amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

no pies here, but plenty of women

Recently in the USA, VIDA, Women in the Literary Arts, published the results of their analysis of the number of women published and reviewed in 2010. With pie charts they depicted small slices of blue pie for women in the major mags, like the New York Times Literary Review.

So how does that relate here in Canada?
I can only provide a few small non pie examples from my local experience but here goes:

As the publisher of Bywords.ca and the Bywords Quarterly Journal for the March issue I have received so far 41 poems and 26 of them have been from people with female sounding names. [By the way, since I don’t know these people personally, I can only tell if they’re female if their bios use the third person feminine and they often don’t]

As the publisher of AngelHousePress doing a call for visual poetry for Nationalpoetrymonth.ca and inviting submissions from all countries, I have received submissions from both women and men, but only one third of the visual poetry submissions so far are from women, and by the way, none of the women are Canadian.

In my small circle of innovative poetry writing peers in Ottawa, I have noticed that the women writers tend to send out their work quite frequently and get it accepted by what I consider to be our major literary magazines. [We have no New York Times here and I certainly wouldn’t count the Globe and Mail’s paltry contribution as a major literary publication.]

I have also seen several of these women go on to publish others, win awards, participate in festivals etc.

In magazines that I read: The Capilano Review, Matrix Magazine, Precipice, FillingStation, Rampike, etc, I note many women writers being published. I also see publishers devoting whole books to women’s writing, such as Coach House, and magazines such as Matrix devoting whole issues to women writers. And furthermore, much of the innovative writing in Canada is being produced by women: Nathalie Stephens, ErĂ­n Moure, Margaret Christakos, Pearl Pirie, Sandra Ridley, Meredith Quartermain, to name a few of my favourites.

Now on to me. I have a confession to make. I rarely send work to literary journals. This is for a few reasons:

1. I write mostly long poems and series poems and they are difficult to extract. [Witness a recent rejection by an Ontario Arts Council Writers’ Reserve Recommender Magazine that complained that the samples I sent weren’t coherent and fluid…that’s the problem with excerpting.]

2. I don’t feel that the work I’ve produced fits well with many of the styles I’ve seen published in magazines such as Arc, Descant, the Malahat Review, Fiddlehead, Prism, Prairie Fire, etc….

3. Many of these magazines are still in the 20th century, requiring snail mail submissions and that’s daft to me. Also they take a ridiculously long time to send out rejections, if they do so at all. Why waste time and energy if the editors of these magazines aren’t willing to spend the time?

4. Finally, I prefer to make my own opportunities, so I run AngelHousePress; I publish people whose work pushes limits.

My advice to women who believe that they are being left out is to make your own opportunities and make them for other women whose writing you admire. Start a small press, a community blog, a reading series…but don’t sit around and wait to be asked. Do something. For those who feel that such activities do not constitute a major literary endeavour, I invite you to go suck eggs.

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