Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

The poem is a feminist manifesto for change. The first-person narrator creates a feminist analysis of the history of women, focusing on women writers, which shows the ways women have been warped by trying to fit into the script that patriarchy has written for them and the challenges that continue to face women as they insist on equality, autonomy, and “free will.” The liberation of women is a vital cause whose goal is nothing less than to save the human race. Women make up “one-half of humanity,” and their new stories must be lived, spoken, and heard. Society as a whole will gain from this fuller definition of humanity. As Kizer says, “Relax, and let us absorb you. You can learn temperance/ In a more temperate climate.”

Kizer is one of the generation of American women poets who were the first group to dismantle existing views of women and speak for a revolution against patriarchal control. Kizer and other poets such as Denise Levertov, Maxine Kumin, Anne Sexton, Adrienne Rich, and Sylvia Plath lifted the constraints on women writing the truth about their lives. They both refused to accept the place society had assigned women and refused to “write like a man.” Above all, these poets and others who have followed them think of women as “we.” They recognize the need for unity and love among women in the common cause of ending sexism. Carolyn Kizer and her sister poets, like all the most enduring writers, question their society and insist on the creation of a better world.

There have always been exceptional women who recognized and spoke against male dominance. In a 1984...

(The entire section is 662 words.)