Women of the Beat years

Not all of the Beat poets were men, I’ll have you know. The women‘s productivity was just slightly hampered by taking care of the guys.
In “The Quarrel,” Diane di Prima wrote, “You know I thought I’ve got work to do too sometimes. In fact I probably have just as … much work to do as you. A piece of wood fell out of the fire and I poked it back in with my toe./ I am sick I said to the woodpile of doing dishes… I got up and went into the kitchen to do the dishes.”
Then there was Carolyn Cassady. She wrote a memoir, “Off the Road: My Years With Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg” (1990). After she died in 1983, her children discovered that she wrote poetry.

Even back in the early 1990s when I started writing poetry, I felt excluded at writing events. I was too old to be an interesting young thing and not man enough to be taken seriously. Below is a poem from that time.

Smoke signals

Poets with pipes puff
snaking plumes of smoke.
Two professorial beards
like bad-tempered bookends
wrangle over my head
exchanging urbane jabs,
locking horns, avoiding my eyes,
thinking about my stockings,
talking about Spain and Latvia.
Long-nailed meerschaum fingers
wave in tenuous wisps,
smoke sidling up my thighs
looking for inspiration.
I stand like a cocktail waitress
trying not to inhale or laugh.
Soon those languid blasé voices
will drop jaded images
of bitter disappointments
like lead from an old linotype.
Then my words will rise iridescent
like bubbles above the smoke.

Back then, I asked myself how I knew I’m a poet if nobody else seemed to think so. Years have passed, and I will now claim it out loud.

I’m a poet; I write
poems before I shower.
Some days, lunch comes first.

#OctPoWrMo Day 5.


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