goldenlangur Posted December 28, 2010 Share Posted December 28, 2010 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.)? Quote goldenlangur Even a single enemy is too many and a thousand friends too few - Bhutanese saying. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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