An Anthology of New York Women Poets
By Joyce Peseroff, Contributing Editor
Edited byTerri Muuss and M.J. Tenerelli
JB Stillwater Publishing
The foreword to Terri Muuss and M.J. Tenerelli’s anthology of poems by New York women poets, Grabbing the Apple, could have been written forty years ago. “In response to the glaring lack of parity for women in the arts,” they write, “we decided to create a space for women’s voices. Here in New York, women have been breathing new life into poetry, a literary genre long dominated by men” (if you think this is an exaggeration, take a look at statistics from VIDA: Women in Literary Arts). The collection gathers an eclectic group of emerging writers along with those who have published books or chapbooks. Organized in three sections around the Biblical story of Eve—“Eden,” “The Fall,” and “After the Garden”—the anthology celebrates poems by women who “grab the apple with both hands and tell [their stories] themselves.”
In “Because a Gig Was Hard to Come by in 1933,” Karla Merrifield writes how “Jojo the poet lucked out” as the laureate of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s yacht—“so what if she had to sleep/in servants’ quarters in the hold.” Kate Dickson’s witty extended metaphor on gender politics imagines a lamp confronting its bulb: “I’m numb from hearing/the persistence/of your hum.” The predatory subject of Liv Mammone’s terrifying “The Blind Date” tells the fifteen–year-old disabled speaker, “…maybe you should have them/cut off your legs and give/you those cool metal ones.” M.J. Tenerelli’s elegy for office workers lost on 9/11 reiterates the vulnerability of the female body as it “flies off the ledge,” lies “crushed…under the ceiling,” or floats in “one million tiny bits.”
Other writers cover well-trodden territory in predictable ways. A poem on footbinding tells readers nothing new by calling the practice “a thousand years of madness.” Times Square sports its pigeons, tourists, and the Naked Cowboy; jaws are studied, women strut, and Penelope’s wiser than Odysseus. The best offer a surprising take on themes like aging, illness, and sexual violence, but many poems sound familiar, their language undistinguished, or lack formal invention. Grabbing the Apple introduces a mixed bag of writers in various stages of development. Readers may be curious to see where some of them go from here.
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