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Man or Woman: Who is the better Poet?


goldenlangur
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Man or Woman: Who is the better Poet?

 

A quick search for the 'greatest poets' of any country across the globe and time, invariably brings up names of men. To focus more concretely on this issue, I googled the position of Poet Laureate in Canada, UK and US. Australia, it seems, is quite ambivalent about appointing a Poet Laureate given its 'royal' history and the implications for Australia's political aspirations for a republic.

 

As in all things, we start at the very beginning and here we find that the roots of the Poet Laureate go back to 12th century and the English Royal House of Plantagenet. Poets were then known as 'versifiers' and were favoured by the reigning monarchs and awarded fees and pensions. The patronage of the English Royal houses continued over the centuries by the Tudors and Stuarts. The position of Poet Laureate was informally created by Charles I for Ben Jonson in 1617, however, the title did not become an official royal office until it was conferred by letters patent on John Dryden in 1670. (Wiki)

 

What is interesting is that in a long line of Poet Laureates, there is only one woman Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy (1955) appointed in 2009.

 

The history of the US Poet Laureate is more recent. The position has existed under two separate titles: from 1937 to 1986 as "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress" and from 1986 to present as "Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry." The name was changed by an act of Congress on December 20, 1985 (Public Law 99- 194) and became effective January 3, 1986. (Library of Congress Website)

 

Again, men dominate. There have been 4 female poets laureate (compared to 13 male poets laureate) and 6 female consultants in poetry (compared to 23 male consultants). (Ibid).

 

Canada's Poet Laureate is a 21st century institution.The first ever Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate was awarded to George Bowering in 2002. In 2004, the title was transferred to Pauline Michel and in 2006 to John Steffler. His term ended on December 3, 2008 and nominations for the position were open to residents of Canada up to September 2008. Pierre DesRuisseaux was named the new laureate on April 28. (Wiki)

 

Across the seas in Japan, if one googles 'greatest Japanese poets' we get the famous three - Basho (1644 - 1694), Buson (1716 - 1784) and Kobayashi Issa (1763 - 1828). Then there is a 20th century addition in the form of a woman, Kimiko Hahn (born 1955), A New Yorker of Japanese descent.

 

In India, we get a similar picture. Take a random date - c.170 BC and we get Kalidasa, whose work, Meghaduta (Cloud Messenger) has been made into a Choral Fantasia by Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934). If we move further down history, again, among the great men poets (Kabir, Tulsidas) we have one woman poet, Mirabai (1403 - 1506 - date of her birth still debated). Into the beginning of the 20th century and here too, we have a single woman poet, Sarojini Naidu ( 1879 - 1949). Her contemporary, the Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941) won the Nobel Laureate in 1913.

 

Take the case of another pair of man-woman contemporary poets - Ted Hughes (1930 - 1998) and Sylvia Plath (1932 - 1963). Hughes was the UK Poet Laureate and is considered as one of the greatest English poets, an accolade that Plath (even given her shortened writing period) has never been accorded in her native US.

 

 

So, do you think that men are better poets and therefore deserve their accolades or do you know of any woman poet that deserves to be included in the poetic pantheon? Please share a small extract of the poet's work to illustrate your point.

 

If women for whatever reason are less well regarded than men is there some intrinsic reason (child bearing consumes their creative skills)?

 

Are there cultural obstacles and what are these given that women are well-represented as novelists (e g the 11th century Lady Murasaki's Tale of Genji - the first and possibly greatest novel in Japanese in which she started the practice of using prose and poetry together.)?

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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Ah GL, The history of poetry is the history of humanity and let's face it, until only very recently, women in most cultures have been regarded as simply property and/or help mates. Women were to produce babies. History usually is documented by its wars and that was the business of men. I don't think it is a question of who is the better poet, male or female but who has the opportunity to write and who doesn't. Literacy is key and there are cultures even today that deny women education.

 

There are a few ancient female poets who were significant contributors to the development of poetry. Usually they came from wealth and privilege, otherwise they probably would not have been taught to read and write. Greece's 6th century BC, Sappho was so admired that Plato called her the 10th muse. Of course most of her work has been lost, some suspect it was deliberately destroyed as a form of censorship by Western clerics of the Middle Ages because of her passionate manner of writing and her suspected connection to Lesbianism. Princess Nukata 7th century and Ono no Komachi 9th century Japan, queens of the tanka. The literature of 12th century France was pivotal in the establishing of major forms. The Lai family of forms is attributed to a French woman simply known as Marie. History has named her Marie de France but little is known of her other than she was probably a noble woman and she wrote narrative romantic verse that is still emulated today. Interesting that these women were noted for writing about relationships in a time when epics, heroics and philosophy dominated verse.

 

Your thoughts on Plath and Hughes interested me. Plath died very young while Hughes was almost 70 when he died. He had more time to build a reputation. Yet I think because of her tragic story, Plath is more famous than Hughes, at least here in the US. I know Plath's work even though I am not a fan. But I only knew Hughes as her husband who was also a poet. I hadn't read a poem by him until just a couple of months ago.

 

I think there are a lot of factors that influence the fact that we don't see many female names among the great poets of the world. Availability of education is certainly at the top of the list. But it occurred to me that it may be that there have been many female poets whos work didn't survive because of its subject matter. We tend to write about what we know, women haven't had the freedom that men have. What did they have to write about, children, home, relationships. Of course that is over simplified but men had politics, wars, philosophy to write about. That is the stuff that is recorded in history.

 

~~Tink

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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Well, this is so interesting topic, thank you for posting it, goldenlangur. I'll write some more here, but what I can tell now so far is that yes, I agree with Tinker, that women were pushed away somehow, through the history. Not less good than men, but more silent and anonymous. But also, I believe that women are emotional more than men, more often they cry and show their feelings, but when men has that quality to write, and when the men emotionality is exposed, well then happens a miracle, and then men can go over women with their emotional power. Maybe less men are expressing their feelings but when they do it can be much more powerful. In that case men can be better than a woman ( girls, forgive me :) ), but only in general sense. :)

 

That would be my general statement about this, something that came first in my mind. :)

 

I'll keep my eye on this topic. I love it.

Thank you GL.

 

Aleksandra

The poet is a liar who always speaks the truth - Jean Cocteau

History of Macedonia

 

 

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So, do you think that men are better poets and therefore deserve their accolades or do you know of any woman poet that deserves to be included in the poetic pantheon? Please share a small extract of the poet's work to illustrate your point.

I don't think men are better poets, but I think there are more men poets than women poets. I found this out recently and was taken by surprise, as where I grew up, a man's taking interest in poetry was considered a bit of an effeminate undertaking. For example, when I shared some of my works with my brother-in-law, he said he liked them, but he also said (jokingly), "I'll tell the guys at work that my brother-in-law rides a Harley." :)) Though he meant it in a cute way, I think this stance is not uncommon and probably stems from the belief that men are (or should be) "tough" or "rugged," and that women are (or should be) overly-emotional and weak. In fact, the perception that "Poetry Is for Soft, Sensitive, Emotional Types" is discussed in Chapter 14: Ten Myths about Poets and Poetry in my Poetry for Dummies book:

 

"The stereotype of the poet -- and the person who likes poetry -- is of a weakling. Although you can find poets and poetry lovers who aren't exactly linebackers, such a stereotype, like most, is unfair -- and inaccurate." (A discussion follows.)

 

My own favorite women poets include (among others) Louise Bogan ("Song for a Lyre," "Zone"), Denise Levertov ("to the reader," "Continuum,") and, of course, Edna St. Vincent Millay:

 

 

 

Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word!

Give back my book and take my kiss instead.

Was it my enemy or my friend I heard,

"What a big book for such a little head!"

Come, I will show you now my newest hat,

And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink!

Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that.

I never again shall tell you what I think.

I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly;

You will not catch me reading any more:

I shall be called a wife to pattern by;

And some day when you knock and push the door,

Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy,

I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.

 

_____

 

 

I too beneath your moon, almighty Sex,

Go forth at nightfall crying like a cat,

Leaving the lofty tower I laboured at

For birds to foul and boys and girls to vex

With tittering chalk; and you, and the long necks

Of neighbours sitting where their mothers sat

Are well aware of shadowy this and that

In me, that's neither noble nor complex.

Such as I am, however, I have brought

To what it is, this tower; it is my own.

Though it was reared To Beauty, it was wrought

from what I had to build with: honest bone

Is there, and anguish; pride; and burning thought;

And lust is there, and nights not spent alone.

 

 

 

Thanks for a terrific topic, Goldenlangur. I'm eager to read your own thoughts on the subject.

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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The reasons for men poets being more readily and, in history, more early recognized is a mere fact, and the reasons for that have been well underlined in the posts above. That has nothing to do with whether men or women poets are better. Moreover, there is no fair way of assessing whether the greatest or the earliest ever such was a man or a woman.

 

The reson for that is that there is no standard by which the relative greatness of a poet can be measured, a fact that has been discussed before and many.

 

A good indication of that is that no single poem is equally liked by every and all readers, and I would be shy to say that someone elses preference is wrong even when I disagree.

 

Moreover, if there were a single great mother of all poems ever written, the elents that make the quintessential poem attractive are too numerous to be used for an estimate of how one poem is 'better' than another.

 

Whatever the educated opinions of a single person may be we should acknowledge that each one of them is an opinion, the speaker's individual preference arising out of her or his most individual beckground, upbringing, heritage and milieu etc.

 

I would like to throw in my one grand opinion: the shorter the poem or the one that uses the fewer words to be fully understood and enjoyed is the goal ech poet might want to strive for.

 

A recent article in the one of the more respectable sources argued that the longer the poem the more prosy it is. This bears witness to that there is no absolute line of distinction that can be drawn to separate prose and verse, and that those, whose public utterances on poetry we should respect, appear to agree that prose in not the anthitesis of poetry, but that prose and verse are two different ways of using language, and that the particular way or the mix of the two used by an author depends much of her or his reason/intent/desire for creating verbal art of any kind.

 

There is no question that some poets, regardless of their gender, can impress the reader more than others. The reason for that may well be that their mastery/knowledge of language is simply greater than that of the average person. I would haxard to guess that on top of that this mastery results in a simpler more universal and more emotionally and experientially effective and significant a message which every work of art should have for the majority of readers.

 

We really should have more discussion on how to use language better to achieve the purpose of our poems or whatever we may want to label our compositions.

Edited by waxwings
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goldenlangur

Hi Tink,

 

My apologies for this late acknowledgment of your thoughtful response to this topic.

 

 

Ah GL, The history of poetry is the history of humanity and let's face it, until only very recently, women in most cultures have been regarded as simply property and/or help mates. Women were to produce babies. History usually is documented by its wars and that was the business of men. I don't think it is a question of who is the better poet, male or female but who has the opportunity to write and who doesn't. Literacy is key and there are cultures even today that deny women education.

 

A good summary, Tink from a feminist perspective of history.

 

There are a few ancient female poets who were significant contributors to the development of poetry. Usually they came from wealth and privilege, otherwise they probably would not have been taught to read and write. Greece's 6th century BC, Sappho was so admired that Plato called her the 10th muse.

 

Certainly, Sappho is a light in tan otherwise dark period for female poets. What is interesting is that she is one of the nine lyric poets who were highly regarded. Apart from her, all the rest are men:

 

Alcman (choral lyric, seventh century BC)

Sappho (monodic lyric, c. 600 BC)

Alcaeus (monodic lyric, c. 600 BC)

Anacreon (monodic lyric, sixth century BC)

Stesichorus (choral lyric, sixth century BC)

Ibycus (choral lyric, sixth century BC)

Simonides (choral lyric, sixth century BC)

Pindar (choral lyric, fifth century BC)

Bacchylides (choral lyric, fifth century BC)

 

(Wiki)

 

Of course most of her work has been lost, some suspect it was deliberately destroyed as a form of censorship by Western clerics of the Middle Ages because of her passionate manner of writing and her suspected connection to Lesbianism.

 

Yes, this is the dominant perspective about the fragmentary nature of her work that which has survived.

 

 

Princess Nukata 7th century and Ono no Komachi 9th century Japan, queens of the tanka. The literature of 12th century France was pivotal in the establishing of major forms. The Lai family of forms is attributed to a French woman simply known as Marie. History has named her Marie de France but little is known of her other than she was probably a noble woman and she wrote narrative romantic verse that is still emulated today.

 

Again, here we have isolated cases of women poets who achieved the equivalent of their male counterparts' reputation. In the case of Japan, it is usually the four men poets (Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki) who are routinely cited in anthologies and studies as the major Japanese poets. In the case of the French Marie, Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Valery are again much often quoted and named in major discussions of French poetry.

 

Interesting that these women were noted for writing about relationships in a time when epics, heroics and philosophy dominated verse.

 

This is a good point worth perhaps further examination. What strikes me is that in contrast to women poets women novelists are well recognised, feted and given Nobel laureates -Sigrid Undset (a Norwegian novelist 1928. Pearl S Buck (1938), Toni Morrison (1993), Doris Lessing (2007) to name a few of many. Whereas there are far fewer women poet Nobel Laureates - Gabriela Mistral (1945), Nelly Sachs (1966) Wislawa Szymborska (1996).

 

 

Your thoughts on Plath and Hughes interested me. Plath died very young while Hughes was almost 70 when he died. He had more time to build a reputation. Yet I think because of her tragic story, Plath is more famous than Hughes, at least here in the US. I know Plath's work even though I am not a fan. But I only knew Hughes as her husband who was also a poet. I hadn't read a poem by him until just a couple of months ago.

 

I think it is fair to compare Hughes and Plath as the latter herself did so and Hughes promoted Plath's poetry after her death. So although, Plath did not live into her old age, her work (what she left behind) was hugely promoted on both sides of the Atlantic by Hughes and Plath's mother, Aurelia Plath. Hughes's reputation was only restored in the 90s with the accolade of Poet Laureate being the pinnacle. In the 1980s when a major, defining anthology of British Poetry was published, his work was left out due to his notoriety post-Sylvia's suicide.

 

There are suggestions that Plath had peaked in her poetical output and this rather than Hughes's affair with Assia Weveill (they both had lovers before and after marriage) precipitated her suicide.

 

I think there are a lot of factors that influence the fact that we don't see many female names among the great poets of the world. Availability of education is certainly at the top of the list. But it occurred to me that it may be that there have been many female poets whos work didn't survive because of its subject matter. We tend to write about what we know, women haven't had the freedom that men have. What did they have to write about, children, home, relationships. Of course that is over simplified but men had politics, wars, philosophy to write about. That is the stuff that is recorded in history.

 

I am intrigued by this point you make about the loss of women poets' works which has denied them their rightful place as great poets.

 

 

Thank you so much for the wonderful examples and points you've shared.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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goldenlangur

Hello Aleksandra,

 

First of all, Happy Christmas as you celebrate your Orthodox Christmas. :D

 

 

I'll write some more here

 

Please do. Would love to have your point of view.

 

 

... I agree with Tinker, that women were pushed away somehow, through the history. Not less good than men, but more silent and anonymous. But also, I believe that women are emotional more than men, more often they cry and show their feelings, but when men has that quality to write, and when the men emotionality is exposed, well then happens a miracle, and then men can go over women with their emotional power. Maybe less men are expressing their feelings but when they do it can be much more powerful. In that case men can be better than a woman ( girls, forgive me :) ), but only in general sense. :)

 

Tinker makes a persuasive case for the relegation of women socially, poetically and politically and yes this is an important point. However, perhaps this is not the whole story as women novelists in most literary traditions across the world have fared much better than women poets. ;)

 

 

That would be my general statement about this, something that came first in my mind. :)

 

I'll keep my eye on this topic. I love it.

 

Thank you for sharing your initial thoughts and do please return with some more.

 

 

Appreciate your taking time to respond.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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goldenlangur

Hi Tony,

 

... where I grew up, a man's taking interest in poetry was considered a bit of an effeminate undertaking. For example, when I shared some of my works with my brother-in-law, he said he liked them, but he also said (jokingly), "I'll tell the guys at work that my brother-in-law rides a Harley." :)) Though he meant it in a cute way, I think this stance is not uncommon and probably stems from the belief that men are (or should be) "tough" or "rugged," and that women are (or should be) overly-emotional and weak. In fact, the perception that "Poetry Is for Soft, Sensitive, Emotional Types" is discussed in Chapter 14: Ten Myths about Poets and Poetry in my Poetry for Dummies book:

 

"The stereotype of the poet -- and the person who likes poetry -- is of a weakling. Although you can find poets and poetry lovers who aren't exactly linebackers, such a stereotype, like most, is unfair -- and inaccurate." (A discussion follows.)

 

Fascinating this perception of poetry being an "effeminate undertaking". Thank you for bringing this up. I must confess that I have not heard of it before and as ever, it is wonderful how one learns new things in the forum. :D

 

 

How thoughtful of you to give links for the women poets you enjoy and share these extracts. I have heard of Bogan and Edna _St_Millay but not read much of Levertov.

 

My own thoughts are that women novelists seem to enjoy far more of recognition and critical acclaim than women poets across the globe. In the case of the Hughes and Plath comparison, I would have to say that Hughes is the master where sheer emotional and intellectual power and originality are concerned and Plath is perhaps the perfectionist in her poetical technique.

 

 

Thank you so much for responding to this topic. Thanks to you I shall google Levertov's work. :D

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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goldenlangur
The reasons for men poets being more readily and, in history, more early recognized is a mere fact, and the reasons for that have been well underlined in the posts above. That has nothing to do with whether men or women poets are better. Moreover, there is no fair way of assessing whether the greatest or the earliest ever such was a man or a woman.

 

The reson for that is that there is no standard by which the relative greatness of a poet can be measured, a fact that has been discussed before and many.

 

 

I agree that there is no perfect measure of 'greatest' of either a man or woman poet but I still think that given the laurels that women novelists have received and the contrasting lack of such recognition for women poets, there is a case to pose the question why has this happened.

A good indication of that is that no single poem is equally liked by every and all readers, and I would be shy to say that someone elses preference is wrong even when I disagree.

 

 

Again, of course, absolutely that our preferences for a particular poet varies from reader to reader. However, a brief history of the institution of the Poet Laureate in the countries mentioned above, it does seem to be the case that male poets get the greater plaudit.

 

For instance in the case of the two Indian poets, Sarojini Naidu ( 1879 - 1949) and her contemporary, the Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941), Naidu's work has stunning musicality and since she wrote in English, there is no problem of the nuances being lost in translation. Yet in actual terms of literary achievement it is Tagore who won the Nobel Laureate in 1913.

 

 

 

We really should have more discussion on how to use language better to achieve the purpose of our poems or whatever we may want to label our compositions.

 

A splendid idea for another topical discussion.

;)

 

Appreciate your taking the trouble to respond.

 

 

Thank you very much.

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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  • 1 month later...
The reasons for men poets being more readily and, in history, more early recognized is a mere fact, and the reasons for that have been well underlined in the posts above. That has nothing to do with whether men or women poets are better. Moreover, there is no fair way of assessing whether the greatest or the earliest ever such was a man or a woman.

 

The reson for that is that there is no standard by which the relative greatness of a poet can be measured, a fact that has been discussed before and many.

 

 

I agree that there is no perfect measure of 'greatest' of either a man or woman poet but I still think that given the laurels that women novelists have received and the contrasting lack of such recognition for women poets, there is a case to pose the question why has this happened.

A good indication of that is that no single poem is equally liked by every and all readers, and I would be shy to say that someone elses preference is wrong even when I disagree.

 

 

Again, of course, absolutely that our preferences for a particular poet varies from reader to reader. However, a brief history of the institution of the Poet Laureate in the countries mentioned above, it does seem to be the case that male poets get the greater plaudit.

 

For instance in the case of the two Indian poets, Sarojini Naidu ( 1879 - 1949) and her contemporary, the Bengali poet, Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941), Naidu's work has stunning musicality and since she wrote in English, there is no problem of the nuances being lost in translation. Yet in actual terms of literary achievement it is Tagore who won the Nobel Laureate in 1913.

 

 

 

We really should have more discussion on how to use language better to achieve the purpose of our poems or whatever we may want to label our compositions.

 

A splendid idea for another topical discussion.

;)

 

Appreciate your taking the trouble to respond.

 

 

Thank you very much.

 

I could go to great lenghts, but of the necessities of survival, women are biologically and historically 'trusted' w/childbearing and home care for men were the hunters, gatherers, tillers, herdsmen and protectors/warriors, tasks that took them out of home, while pregnacy, nursing and care of the preadolescents bound women to the home place.

 

Women writers, other than poetesses, could be as easily published as men, because novels sell better than poems, and, in the early ages men just had a earlier start at poetry. Moreover, the more capable male poet has always been more likely to stay famous, capable of selling to the publisher lesser work and thus become at least better known. Publishers do want to make money, after all, and at lesser risk. That is why poetry has been, even yesterday the more difficult avenue. But let us not forget Sapho who was as famous as any of that time and whose metrics are the only bearing the "inventor's "name. And there is Bishop, Plath and Dickinson, the one considered one of the more important poet of her era. Besides quantity can not be considered more significant than quality.

Edited by waxwings
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Another one by Edna St. Vincent Millay that's simply striking:

 

I have forgotten, and what arms have lain

Under my head till morning; but the rain

Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh

Upon the glass and listen for reply;

And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain

For unremembered lads that not again

Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,

Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,

Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:

I cannot say what loves have come and gone;

I only know that summer sang in me

A little while, that in me sings no more.

 

I don't think it gets any better than this ...

 

Tony

Here is a link to an index of my works on this site: tonyv's Member Archive topic

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  • 3 weeks later...

Perhaps this point will exceed the limits of this thread, but in reading through it just now I saw only references to written poetry and an effort to answer the question in that historical context only. This forgets the fact that written poetry has its roots in aural poetry. As we all suspect, aural poetry surely was the means of transmitting history, custom and probably law, among other things, prior to any common access to anything in writing. So then the question to ask is, who was it that carried the aural stories through time and place and generations. Was it more likely to be the men of the tribe or the women? Were the boys or the girls taught the stories? Perhaps this earlier history has something to do with the apparent dominance of men in the answer to this question. It would seem then that "the better poet" would be an historical and cultural artifact.

 

Just my two cents . . .

 

from the black desert

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Perhaps this point will exceed the limits of this thread, but in reading through it just now I saw only references to written poetry and an effort to answer the question in that historical context only. This forgets the fact that written poetry has its roots in aural poetry. As we all suspect, aural poetry surely was the means of transmitting history, custom and probably law, among other things, prior to any common access to anything in writing. So then the question to ask is, who was it that carried the aural stories through time and place and generations. Was it more likely to be the men of the tribe or the women? Were the boys or the girls taught the stories? Perhaps this earlier history has something to do with the apparent dominance of men in the answer to this question. It would seem then that "the better poet" would be an historical and cultural artifact.

 

Just my two cents . . .

 

 

Some tw0 cents are better than... You are making a valid point. In some cultures, men were not as dominant as in others. In Tibet, polyandry was practiced because it took several men to support a single mother-woman family.

 

Of course, poetry that is passed down (before writing was 'invented') was passed down by word-of-mouth (oral not aural) and it could be the mother that was around the house that did it while the men were out hunting/gathering/tilling.

 

My mother sang and recited poetry while my dad was at sea earning money. That is why I am funny about language and poetry.

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Perhaps this point will exceed the limits of this thread, but in reading through it just now I saw only references to written poetry and an effort to answer the question in that historical context only. This forgets the fact that written poetry has its roots in aural poetry. As we all suspect, aural poetry surely was the means of transmitting history, custom and probably law, among other things, prior to any common access to anything in writing. So then the question to ask is, who was it that carried the aural stories through time and place and generations. Was it more likely to be the men of the tribe or the women? Were the boys or the girls taught the stories? Perhaps this earlier history has something to do with the apparent dominance of men in the answer to this question. It would seem then that "the better poet" would be an historical and cultural artifact.

 

Just my two cents . . .

 

Some tw0 cents are better than... You are making a valid point. In some cultures, men were not as dominant as in others. In Tibet, polyandry was practiced because it took several men to support a single mother-woman family.

 

Of course, poetry that is passed down (before writing was 'invented') was passed down by word-of-mouth (oral not aural) and it could be the mother that was around the house that did it while the men were out hunting/gathering/tilling.

 

My mother sang and recited poetry while my dad was at sea earning money. That is why I am funny about language and poetry.

 

 

 

Before there was sight-in-eye poetry (visual, (written?)), there was poetry (story) passed along by sound-in-ear (aural not oral).

My emphasis is on the one who hears (aural), not the one who speaks (oral). I think it was more important what was heard, rather than what was spoken, literally. That is a significant part of how stories adapted, changed and carried on. That is also how they may have become divorced from reality.

Writing the story down changed all of that and fixed (reality or not), in time, the former speaker as the carrier, not the former listener. The reader then can become, by comparison, a very weak participant or a mere blind follower (such irony).

This is a cultural shift of some significance.

 

And to bring it back to this thread - certainly the boys must have heard the stories in a different context than the girls. And who was it that began to write them down? History or herstory?

from the black desert

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Perhaps this point will exceed the limits of this thread, but in reading through it just now I saw only references to written poetry and an effort to answer the question in that historical context only. This forgets the fact that written poetry has its roots in aural poetry. As we all suspect, aural poetry surely was the means of transmitting history, custom and probably law, among other things, prior to any common access to anything in writing. So then the question to ask is, who was it that carried the aural stories through time and place and generations. Was it more likely to be the men of the tribe or the women? Were the boys or the girls taught the stories? Perhaps this earlier history has something to do with the apparent dominance of men in the answer to this question. It would seem then that "the better poet" would be an historical and cultural artifact.

 

Just my two cents . . .

 

Some tw0 cents are better than... You are making a valid point. In some cultures, men were not as dominant as in others. In Tibet, polyandry was practiced because it took several men to support a single mother-woman family.

 

Of course, poetry that is passed down (before writing was 'invented') was passed down by word-of-mouth (oral not aural) and it could be the mother that was around the house that did it while the men were out hunting/gathering/tilling.

 

My mother sang and recited poetry while my dad was at sea earning money. That is why I am funny about language and poetry.

 

 

 

Before there was sight-in-eye poetry (visual, (written?)), there was poetry (story) passed along by sound-in-ear (aural not oral).

My emphasis is on the one who hears (aural), not the one who speaks (oral). I think it was more important what was heard, rather than what was spoken, literally. That is a significant part of how stories adapted, changed and carried on. That is also how they may have become divorced from reality.

Writing the story down changed all of that and fixed (reality or not), in time, the former speaker as the carrier, not the former listener. The reader then can become, by comparison, a very weak participant or a mere blind follower (such irony).

This is a cultural shift of some significance.

 

And to bring it back to this thread - certainly the boys must have heard the stories in a different context than the girls. And who was it that began to write them down? History or herstory?

 

You are absolutely right as far as the importance of the sound-in-ear because that is the only way poetry can be perceived. I prefer to hear poems (not poetry) read out loud over reading them myself and, when having to do so read them loud.

 

But you must admit that conventional wisdom speaks of oral not aural tradition. Of course, Robert Bly believes that unlike music which comes in the ear and goes directly to the gut, poetry seems to pass from the ear to the brain first and often suffers the filtering effect of the intellect.

 

Thus, when we read a poem it is more likely echo-in-mind rather than sight-in-eye, or would aural correspond, by analogy, to aura?

 

I love to have such witty echange, factual truth be damned for being a dull fellow.

Edited by waxwings
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goldenlangur

Hello Gatekeeper,

 

Thank you for dropping by with a few thoughts.

 

The point you make about references to written poetry is spot on in the case of western poetry. I did indeed use the Poet Laureate as a starting point for discussion here:

 

Perhaps this point will exceed the limits of this thread, but in reading through it just now I saw only references to written poetry and an effort to answer the question in that historical context only.

 

 

 

However, in the case of Indian poetry I took a rather early date c.170 BC to mention Kalidasa and also other Indian poets like Kabir, Tulsidas and Mirabai (1403 - 1506). These poets did not 'write' their poetry but rather composed their repertoire in a state of trance and divine inspiration. Very like the mystic Rumi in Anatolia. Their repertoire was largely passed down by word of mouth to their devotees. Even now in India, Assamese fishermen or Bengali farmers (who are not literate) sing these repertoire. Indian scholars have rendered these in the written form but the origin and present practice is oral.

 

This forgets the fact that written poetry has its roots in aural poetry. As we all suspect, aural poetry surely was the means of transmitting history, custom and probably law, among other things, prior to any common access to anything in writing. So then the question to ask is, who was it that carried the aural stories through time and place and generations. Was it more likely to be the men of the tribe or the women? Were the boys or the girls taught the stories? Perhaps this earlier history has something to do with the apparent dominance of men in the answer to this question. It would seem then that "the better poet" would be an historical and cultural artifact.

 

It would be fascinating to get some kind of information about the aural tradition in the west. Robert Graves has written about the Celtic bardic tradition and the focus of his work is largely in the context of a Pagan counterpoint to the authoritative Christian Church and organization. If you or any board member have more on this please do share a few more details.

 

Just my two cents . . .

 

A very worthy contribution indeed. :D

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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goldenlangur

Thank you Tony for another beautiful example of Edna St. Vincent Millay's work. I agree that her imagery and the depth of thought are striking:

 

... but the rain

Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh

Upon the glass and listen for reply;

And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain

For unremembered lads that not again

 

 

I would second this: :D

I don't think it gets any better than this ...

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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goldenlangur
In Tibet, polyandry was practiced because it took several men to support a single mother-woman family.

 

If I may add. Polyandry in Tibet was really about preventing the division of land. Given its mountainous terrain, arable and cultivable land was precious if not rare. A social system where the ancestral land was divided among the sons (who inherited the land) would have wreaked havoc for the survival of the family and land. The division of the land would have been in miniscule pockets which by themselves would not be tenable. In order to pool together resources - land and manpower polyandry was practised But I do like your idea that the single-mother-woman benefited from it. ;)

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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In Tibet, polyandry was practiced because it took several men to support a single mother-woman family.

 

If I may add. Polyandry in Tibet was really about preventing the division of land. Given its mountainous terrain, arable and cultivable land was precious if not rare. A social system where the ancestral land was divided among the sons (who inherited the land) would have wreaked havoc for the survival of the family and land. The division of the land would have been in miniscule pockets which by themselves would not be tenable. In order to pool together resources - land and manpower polyandry was practised But I do like your idea that the single-mother-woman benefited from it. ;)

 

 

 

You, rascal, are right, and I knew someone would say what you did.

 

My schooling merely stressed that the land was hard to till and there was so little of it that it took a larger amount of hard manual labor needed to wrest the most out of every b tiny bit of it.

 

But it was not all that beneficial to the woman. She had to cook for all the children and all the husbands who also kept her having sex often, pregnant or not. Besides, she was expected to and did field work unless tied down impossibly to do so w/pregnancy. This did not necessarily make for a matriarchy, but, I bet, what the woman said counted.

 

No wonder in the adjacent areas boy children were preferred and still are. Of course, mainly agricultural societies always had large families for a similar reason, esp. before mechanization of field work using engine powered rigs that could do more than just plow, till and reap, whereas, even with horses, a lot of manual work was required.

 

My not too distant ancestor women would stop raking hay or grain just long enough to deliver baby or nurse one.

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goldenlangur
... But it was not all that beneficial to the woman. She had to cook for all the children and all the husbands who also kept her having sex often, pregnant or not. Besides, she was expected to and did field work unless tied down impossibly to do so w/pregnancy. This did not necessarily make for a matriarchy, but, I bet, what the woman said counted.

 

 

Absolutely, the practice of polyandry was not geared to benefit the woman but it was not particularly beneficial to the man either. It was principally a way of preserving the land, a vital source of livelihood. What one could say is that it was geared to protecting the family unit (the social) and the individual, man and woman were part of this unit and not independent units exercising their own choices.

 

The scenario of the woman's position and role as a wife to more than one brother was a little more complex than what you suggest. Ethnographic studies by NJ Allen and BN Aziz (among other ethnographers) among Tibetan people show that a woman might be the bride to, say, four brothers (just as an example). However, all the brothers might not be of an age to be sexually active. Just the oldest brother might of a sexually active age. Some of the younger brothers might be just kids and did not enter into a sexual relation immediately on their 'marriage' to the woman. So the problem of the woman being beset by the sexual demands of the brothers is not altogether borne out by such ethnographic studies. Besides, the woman did use her role and position as the 'woman' in the household to bestow her affection and sexual favors on the brothers. As she matured to be 'mother' of the household, her standing and position became one of respect and authority.

 

I also don't think that fieldwork was particularly assigned to women because the Tibetans, as also other similar societies in the region, have a system of division of labor - for instance, women never plough the fields but women rice and wheat planters are valued for their skills of efficiency and swiftness. Harvest involves both men and women.

 

It is fair to say that the role and position of the woman in polyandry were complex and more nuanced one than that of a straightforward bearer of heirs and worker in the field.

 

No wonder in the adjacent areas boy children were preferred and still are. Of course, mainly agricultural societies always had large families for a similar reason, esp. before mechanization of field work using engine powered rigs that could do more than just plow, till and reap, whereas, even with horses, a lot of manual work was required.

 

I think the systems in the adjacent regions depended very much on the local geographical, social and economic conditions prevalent in the particular areas and societies and covered a whole plethora of practices and observances

 

 

My not too distant ancestor women would stop raking hay or grain just long enough to deliver baby or nurse one.

 

Fascinating detail about your women ancestor.

 

 

Appreciate your returning and this exchange. :D

Edited by goldenlangur

goldenlangur

 

 

Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying.

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