By: Melissa Hurtado
Q: What does woman empowerment mean to you?
A: Women supporting other women. Encouraging each other. Lifting each other up. Pure kindness and positivity. It should never be about rising above men. Nor should it be about demeaning those who think differently. Anybody can partake in this movement for as long as they respect those principles.
Q: What does being a woman mean to you?
A: Being a woman… being a woman is… I could only think of my mom. She is a woman. My mom did it all on her own with four children; not to prove that she didn’t need a man in her life to help her become as successful as she is today, but to prove to herself that she is capable of getting shit done despite being a single mom. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that… it’s okay for women to be sensitive, empathetic, nurturing, etc…those are all beautiful qualities that should always be embraced (this applies to men as well)—we can still be CEO’s or Presidents because we are just THAT worthy…what, like it’s hard? (Yes, she quoted Elle Woods).
Q: What do you bring to the table when it comes to women empowerment?
A: I bring compassion. Compassion, period. We’re all going through the same shit and just trying to be the best versions of ourselves. I think it’s so important for both women and men to understand that concept…and, yeah, like… have some compassion. man, and all else will flow.
When I perform my poetry — and I purposely say perform instead of read -– I understand that I’m going to be measured against my looks no matter what, and I want that to be part of the critical discourse around my poetry. I know full well that my validity as an artist is undermined if I seem attractive, or worse, aware of my attractiveness, so I try to do my own beating to the punch by playing the target and the archer, thus hopefully making the audience aware of the patriarchy inside them.
The truth is, patriarchy is an insidious discourse, and both men and women tend not to expect much from a youthful, female body. I have to resist that kind of, um, resistance to a pretty genius all the time. It was so refreshing to read it confessed in Stephanie Young’s Ursula or University, which acknowledges the culpability of men and women in poetry “scenes” in reducing young women poets to bodies. I think my performances would like to dare the audience to do try.
The New York Daily News last month ran a piece profiling the careers of several young poems, female all, who “bring new energy to [the] world of words.” The article was accompanied by photos which provoked a strong response online. The response, no surprise, had to do with the appearance of the women pictured.
Lara Glenum of the multi-author Montevidayo blog reached out to the profile subjects, asking to interview them about the relative controversy. She asked each of the subjects the same five questions; the quote excerpted here comes from poet Monica McClure’s response to the question: “Do you consciously cultivate a public image that refracts, troubles, or adds to your poetry in some way?”
Click here to read McClure’s answers to all five of Glenum’s questions, or see the responses from the other poets profile in the article: Lisa Marie Basile, Ana Božičević, Camille Rankine, Trisha Low.