Deborah Pope: On "Women"
The collection's two central emotions--fear and denial--reach their nadir in the poem "Women." Whereas speakers in previous poems found it possible, even convincing, to place responsibility for isolation on forces such as tradition, magic, male figures, and age, the voice in "Women" internalizes the enemy and turns on her own feminine self. The "body of this death" becomes identified as her own female body. The poem's unrelieved bitterness toward gender epitomizes the worst kind of isolation, extending to encompass both the outward and inward worlds. Women are excoriated as stunted, constricted creatures, senselessly paralyzed and paralyzing.
[. . . .]
Hermetic, ingrown, they have sensuousness neither in themselves nor in their perception of the varied world about them. Everything they do evokes suffocation; life itself is a mistake for these eternally blundering women. Unable to build or create, they only destroy. Worse, they cannot even mother.
[. . . .]
The encompassing nature of the attack is clear from the bluntly inclusive title and the rapid, accusatory They's with which half the lines begin. The women are composite reductions of previous personae, isolated from nature, the material world, productive social interchange with either sex, and themselves.
Yet strangely enough, in many ways "Women" is tremendously freeing. Bogan herself always retained a particular fondness for the poem, and later had it reissued privately. Unquestionably the poem is cathartic. In terms of the opening epigraph, it faces squarely and summarily every aspect of gender that frustrates deliverance and admits death, while it simultaneously abandons hope for a third-party rescue. Underlying its leaden charges is the awareness that only the self can alter the self.
From A Separate Vision: Isolation in Comtemporary Women's Poetry. Copyright © 1984 by Louisiana State University Press.
|Title||Deborah Pope: On "Women"||Type of Content||Criticism|
|Criticism Author||Deborah Pope||Criticism Target||Louise Bogan|
|Criticism Type||Poet||Originally Posted||31 May 2015|
|Publication Status||Excerpted Criticism||Publication||A Separate Vision: Isolation in Contemporary Women's Poetry|
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