniboia by Tim Lilburn, Alien vs. Predator by Michael Robbins, No End In Strangeness by Bruce Taylor, Gift Horse by Mark Callanan, L’il Bastard by David McGimpsey, A Complete Encyclopedia Of Different Types of People by Gabe Foreman, The Id Kid by Linda Besner, Wore Down Trust by Michael Blouin, Earworm by Nick Thran, The Other Side Of Ourselves by Rob Taylor, The Cloud Corporation by Timothy Donnelly, Casanova In Venice by Kildare Dobbs, Unoriginal Genius by Marjorie Perloff, and Modern Canadian Poets edited by John Swift and Evan Jones. The numbers don’t lie: 12 books written (or edited) by men and exactly two by women. Originally I thought I counted 14 to 3, but my numbers were sadly a bit optimistic. If you want to take a look or check my results, here are all of the articles tagged with “poetry” on the National Post’s site.
The vast majority of these reviews happened under the purview of Michael Lista’s column, On Poetry, though not all. He most recently reviewed a book of poetry by a woman 11 months ago. He has taken the time to write about John Ashbery’s translation of Arthur Rimbaud’s Illuminations; Titus Lucretius Carus’ piece de rarum natura, written in the first century BCE; and, um, The Iliad.
I tweeted at the National Post Books editor that day, asking about the discrepancy, and as you can see in the responses to my original tweet, Michael Lista responded. He brought up the fact that two of the six books he considered the best of 2011 were written by women, which does not address my question in any way, shape or form. Later, when Canadian poet and critic Sina Queyras joined the conversation and repeated my query, Lista stated that some of the books of poetry he reviewed he didn’t even like (which, if you’re keeping score, is also not an answer). When I asked how some negative reviews for books by men compensated for a lack of coverage of books written by women, he did not answer.
I am repeating the details of our conversation because there is only one response to my question of why The National Post has reviewed 12 book by men and 2 by women that would be appropriate: “That is an egregious and unintentional oversight, and one that we will begin to set right immediately.”
The Twitter conversation with Mr. Lista bothered me deeply. I tweeted my observations out of the genuine hope that this was a mistake, an unacceptable but unintentional gap that had been allowed to grow simply because no one had noticed the numbers skewing previously. I hoped that the writer and editor would see what I had pointed out, acknowledge it and make a note to make a sincere effort towards closing the gap. Instead, I encountered a complete lack of comprehension, as well as responses that at best dismissed my questions and at worst exhibited a complete lack of acknowledgement that the writer in question occupies a position of incredible privilege and has any responsibility whatsoever to make sure that books other than those written by straight white men get any attention in print.
My response to the conversation, to the responses I received and situation I find unacceptable, is to put together the following list:
Every* book of poetry written by a woman in Canada in the last two and a half years.
* I used the submissions database of the Griffin Poetry Prize to put this together, as well as current publishers’ catalogues. I am sure I have missed some. If you know of any title I have missed, please let me know.
We, Beasts by Oana Avasilichioaei, published by Wolsak & Wynn www.wolsakandwynn.ca
Elseworlds by Nina Berkhout, published by Seraphim
The Book of Places by Yvonne Blomer, published by Black Moss
A Tilt by Farideh de Bosset, published by Innana
Monkey Ranch by Julie Bruck, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Holler by Alice Burdick, published by Mansfield Press www.mansfieldpress.net
Wells by Jenna Butler, published by University of Alberta Press www.uap.ualberta.ca/
Antogonick by Anne Carson, published by McClelland and Stewart www.mcclelland.com/poetry
Day Moon Rising by Terry Ann Carter, published by Black Moss Press www.blackmosspress.com
The Clarity of Distance by Ayesha Chatterjee, published by Bayeux Arts
The Bones of His Being by Sue Chenette, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Once Houses Could Fly by Rosemary Clewes, published by Signature Editions www.signature-editions.com
small flames by Dina E. Cox, published by Signature Editions www.signature-editions.com
Soak by Kerri Cull, published by Breakwater
the weight of dew by Daniela Eliza, published by Motehr Tongue Publishing www.mothertonguepublishing.com
Sympathy Loophole by Jaime Forsythe, published by Mansfield Press www.mansfieldpress.net
The Smooth Yarrow by Susan Glickman, published by www.vehiculepress.com
I see my love more clearly from a distance by Nora Gould, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Begin With the End in Mind by Emma Healey, published by Arbeiter Ring
Alert To Glory by Sally Ito, published by Turnstone Press www.turnstonepress.com
Distillo by Basma Kavanaugh, published by Gaspereau Press www.gaspereau.com
Handfuls of Bone by Monica Kidd, published by Gaspereau Press www.gaspereau.com
Monstrance by Sarah Klassen, published by Turnstone
Chaser by Erin Knight, published by House of Anansi Press www.anansi.ca
Foreignbody by Catherine Lalonde (trans. Nora Alleyn), published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Ash Steps my M. Travis Lane, published by Cormorant Books www.cormorantbooks.com
Restless White Fields by Barbara Langhorst, published by NeWest
Geographies of a Lover by Sarah de Leeuw, published by NeWest Press
Imagining Lives by Bernice Lever, published by Black Moss
Where The Terror Lies by Chantal Lavoie, published by Quattro Books www.quattrobooks.ca
For The Maintenence of Landscapes by Mia Lecompte (trans. Johanna Bishop and Brenda Porster), published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Bent At The Spine by Nicole Markotic, published by BookThug www.bookthug.ca
Sumptuary Laws by Nyla Maytuk, published by Vehicule Press www.vehiculepress.com
Between Dusk And Night by Emily McGiffin published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Conflict by Christine McNair, published by BookThug www.bookthug.ca
Something Small To Carry Home by Isa Milman, published by Quattro Books www.quattrobooks.ca
The Unmemntioable by Erin Moure, published by House of Anansi Press www.anansi.ca
Brides in Black by Mary Ann Mulhern, published by Black Moss Press www.blackmosspress.com
Any Bright Horse by Lisa Pasold, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
No Ordinary Place by Pamela Porter, published by www.ronsdalepress.com
33 Million Solitudes by Ali Riley, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
Grid by Brenda Schmidt, published by Hagios Press www.hagiospress.com
Intermission by Heather Simeney MacLeod, published by Shillingford
The Book of Changes by Madeline Sonik, published by Innana
New Theatre by Susan Steudel, published by Coach House Books www.chbooks.com
The Shape of a Throat by Sheila Stewart, published by Signature Editions www.signature-editions.com
All That Desire by Betsy Struthers, published by Black Moss
The Qwerty Institute of Cosmetic Typographical Enhancements by Angela Szczepaniak, published by Bookthing www.bookthug.ca
I Won’t Ever Learn Kattherena Vermette, published by Shillingford
DOOM: Love Poems for Supervillains by Natalie Zina Walschots, published by Insomniac Press www.insomniacpress.com
Dirt of Ages by Gillain Wigmore, published by Nightwood Editions www.nightwoodeditions.com
Both Boys Climb Trees They Can’t Climb Down by Stephanie Yorke, published by Signature Editions www.signature-editions.com
Bruised by Unbroken by Cheryl Antao-Xavier, published by In Our Words Inc. www.inourwords.ca
The Metamorphosis of Ishtar by Nadine Ltaif (trans. Jon Asfour), published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Rough Wilderness: the Imaginary Love Poems of the Abbess Heloise by Rosemary Aubert, published by Quattro books, www.quattrobooks.ca
The Islands by Loise Cotnoir (trans. Oana Avasilichioaei), published by Wolsak & Wynn www.wolsakandwynn.ca
Syzygy by Louise Bak, DC Books www.dcbooks.ca
What Is The Sound of Someone Unravelling by Marsha Barber, published by Borealis Press www.borealispress.com
The Ecstatic Tour of Gratitude by Jill Battson, published by Guernica Editions, www.guernicaeditions.com
The ID Kid by Linda Besner, published by Vehicule Press www.vehiculepress.com
A Page From The Wonders of Life on Earth by Stepahnie Bolster, publisher by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
There Are Many Ways To Die While Traveling in Peru by Alanna F. Bondar, Published by Your Scrivener Press www.scrivenerpress.com
Unruly Angels by Diane Buchanan, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
Calliope by Shirley Camia, published by Libros Libertad www.libroslibertad.ca
Daedalus Had A Daughter by Wanda Campbell, published by Signal Editions www.signature-editions.com
A Walker In The City by Miera Cook, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Small Mechanics by Lorna Crozier, published by McLelland and Stewart www.mcclelland.com/poetry
At First, Lonely by Tanya Davis, published by The Acorn Press www.acornpresscanada.com
The Flower of Youth: Pier Paolo Pasolini Poems by Mary di Michele, published by ECW Press www.ecwpress.com
The Cure Is A Forest by Desi DI Nardo, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
This Way by Lise Downe, published by Bookthug www.bookthug.ca
Lover Through Departure by Rishma Dunlop, published by Mansfield Press www.mansfieldpress.net
TRUE by Kristy Ellion, published by Leaf Press www.leafpress.ca
Insomnie Blues by Linda Frank, published by BuschekBooks www.buschekbooks.com
Angelic Scintillations by Katerina Vaughn Fretwell, published by Inanna Poetry and Fiction Series www.yorku.ca/inanna
Outskirts by Sue Goyette, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Yes by Rosemary Griebel, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
Match by Helen Guri, published by Coach House Books www.chbooks.com
Kerosene by Jamella Hegen, published by Nightwood editions www.nightwoodeditions.com
Alert to Glory by Sally Ho published by Turnstone Press www.turnstonepress.com
Crow by Cornelia Hoogland, published by Black Moss Press www.blackmosspress.com
Woods Wolf Girl by Cornelia Hoogland, published by Wolsak & Wynn www.wolsakandwynn.ca
Marrow, Willow by Maureen Hynes, by Pedlar Press www.pedlarpress.com
Yusuf and the Lotus Flower by Doyali Farah Islam, published by BuschekBooks www.buschekbooks.com
Groundwork by Amanda Jernigen, published by Biblioasis www.biblioasis.com
The Shining Material by Aisha Sasha John, published by Bookthug www.bookthug.ca
The Secret Signature of Things by Eve Joseph, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
First Woman by Patricia Keeney, published by Ianna Poetry and Fiction series www.yorku.ca/inanna
Good Holing Ground by Cynthia Woodman Kerkham, published by Palimpsest Press http://www.palimpsestpress.ca/
13 by Alexis Kienlen, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
Hypotheticals by Leigh Kotsilidis, published by Coach House Books www.chbooks.com
Spinning Side Kick by Anita Lahey, published by Vehicule Press www.vehiculepress.com
Reporting from the Night by Kateri Lanthier, published by Iguana Books www.iguanabooks.com
Wretched Beast by Shelley Leedahl, published by BuschekBooks www.buschekbooks.com
Carapace by Laura Lush, published by Palimpsest Press www.palimpsestpress.ca
Kat Among The Tigers by Kath LacLean, published by University of Alberta Press www.uap.ualberta.ca
The Sound Of Darkness by Sharon Marcus, published by Sufi Press
Demeter Goes Skydiving by Susan McCaslin, published by University of Alberta Press www.uap.ualberta.ca
Onion Man by Katherine Mockler, published by Tightrope Books www.tightropebooks.com
What Really Happened Is This by Diane Hicks Morrow, published by The Acorn Press
Just Like her by Louise Dupre (trans. Erin Moure), published by Wolsak & Wynn www.wolsakandwynn.ca
The Pillow Books by Karen Mulhallen, published by Black Moss Press www.blackmosspress.com
Rebuild by Sachiko Murakami, published by Talon Books www.talonbooks.com
Origami Dove by Susam Musgrave, published by McClelland & Stewart www.mcclelland.com/poetry
Hooligans by Lillian Necakov, published by Mansfield Press www.mansfieldpress.net
Triage by Cecily Nicholson, published by Talon Books www.talonbooks.com
Love Cake by Leah Lakshmi Piepena-Samarasinha, published by TSAR books www.tsarbooks.com
Vox Humana by E. Alex Pierce, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Contrary by Ruth Roach Pierson, published by Tightrope Books www.tightropebooks.com
Thirsts by Pearl Pirie, published by Snare Books www.snarebooks.wordpress.com
Redemption Rain by Jennifer Rahim, published by TSAR Books (www.tsarbooks.com)
Strong Bread by Giovanna Riccio, published by Quattro Books www.quattrobooks.ca
Grunt of the Minotaur by Robin Richardson, published by Insomniac Press www.insomniacpress.com
Post-Apothecary by Sandra Ridley, published by Pedlar Press www.pedlarpress.com
Be by Patria Rivera, published by Signal Editions www.signature-editions.com
Paramita, Little Black by Suzanne Robertson, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Unearthed by Janet marie Rogers, published by Leaf Press www.leafpress.ca
Croak by Jenny Sampirisi, published by Coach House Book www.chbooks.com
The Truth of Houses by Ann Scowcroft, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Do Not Call Me By My Name by Lisa Shatzky, published by Black Moss Press www.blackmosspress.com
Is by Anne Simpson, published by LcClelland and Stewart www.mcclelland.com/poetry
Girlwood by Jennifer Still, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Grace Shiver by Cathy Stonehouse, published by Innanna Poetry and Fiction www.yorku.ca/inanna
The Anatomy of Clay by Gillian Sze, published by ECW Press www.ecwpress.com
Oyama Pink Shale by Sharon Thesen, published by House of Anansi Press www.anansi.ca
Galaxy by Rachel Thompson, published by Anvil Press www.anvilpress.com
The Crystal Palace by Carey Toane, published by Mansfield Press www.mansfieldpress.net
Bright Bardo by Ilya Tourtidis, published by Libros Libertad www.libroslibertad.ca
echoic mimic by Lesley Trite, published by Snare Books www.snarebooks.wordpress.com
Sweet Devilry by Yi-Mei Tsaing, published by Oolichan Books www.oolichan.com
And See What Happens: The Journey Poems by Ursula Vaira, published by Caitlin Press www.caitlin-press.com
Apologetic for Joy by Jessica Hiemstra van der Horst, published by Goose Lane Editions www.gooselane.com
Gulf by Leslie Vryenhock, published by Oolichan Books www.oolichan.com
Startled Night by Elana Wolff, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Amphetamine Heart by Liz Worth, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
When The Earth by Lisa Young, published by Quattro Books www.quattrobooks.ca
The Punctuation Field by Elizabeth Zetlin, published by Black Moss Press www.blackmosspress.com
Forge by Jan Zwicky, published by Gaspereau Press www.gaspereau.com
Ex Nihilio by Adebe D.A., published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
The Scare in the Crow by Tammy Armstrong, published by Goose Lane Editions www.gooselane.com
Come Closer by Leanne Averbach, published by Tightrope Books www.tightropebooks.com
Flesh In The Inkwell by Winona Baker, published by Leaf Press www.leafpress.ca
Giving Into Gravity by Elizabeth Barnes, published by In Our Words www.inourwords.ca
(made) by Cara Benson, published by BookThug www.bookthug.ca
Arrivals and Departures by Nina Berkhout, published by BuschekBooks www.buschekbooks.com
The Walnut-Cracking Machine by Julie Berry, published by BuschekBooks www.buschekbooks.com
Rain; road; an open boat by Roo Borson, published by McClelland and Stewart www.mcclelland.com/poetry
Flashlight by Laura Boss, published by Guernica www.guernicaeditions.com
The Days You’ve Spent by Suzanne Bowness, published by Tightrope Books www.tightropebooks.com
Ossuaries by Dionne Brand, published by McClelland and Stewart www.mcclelland.com/poetry
The Crow’s Vow by Susan Briscoe, published by Vehicule Press www.vehiculepress.com
Turning The Corner at Dusk by Jacquie Buncel, published by Wolsak & Wynn www.wolsakandwynn.ca
Aphelion by Jenna Butler, published by NeWest Press www.newestpress.com/catalog
The Semiconducting Dictionary (Our Strindberg) by Natalee Caple, published by ECW Press www.ecwpress.com
Inland Waterways: poems from a peaceable kingdom by Linda Cassidy, published by In Our Words www.inourwords.ca
Attenuations of Force by Loru Cayer, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
Welling by Margaret Christakos, published by Your Scrivener Press www.yourscrivenerpress.com
Sweet by Dani Couture, published by Pedlar Press http://www.pedlarpress.com/
Curving The Line by Carmen Lenero (trans. Lorna Crozier), published by Leaf Press www.leafpress.ca
Gates by Paulette Dube, Published by Thistledown Press www.thistledownpress.com
Falling Blues by Jannie Edwards, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
Fieldnotes, a forensic by Kate Eichorn, published by BookThug www.bookthug.ca
Ani by D’vorah Elias, published by South Western Ontario Poetry www.swontpoetry.org
Footsteps on the Ceiling by Baila Ellenbogen, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
The Other Beauty by Karen Enns, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
The Blackbird Must Be by Dorothy Field, published by Sono Nis www.sononis.com
Histories Haunt Us by Triny Finlay, published by Nightwood Editions www.nightwoodeditions.com
the art of breathing underwater by Cathy Ford, published by Mother Tongue www.mothertonguepublishing.com
apologetic by Carla Funk, published by Turnstone Press www.turnstonepress.com
Lost Gospels by Lorry Neilsen Glenn, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
Hump by Ariel Gordon, published by Palimpsest Press www.palimpsestpress.ca
Winterkill by Catherine Graham, published by Insomniac Press www.insomniacpress.com
Moving by Elizabeth Greene, published by Inanna www.yorku.ca/inanna
Poets and Killers by Helen Hajnoczky, published by Snare Books www.snarebooks.wordpress.com
Interruptions In Glass by Tracy Hamon, published by Coteau Books www.coteaubooks.com
Open Door In The Landscape by Elizabeth Harvor, published by Palimpsest Press www.palimpsestpress.ca
Sew Him Up by Beatriz Hausner, published by Quattro Books www.quattrobooks.ca
Hallucinations in the Alfalfa by Griselda Garcia (trans. Hugh Hazelton), published by Wolsak & Wynn www.wolsakandwynn.ca
Sixty-Five Years Til Now By Victoria Hazelhurst, published by Engage Books www.engagebooks.ca
Falling Season by Beth Kope, published by Leaf Press www.leafpress.ca
Bleeding Light by Sheniz Janmohamed published by TSAR Books (www.tsarbooks.com)
Living Under Plastic by Evelyn Lau, published by Oolichan Books www.oolichan.com
Singing Me Home by Carol Lipszyc, published by Inanna www.yorku.ca/inanna
After The Words by Jennifer Londry, published by Hagios Press www.hagiospress.com
My Nature by Christine Lowther, published by Leaf Press www.leafpress.ca
White Shirt by Laurie McFayden, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
Communion by Nancy Mackenzie, published by Ekstasis Editons www.ekstasiseditions.com
Memory’s Daughter by Alice Major, published by University of Alberta Press www.uap.ualberta.ca
Sonnets, by Camille Martin, published by Shearsman Books
Here, There and Somewhere Beyond by Sheila Martindale, published by South Western Ontario Poetry www.swontpoetry.org
Return From Erebus by Julia MacCarthy, published by Brick Books www.brickbooks.ca
For and Against by Sharon McCartney, published by Goose Lane Editions www.gooselane.com
Stone Dream by Madeleine Gagnon (trans. Andrea Moorhead), published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
O Resplandor by Erin Moure, published by House of Anansi www.anansi.ca
Active Pass by Jane Munro, published by Pedlar Press www.pedlarpress.com
Goodbye, Ukelele by Leigh Nash, published by Mansfield Press www.mansfieldpress.net
Martha in the Mirror by Renee Norman, published by Inanna www.yorku.ca/inanna
Stray Dog Embassy by Natasha Nuhanovic, published by Mansfield Press www.mansfieldpress.net
Seeing Lessons by Catherine Owen, published by Wolsak & Wynn www.wolsakandwynn.ca
Exhale, Exhale by Perissinotto, Cristina, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Been Shed Bore by Pearl Pirie, published by Chaudiere Books www.chaudierebooks.com
Cathedral by Pamela Porter, published by Ronsdale Press www.ronsdalepress.com
Recipes for the Red Planet by Meredith Quartermain, published by BookThug www.bookthug.ca
[sic] by Nikki Reimer, published by Frontenac House www.frontenachouse.com
Fallout by Sandra Ridley, published by Hagios Press www.hagiospress.com
Here Is Where We Disembark by Clea Roberts, published by Freehand Books www.freehand-press.com
Floating Bodies by Julie Roorda, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Vs. by Kerry Ryan, published by Avil Press www.anvilpress.com
Catchment Area by Jena Schmidt, published by Signature Editions www.signature-editions.com
My Father’s Hands Spoke In Yiddish by Karen Schenfield, published by Guernica Editions www.guernicaeditions.com
Deepwater Vee by Melanie Siebert, published by McClelland and Stewart www.mcclelland.com/poetry
Night Gears by Bren Simmers, published by Wolsak & Wynn www.wolsakandwynn.ca
I Do Not Think That I Could Love A Human Being by Johanna Skidsrub, published by Gaspereau Press www.gaspereau.com
Nobody Move by Susan Stenson, published by Sono Nis www.sononis.com
The Nights Also by Ana Swanson, published by Tightrope Books www.tightropebooks.com
In The Key Of Red by Eva Tihanyi, published by Inanna www.yorku.ca/inanna
So Large An Animal by Bibiana Tomasic, published by Leaf Press www.leafpress.ca
Traumatology by Priscilla Uppal, published by Exile www.exileeditions.com
Hard Feelings by Sheryda Warrener, published by Snare Books www.snarebooks.wordpress.com
An Auto-Erotic History of Swings by Patricia Young, published by Sono Nis www.sononis.com
* * *
Reviewers, reviews editors, critics and other poets: please take a look at this list and make an effort to spend some time with these texts. Spare some space in your publications. Make room for a review on your blogs. Read these books, write about them, advocate for them however you can. These writers deserve your time, your eyes, your minds. Let’s collectively work to close the gap.
I plan on looking at the distribution of coverage on other publications too, so check back here for more pie charts and conversation.
Thanks for this, Natalie!
Good job. An excellent response to a serious problem of representation and of misrepresentation re women’s presence in and contributions to our culture.
This is kickass.
Sharing. Well done.
Interesting. Thank you for looking into this so thoroughly and for encouraging reviews to spend some time with the books you’ve listed. I’m sure many female poets are as grateful as I am.
Thank you, Natalie, for a timely and depressing article. No surprise–though, yes, the numbers are worse than I expected. They reflect what is obvious: that the little public dialogue we have around poetry is dominated mostly by men deciding what will be noticed and not noticed, what will be praised and not praised, what will be considered worthy to ‘give’ to the public. I suspect the same is true for poetry editors–both in house editors at publishing houses and at literary magazines.
Your call to all of us who love poetry to buy and read some of the overlooked, unheralded, unreviewed books—to speak and write about those books as you have here–is an IMPORTANT call. No one else will do so if we don’t; Lista would agree, I’m sure!
I have been AMAZED by the comments I’ve got from poetry editors–men–about a book of poetry I’ve been peddling–poems about violence against women and children, if you want the broadest generalization. Apparently these poems have all been written; I’m adding nothing new, I’m too angry, I’m too melodramatic, emotional, etc etc. Sometimes I feel like I am a woman writer in the 50’s . . .
However, while I do agree that there is a great imbalance in reviewing and publishing in general, I do not think that Michael Lista is at the forefront of this.I think the issue here is of a MUCH larger scale throughout all of North America. Making him the poster child for this issue will not help at all.
Thanks for me too, Natalie. Brick Books has published 63 poetry books by men and 94 poetry books by women [including E. Alex Pierce] from 1998 to 2012 – 67% books by women. There is no specific formula that we follow – we look for good writing.
Kitty Lewis, General Manager, Brick Books
Thanks so much for everyone who has shared, responded and commented. I deeply appreciate it.
Robin: I agree this is a much larger issue. I just happened to be inspired by a particular conversation that I had, and decided to take subsequent action. I fully intend to look at other spaces where reviews appear, and this is just the starting point.
Thanks for this list, Natalie. It will help me in my systematic catching up.
A little bummed that all it takes is one or two gatekeepers who don’t think inclusivity is their business to reproduce the usual myopia. None of the men on your list of NP’s reviewed are other than Anglo-European, either. Based on your stats, it’s like a site dedicated to music reviewing that really only wants to review country music, by dudes.
Beautiful intervention Natalie. Excellent pie chart and critique. And then you provide the archive of published works to drive home the point that the blindness has nothing to do with a scarcity in poetry production by women. & I am sympathetic to Sonnet L’Abbe’s point as well…that all of the men are Anglo-European. We need more ongoing discussion about these issues. I’ve just edited an anthology about http://omarkhadranthology.wordpress.com – After a decade in Guantanamo, he remains a lightening rod for loud Canadian public bigotry and Islamophobia. But the sleepier zones of the literary arts reproduce perpetual hierarchies. We women can be lulled into a sense of mission accomplished after the second wave of the women’s movement and the work of the generations that have come after. But social justice is fragile and requires a constant vigil of attentive critique – like your focused study in this blog post. We live in an especially nasty time. The Ugly Mad Men in power are dragging us back to the 50s. The fight will be on every front.
I made a mistake and posted this draft in error. Please approve for publication the send post I did on this subject. Grateful thanks Natalie. And thanks again for your excellent work on this subject. We should do this on every genre. I’ve put together a list of nonfiction women writers on my website above. Not complete but impressive in the number of women. I did this when I was told that there weren’t very many Canadian women writing nonfiction to include in a public writing event.
Beautiful intervention Natalie. Excellent pie chart and critique. And then you provide the archive of published works to drive home the point that the blindness has nothing to do with a scarcity in poetry production by women. & I am sympathetic to Sonnet L’Abbe’s point as well…that all of the men are Anglo-European. We need more ongoing discussion about these issues. I’ve just edited an anthology : Omar Khadr, Oh Canada – http://omarkhadranthology.wordpress.com After a decade in Guantanamo, Omar Khadr remains a lightening rod for loud Canadian public bigotry and Islamophobia. But the sleepier zones of the literary arts reproduce perpetual hierarchies. We women can be lulled into a sense of mission accomplished after the second wave of the women’s movement and the work of the generations that have come after. But social justice is fragile and requires a constant vigil of attentive critique – like your focused study in this blog post. We live in an especially nasty time. The Ugly Mad Men in power are dragging us back to the 50s. The fight will be on every front.
Thanks for the digging, Natalie — if we are going to grumble (and I often do), we need just such a strong basis of fact as this to go on.
And look what a mere three years’ worth of publishing produces in terms of ‘women’s work.’
This, lady, is why I like you so much…and thanks for the handy reading list!
Discouraging statistics indeed. Poet Annie Finch (and others) made the point that women poets must be writing and publishing reviews, and taking an active role in literary criticism. It is a responsibility that few of us (myself included) take on, but it is important work, as these statistics make abundantly clear.
Fascinating – thanks for this. And that pie chart is killer.
Thank you for doing this. It’s important. Some women are compiling similar statistics on the Canadian magazine award situation. VIDA, northern style. Will let you know when it’s done.
Thanks for this. Really surprising given all we have had to say about appropriate gender representation. That said, I wish you had taken a stab at analyzing more fully why the imbalance occured. Is Lista an anomaly. Are we experiencing a social or
cultural reversal of some kind away from the gains won by women and women poets over the past several decades. What does the publishing ratio look like…or jury awards…
ps – sorry…my question mark symbol seems to have died
I want to respond to both this comment, and the much more dismissively worded comment that you left on the Vehicule press blog post on this topic here: http://vehiculepress.blogspot.ca/2012/05/who-is-reviewing-books-of-poetry-by.html
I see that you are “not impressed” by my perceived lack of “analysis or thoughtfulness.” I want to impress upon you a few things: first, this was something that I tackled in my spare time, out of passion. I write for a living. My time in front of the computer is metered, and every minute that I was working on this was a minute I was not getting paid for other, valuable work.
Also, the fact that you are dismissing this work because it is one example, does not take into account other publications, does not include a detailed crunch of demographics etc. is ridiculous. This is one example. I say that it is one example, and that in the future I want to turn my gaze wider.
Your are criticizing the scope of work I have done for free, out of passion and devotion, because it is not analytical enough for you. If you want a more detailed analysis of the numbers, the information is all there and accessible. I will get to it when I possibly can. In the mean time, do the work yourself.
Wow. Look at that list! What a powerful and moving response.
Perhaps it’s time that we all “adopt” a publication to track. I myself was looking at BOOK FORUM, and in just a couple of issues, I was struck by the noticeable discrepancy in both books and reviewers–the gap is enormous. And, like Natalie, we must also take that extra step to suggest/recommend what can be done about it. I’m not bashing, but males aren’t trained to be that sensitive/compassionate (it would ruin them for war duties), so they have to be enlightened about what must be done and why.
I thoroughly enjoyed this piece, and heartily agree. I will definitely be seeking out some of these books. As a poet myself, with two award-winning books published some time ago, I always assumed that if I wrote in a more popular form, such as a novel, things might be differerent. But not so. I self published a satirical novel about academic life last year, entitled “And the Seas Shall Turn to Lemonade”. I managed to get Diane Schoemperlen and Mark Frutkin to write up comments for the back cover, but since publication, despite numerous efforts on my part, including sending free copies everywhere, I have been unable to get a single review in any newspaper or magazine. One might think this is because the book doesn’t merit a review, but I should point out that the reader reviews, on Goodreads, on Amazon, and so on, have been fabulous. So what gives? Like most writers, I am not looking for reviews to get pats on the back, but to gain some exposure in order to get more readers. This is an extremely frustrating situation. Thank you for bringing this to light.
a troubling trend; hopefully if enough folk point it out, reviewers will learn to be aware of it & it will disappear as an issue; glad you found this, learned this, pointed this out,
here’s the post i wrote in response, with my own 2011 blog stats; http://www.robmclennan.blogspot.ca/2012/05/natalie-zina-walschots-national-post.html
Alas, I have no more time to spend digging around on this issue. Perhaps, Mr. Godkin, you can?
Women are seriously underrepresented. To ask us to spend any more time accumulating these statistics and making arguments for inclusion is quite frankly, an insult.
A little self-reflection will go a long way.
I posted on this several times: the literary test, for example,
the gatekeepers and the glass ceiling,
The literary test is important: if you only read white male writers who reflect your style and tastes, you can delude yourself into thinking you are reading only the best books…and if a woman, or non-white writer happens to write into your precise idea of goodness you can include them.
This is fine for a blogger, not fine for someone with a national profile.
I think it’s time for the dudes to do some thinking and some work. Think about the amount of time you, male editors, spend mentoring your male writers.
Then do the same for women.
You say women don’t submit.
I wonder how many of your male reviewers you have found on list serves, etc, and asked to submit?
The problem isn’t reviewers like Michael Lists per se, the problem is the lack of ongoing dialog about how these critical communities take root and are supported.
Women above: I suggest you submit your responses to the National Post. Better yet, create your own site. A better one.
Thank you all for your responses, especially calls for reviewers/readers to adopt a specific text and make sure that it gets some extra love. The list is here for exactly that reason. I appreciate you all taking the time to read and comment, and hopefully that also translates into write and review.
Ashbery is spelled with an “e.” I have no objection to the idea that more women writers should be reviewed & write reviews, but I want to know what the fuck we’re supposed to believe is wrong with Michael Lista reviewing Ashbery’s Rimbaud translation or, “um,” The Iliad.
I don’t think anyone has any truck with any of the books, including yours, that Michael has reviewed…not sure what you mean.
Do you have something to contribute to the discussion?
Do you? Natalie’s “um” serves a rhetorical purpose. It clearly implies there’s something absurd about Lista’s reviewing a translation of The Iliad, which is just, well, stupid.
Thanks for posting this, Natalie. Your point is important. Canada could use a count of who is reviewing who and a VIDA to do it. I wonder if any of our national organizations already keep count. It wouldn`t be hard for the Writer`s Union of Canada to gather findings.
I don`t want to operate under the assumption that what is true in England or America is true here, though I wouldn`t fall over in shock to find that our numbers are just as ugly.
Elizabeth Bachinsky (editor of EVENT magazine) and Katia Grubisic (editor at Arc) have both encouraged women to write reviews for their publications in response to Natalie`s article. Geist is always looking for more reviewers for their End Notes. I edit poetry at EVENT—please submit.
The Globe and Mail isn`t a fortress—-one can knock, and ask for more space for books.
Nat, this is such an important topic and (of course) stupendously done. I have tried to close the gap myself with my column and reviews. It is a wide sea however. A wide sea.
Melanie I know that you have. Thank you so much for your work.
Gillian, the post was about The National Post. Which is the only reason I’m here, as Michael Lista quite favorably reviewed my book for that paper, which is a crime of some sort, it would seem.
Michael, what the fuck? You think Lista needs your protection? Seriously. Grow some context.
Love ya, but seriously. The dude network in action.
Ah, yes, the nefarious “dude network.” And if that’s the level at which you conduct “discussion,” count me out.
“Ashbery is spelled with an “e.” I have no objection to the idea that more women writers should be reviewed & write reviews, but I want to know what the fuck we’re supposed to believe is wrong with Michael Lista reviewing Ashbery’s Rimbaud translation or, “um,” The Iliad.”
That’s the level at which you inserted yourself into this discussion.
But I’m fine if you want to back out.
Michael Robbins, I know very well that the original post was about The National Post as I have been in conversation about it. I have no idea why you are pointing this out to me, nor do I have any idea why your tone is so hostile as I have nothing to say to you about the National Post nor Michael Lista nor his review of your book, which was favorable I hear. We have this other national newspaper up here in the Great White North called the Globe and Mail and so my last sentence suggests that women interested in reviewing may want to review there and expand that paper`s limited space for books.
Natalie, thank you immensely for this research, and for your suggestion that reviewers make use of the lists you have compiled by reading and reviewing the books on them. Because I privately mentor a number of women writers and publicly edit for Brick Books, it is not possible for me to review regularly in major venues in a way that will be seen to be even-handed. This is a problem for some of the best Canadian readers of both sexes. I wish, though, heartily to second your recommendations, and also to second Gillian Jerome’s suggestion that folks interested in reviewing go knocking on the Globe’s door. For models on which to base such reviews, I warmly recommend Woolf’s: they are, on the whole, sprightly, generous, and insightful. I would also like to pass on an observation offered to me many years ago by a colleague in the university: it’s a mistake to assume the presence of malice, where ignorance or insensitivity would also explain the facts. I have found this observation to be invaluable in negotiating choppy political waters. It helps create a climate in which all of us can, as Natalie suggests, work to remedy unjust situations. For I, too, have often made political mistakes out of ignorance or lack of imagination. Sensing that someone grasped that my motive was not mean has made room for me to change.
“What is commonly called literary history is actually a record of choices.” —Louise Berkinow
I agree that there should be more like rough parity between the sexes of authors reviewed.
But the reason presumably that it’s possible to get so upset with Michael Lista is because there is no other significant, wide-circulation reviewing of poetry happening in this country. Is there? (The reviews in the G & M for more than a decade have not been what I would call reviews, and there are fewer and fewer of them now. I wouldn’t hold out much hope from that quarter.)
If that weren’t the case, — IF there were half a dozen other venues equally influential or at least noticeable — Lista’s reviews would I think be something to celebrate: independent-minded, critically acute, well informed about the poetic tradition, etc.
Lopsided, or partial, yes, but perhaps no one had before informed him that since he’s almost the last poetry reviewer standing his job comes with heavy public responsibilities!
Can we ever talk about poetry without talking about public?
And is it ever not the right time to have an engaged discussion about how one’s art is being represented publicly?
Hey, Natalie. Thanks for taking the time to do the research and begin to compile the statistics. You know, the League of Canadian Poets years ago, probably through the Feminist Caucus, launched a similar study into a possible gender bias and they came up with the kind of findings that you discovered at the National Post. I’m sure that the report would be on file somewhere in The League office. It would give at least a historical context, and more than likely confirm that not much headway has been made.
As well as the bias that you’re turning up, I’m bothered by the nastiness of Canadian poetry reviewing. Even a nationally admired, well recognized male poet who is a friend of mine, dreaded the publication of his book this spring because of the disrespectful, seemingly out-to-get-you attitude of the major reviewers of The Post, Quill and Quire, and Books in Canada. I’m almost relieved not to get reviewed considering the lack of quality, insight and generosity in these Canadian publications.
Editors and reviewers like Clarise Foster, Tanis MacDonald, Natalie Cook, Catherine Hunter, Sina Queryas, Mary di Michele and Alison Calder are significant exceptions. They take time out of their busy lives to generously engage in our literature with marvellous acuity, fairness and openness. Women to emulate and admire. I’ll be interested in being a part of whatever we as writers can do to make this a better place for women poets. You’ve made a good start.
Natalie, thank you for your work and for this list of books of poetry by women. It’s impressive.
In _Silences_ (1978), Tillie Olsen wrote about the “One Out of Twelve Writers Who Are Women in Our Century.” Maybe there are more women poets getting work published today but I fear most of our books sink rapidly into oblivion.
Thoughtful and thorough reviewing takes time away from other writing, but I’ve decided that it’s something I need to start doing again … and, I’m looking forward to engaging with new books and reading works I might otherwise have missed.
If nothing else, I’ll come away with the pleasure of having read and re-read those books, and thought and re-thought my observations and comments about them. With any luck, more books by women will be reviewed.
Thank you Jane,
We need people like you. Men are much more united . They review each others’ work much more eagerly. As women we do not support each other enough.
Give me please your address. I would like to have your comments
about “A Tilt”.
Let me know if I can be of help to other poets. Thank you for being outspoken. F
Thank you for being outspoken.
We are far behind men in supporting each other.
I would love to send you a copy of ” A Tilt”.
Where can I send it? F
I just crunched my own numbers from the Winnipeg Free Press and I don’t seem to be doing too bad: Men 53% and Women 47% (the planned-but-not-published columns shift this to an even 50/50). And I am not even thinking about this issue, to be honest. So I don’t really understand why it seems so hard for other reviewers to strike some sort of balance.
I shouldn’t say I’m not thinking about the issue. Once in a while I notice all the books I am about to review are by men. I glance through the pile of unreviewed books and see if anything by a woman strikes my fancy. Sometimes it does and I slot it in instead. Sometimes it doesn’t and I publish an all-male column. But I’m still batting close to 50/50 for poetry reviewing, with that absolute minimum effort. So how fucking hard is it, people?
First of all, thank you immensely , Natalie, for going to the trouble of doing the research you did. As a Canadian poet who happens to be female and has been writing for over 30 years (my seventh poetry book came out from Inanna this past fall–2012–and has garnered exactly zero reviews in the print media), I have felt frustrated throughout my entire career by this lack of attention paid to poetry in general and to poetry written by women in particular.