When English professor Cathy Day opened for the sixth annual Women’s Words event in Forcina on March 16, she shared a story about a fan letter she received from a Mr. White. Mr. White, who had purchased and read her book “The Circus in Winter,” was extremely satisfied with his choice to have done so, but brazenly stated, “I don’t read women writers.”
Day interpreted this as a strange kind of compliment, given the generalization that men write about “big things,” like America and war, while women write about little things, like “gardens, babies and feelings.”
Regardless of their subject matter, the words read at the Women’s Words event showcased the talent of females in the faculty and campus community and proved to people like Mr. White that women writers deserve acknowledgement, especially during Women’s History Month.
Women’s Words featured the work of four ladies, the first of whom to read was Susan Albertine, dean of the School of Culture and Society. Albertine collaborated with Cynthia Folio, associate professor of music theory at Temple University, on a project entitled “Music Box” to premiere in Philadelphia in 2006.
Albertine read two poems, “Ocean City” and “Music Box.” “Music Box” evoked feelings of nostalgia and innocence in describing it with lines such as, “a brassy inch of sound, self-contained, perfect and complete.”
Anita Anantharam, assistant professor who joined the women’s and gender studies department this fall, shared her translations of works by Urdu and Hindi poets. When choosing the selections she was going to read, Anantharam was “interested in looking at women critiquing the state.” The poems, in the context of the area the authors inhabited and the religious backdrop, would be considered radical or overtly sensual when written by women who typically “aren’t able to use their critical voice.”
Adding a different kind of voice was Robyn Art, a former adjunct English professor at the College. Art’s writing style comes from listening and eavesdropping in on the vernacular, idioms and slang of the day. As for her inspiration, Art aims to use “images that are not traditionally aesthetically pleasing.”
These images could definitely be seen in “The Cynic in His 29th Year,” where the speaker describes the “ills” he’s been able to avoid, such as crabs and inflammation of the gums. Art’s deadpan delivery of rather humorous material caused more than a few laughs to be heard.
Female empowerment in living singly seemed to be the subject in Art’s “Why The Foreman’s Girl Won’t Take A Beau.” Among the many reasons was the tedious vanity process in impressing the opposite sex: “She would have to wear heels” and “the rick-rack dresses of girlhood.” Needless to say, many in the room could relate.
The final speaker for the event was Catie Rosemurgy, assistant professor of creative writing and poetry, and the faculty advisor for ink, the College’s writers’ organization. Rosemurgy read new material that will be compiled in her new book.
The main character is Miss Peach, whom she describes as a cross between Godzilla and a Barbie doll and “the Barbie Doll is the scary part.” Though her first poem, “Miss Peach Gets Lucky,” was of a strange nature, it contained critical insights, such as, “Love is a fancy name for giving someone without fangs the power to kill you.” And surely, everyone nodded emphatically and thoughtfully amidst the laughter, as “Miss Peach” asked, “which is sharper – teeth or lies, baby?”
“I think (Miss Peach) began as a way of talking about gender and how it is performed and slowly developed into a way of looking at what we find unacceptable culturally, both in other people and in ourselves,” Rosemurgy said.
Women’s Words offered a variety of exceptional material for the enjoyment of the campus community. Jo Carney, Chair of the English Department, was earnest in saying that this year’s presentation was the “best ever.”
Amanda Mazuca, sophomore Spanish and elementary education major, saw that the accepted stereotypes were disproved. “They are writing about ‘big’ things,” she said.