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Feminism and poetry: An unseen Sylvia Plath short story gets published and other must-read female poets

Feminism and poetry: An unseen Sylvia Plath short story gets published and other must-read female poets

You go girl

Text: Isabel Joy Kua

Editor: Aravin Sandran


Feminism has been a hot-button subject across the globe in recent times with the rise of the #MeToo movement that rocked Hollywood last year with sexual harassment scandals against high-profile men such as film mogul Harvey Weinstein and current Justice of the United States Supreme Court Brett Kavanaugh. While actresses such as Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd have led the cultural discourse on mainstream media, literary icons such as Sylvia Plath have shed light on the negative impact of gender inequality and disparity on a woman's psyche since the mid 20th century. Below, we've rounded up two other female wordsmiths who are inspiring a new generation of young girls and women through beautifully moving spoken and written word.

Sylvia Plath

Feminism and poetry: An unseen Sylvia Plath short story gets published and other must-read female poets (фото 1)

Originally published in 1982, Plath's sentiments on the struggles of womanhood in 'The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath' wouldn't be out of place today: "Being born a woman is my awful tragedy. From the moment I was conceived I was doomed to sprout breasts and ovaries rather than penis and scrotum; to have my whole circle of action, thought and feeling rigidly circumscribed by my inescapable femininity." Her expansive influence has transcended the literary world. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow played the poet in 2003's biographical drama Sylvia, and Kirsten Dunst is set to direct a film adaptation of her 1963 novel 'The Bell Jar'. Perpetually melancholic songstress Lana Del Rey has also name-dropped the troubled writer who tragically committed suicide at the age of 30 by placing her head in the oven in her latest mournful single "hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have - but I have it", crooning "I've been tearing around in my f***ing nightgown 24/7 Sylvia Plath". In February, publishing house Faber will release a previously unpublished short story by Plath entitled 'Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom'. Plath wrote the short story when she was a third-year college student, borrowing her high school friend Mary Ventura's name for the title. Filled with allegorical references and atmospheric imagery, this is the first publication of the original version. 

Warsan Shire

Named London's first Young Poet Laureate in 2014 at the age of 25, Somali-British writer Warsan Shire is certainly no greenhorn in the literary scene. She has tackled difficult subjects like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), going into graphic detail about the gruesome practice in poignant and powerful diction, writing in 'Girls': "After the procedure, the girl learns/how to walk again/mermaid with new legs/soft knees buckling under new sinless body". In 'For Women Who Are Difficult To Love' — most famously adapted by Queen Bey in her visual album Lemonade in 2016 — Shire celebrates the power of feminine individuality: "you are a horse running alone/and he tries to tame you/compares you to an impossible highway/to a burning house." Listen to Shire's album of poetry and spoken word on Bandcamp for more.

Sarah Kay

A household name in the spoken word circuit, Sarah Kay was propelled to the forefront of mainstream consciousness with her viral performance "If I Should Have a Daughter" that received a standing ovation at a 2011 TED conference. Kay artfully addresses the complexities of the mother-daughter relationship, discussing everything from romantic love to the disappointments of real life: "So the first time she realizes that Wonder-woman isn't coming, I'll make sure she knows she doesn't have to wear the cape all by herself." Since then, she has published poems in magazines such as Foundling Review and has released 'The Type', her second single-poem volume that explores the complicated reality of being a woman.

Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom by Sylvia Plath is available only at Kinokuniya Bookstores.

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