Her dreams wove the reeds into baskets, which, before she woke, they sealed with wax and sent off empty, bobbing, on the river.
—From Jennifer Atkinson’s “Canticle of the Rushes”
So to Speak is proud to feature the poetry of Jennifer Atkinson in our inaugural summer issue, and she was kind enough to share some of her thoughts on feminism with us in the flash interview below. Happy Tuesday!
How do you think your work contributes to a contemporary feminist discourse? (Both your work in general and the poems in the summer issue in particular).
Although it sounds flip to say it, all my poems have a feminist outlook just because they’re mine, but that outlook isn’t as apparent in all my poems as it is in these. Two of the poems that will appear in the summer 2012 issue are ekphrastics written after the work of major recent American woman painters. “The Bay” is after Helen Frankenthaler’s painting by that name, as is Agnes Martin’s “Milk River.” Frankenthaler, too, but especially Martin has been an inspiration to me—her courage, her deep calm, her sublime paintings.
The other two poems are as if from the writings of Mary Magdalene, a figure often reduced to a red-headed ex-whore who cries a lot. With the help of current scholarship on Magdalene and research into Magdalene legends as told in Giotto’s fresco cycle in Assisi as well as in other paintings and relics preserved in Southern France, I have tried to imagine her as a full person, compassionate and intellectual—a leader and an itinerant teacher. What would such a figure teach, I wondered.
How do you interpret your role within the feminist movement and how does your poetry, or other art forms, represent your politics?
It represents my thinking, which is to say, my politics.
What does being a feminist in today’s world mean to you?
Being a compassionate, thinking human being with a commitment to social justice and civil rights for everyone.