Poetry and the Second Wave: Student Curatorial Project

Portraits of poets and a montage of bookcovers

The close alliance between second wave feminism (the women’s liberation movement) and feminist poetry reshaped the landscape of American poetry in the postwar period. As Nancy Berke has argued, “In the feminist movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, poets, and the poetry they wrote, were integral to the movement’s organizing and theorizing.” Poetry was not only an individual means of expression for the poet, but a “‘tool’ for movement building and resistance.” The alliance is documented in more than seventy feminist periodicals and more than sixty presses operating between the late 1960s and mid-1970s. Feminist poetry anthologies, such as the iconic 1973 No More Masks! (expanded and reprinted in 1993) and magazines, such as Sinister Wisdom (still being published), created a significant forum and shared space for women to articulate the politics and poetics of change. In the early 1980s, This Bridge Called My Back, an influential anthology focusing on writing by women of color, added new voices to the movement. Many of these periodicals and other primary documents of the second wave have been collected by Williams College Library Special Collections, so that the students in this course can learn about and experience first-hand the many voices that made up the women’s movement. In the projects they have presented here, the students act as curators of the Feminist Poetry Movement and Second Wave Feminism. They have selected, researched, and presented materials that contribute to creating the rich intertextual story of the feminist poetics and politics they have been studying this semester.