Wednesday, September 1, 2021





For all the violence imposed on her

For all the humiliation she has suffered

For her body that you have taken advantage of

For her intelligence that you have stepped

For the ignorance which you have left her in

For the freedom you have denied her

For the mouth you shut, and for the wings you clipped


W. Shakespeare from Stand Gentlemen in front of a Woman.


Among the themes that have most fascinated poets of all time, women certainly occupy the most important place. The female gender has always inspired deep emotions and passions giving life to wonderful poems and texts of great value.  Women have permanently been in male thought and writing as beings to sing for their beauty and virtues. Rarely for their strength and intelligence. Poetry is rich in verses dedicated to them and among the poems considered the most beautiful of all time are the timeless lines by William Shakespeare in “Stand up gentleman in front of a woman” that, beyond the uniqueness of the style, and despite the slow but long passage of time remains a fresh, modern portrait of the female condition.

Women have been for long the object, not the subject of poetic narration. The numerical disparity between the works of male and female matrix depends on a series of variables that sees, in every society, them considered as beings to be relegated to domestic environments, their education and entry in social contexts denied. They had to fight with sagacity and determination to conquer, and in small steps, each freedom that was them precluded. Nonetheless women poets have been able to give their own personal reading of the world, giving voice to fundamental themes in the life of individuals up to the definition of a self that is not individualistic but collective, the female self.

The first known poetess, that the history of poetry remember, is Enheduanna, a Sumerian priestess who lived approximately in the XXIV BC. After her, one of the most beloved name in women's literature is that of Sappho, a Greek poetess who lived, more or less, in the 6th century BC.  Originally from the island of Sappho, she took care of the education of young girls from aristocratic origins. Her only composition preserved intact is the Hymn to Aphrodite, goddess of love.

Many centuries go by before poetic compositions signed by female authors appear again. In the 13th century, under the pseudonym of Compiuta Donzella, an Italian from Florence breaks the silence with three sonnets. And it is in the second half of the 1300s that Christine de Pizan, author of both philosophical and poetic texts, marks a historical moment in women's literature as the first author who lives by writing. But it is after the Renaissance that in Europe  women become real protagonists of verse writing. And if in all this long period of time they had been considered marginal figures in the literary field at the end of the nineteenth century, they are recognized equal dignity in relation to their male colleagues. This is the time when the names of Emily Dickinson, Madame de Stael, Eveline Cattermole emerge.

At the international level it is during the twentieth century that the richest production of female poetry is recorded and that counts some figures still of great inspiration today. Among them, worthy of mention are Sylvia Plath credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry;, Anne Sexton who was the first to tackle problems such as abortion, sexuality and women's rights becoming one of the first feminist authors like Virginia Woolf; Ada Negri nominated to the Nobel Prize in 1927, Grazia Deledda who summarizes in her poetics all the main currents of the time and the first and still the only Italian woman to receive the Nobel Prize for the literary section in 1926.

The women poets distinguished themselves for the investigative perspective and the spirit of observation with which they described the world around them, complex and difficult both from a literary and a social point of view and which saw the woman at the beginning of her political and cultural emancipation. Their gaze towards this world is not central, but observes from the margins of the society in which they are locked up as wives and mothers, rather than as poetesses. Their analysis is very far from the masculine one which includes the narration of the war. Their verses delicately describe the point of view of the most humble, marginalized part of society or the hypocrisy of the more educated social classes.

The international scene today boasts a long list of names of poetesses who describe, with different styles and sensibilities, every aspect of female everyday life. Capable of probing the human soul, they produce compositions of great emotional impact, which tell reality with a new gaze and the condition of women with a surprising sincerity, moving the consciences of readers with passionate and intense reflections.

Maria Miraglia


1 comment :

  1. Wonderful article Maria Miraglia. I wish to state that Sappho lived on the Isle of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea 350 B.C. Thus we get the name for women who love each other romantically - Lesbians. Here is my favorite poem by Sappho: Yes, gold is the son of Zeus, no rust
    its timeless light can stain.
    The worm that turns man's flesh to dust,
    Assaults its strength in vain.
    More gold, than gold, this love I sing
    A hard inviolable thing.
    Sappho - 350 B. C.

    With love and great respect,
    Annie Johnson