Monday, March 08, 2010

International Women's Day: a celebration in poetry

Happy International Women's Day! Hope all of you had a great day and celebrated in some way.

For my part, I read this wonderful collection of poetry:

Hooked / Carolyn Smart
London, ON: Brick Books, c2009.
120 p.

This collection is made up of 7 monologues, all recreating or reinhabiting women who struggled with life, artistically, mentally, morally. As the author says, she was interested in them because "All the women are addictive personalities: Myra is addicted to murder, Unity is addicted to Hitler, several are addicted to alcohol and drugs, some are addicted to love itself. I think there is a hook in everyone, somewhere". They are women who were all born previous to World War II and spent their lives in that stretch of the 20th Century that brought so much change into women's places in our world. Some are artists, some were women who held a place in the public imagination for unpleasant reasons. The seven women are: Myra Hindley, Unity Mitford, Zelda Fitzgerald, Dora Carrington, Carson McCullers, Jane Bowles, and Elizabeth Smart.

Each poem sequence talks about their lives, how they developed into the person they were known for, and then takes us to the end of their lives as well. Some parts are disturbing, some heart wrenching. Even with the obvious repulsion involved in reading about someone like Myra Hindley, Smart manages to capture our attention and fascinate. I read each section separately over the last week or two, and found it a good way to really get a picture of the women she is portraying. One thing I found appealing is that is about women who can not be idealized or romanticized. Some of them are repugnant, some simply unpleasant, but there is no sentimental adoration of women just for being women. Their lives are clearly apprehended as complex and they have no special dispensation of grace simply by the fact of being female.

The format is also quite accessible. It is easily read because of its narrative style; if you like biography in poetic form this one may appeal. If you haven't read a lot of poetry but want to start, this would be a good beginning - the story line of each section makes the poems very comprehensible.

They've come up with an ingenious way to share these poems as well, Hooked In House, in which one actress, Nicky Guadagni, shares bits from each monologue while you eat and move from room to room to hear from the different women Smart inhabits here. That sounds like an amazing experience, though I think it would be a little chilling to listen to the Myra Hindley voice, in particular.

If you'd like to hear Carolyn Smart reading from this collection herself, here is a video to take a listen to.

**NB - I should add that I received this copy from Brick Books (thanks!!) and that they are having a huge 35th Anniversary Sale until the end of April! Go check it out.


  1. What a fascinating group of women to select - this looks like an extremely interesting collection and i shall order it!

    thanks so much for sharing -


  2. This sounds terrific...and just when I was looking around for some poetry to read for April! I will definitely be on the lookout for a copy of this one, especially given my Elizabeth-Smart-fest in February.

  3. Hannah - it was fascinating! You can get a copy directly from Brick Books or through most bookstores, maybe online in your area though.

    Buried in Print - it would go wonderfully with your Elizabeth Smart reading. And it's perfect for Poetry Month.


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