This evening I read a very interesting article in the Huffington Post Canada written by Jon Paul Fiorentino, which discusses the nature of sexism in the Canadian literary community. In it, Fiorentino discusses two poems that represent differing sides of reviewing culture in this country.
The first he refers to is a recent poem published at Lemon Hound (by Sina Queyras) that details the often sexist way the works of female authors are discussed (this is not always limited to the work, but spreads to a criticism of the author as well). The poet, Zoe Whittall, has taken lines from reviews of female authors in major literary journals and used them as is, with the exception that she changes the sex of the author to male to show the ridiculous representation of and reaction to women. This effectively illustrates a strong bias and sexism that exists in the literary community, and lays bare the unequal way women’s writing is often received.
Fiorentino then gets into a discussion that references another poem from 2009, this one written by literary critic and poet Zachariah Wells, that is viewed as direct hate writing towards one woman in particular (the publisher of Lemond Hound), but can be taken in the context of the broader literary community. The main purpose here is not to focus purely on the poem Wells has written, but to illustrate that more often than not members of this community tend to get irate about such inequality issues between the sexes, but rarely do anything about it. Fiorentino’s article is an attempt to bring this to the fore and stimulate dialogue around this concern.
If you read the original article above, you’ll see links to both poems and get a better feel for the article’s direction. I think it’s well worth the read. You can follow Fiorentino on twitter @stripmaller.